When we are asked to deliver better follow-up appointment rates for patients, we always check out the latest technology. Sparkly new tools like user interface emails, texts and reminders certainly help and we set them up and leverage them all for our clients. But over the past 10 years, those tools have just been part of our formula for success. A few other things have to be built up first. The most important one of all? Trust.
In our experience, after a physician has made a diagnosis and started a treatment plan, there are two basic reasons patients don’t come back for their follow-up appointments.
In many practices, the process for better follow-up compliance starts by having the doctor check a box like the one shown below. By checking it, the doctor gives permission for the NPs, PAs or other qualified staff members to follow-up with the patient and often, even take over. So why wouldn’t doctors check that box?
Fear. Doctors are afraid they might lose their doctor/patient relationship. They’re afraid they might give up revenue billed directly to them. They are afraid their staff might not handle their patient the way they would. They fear change.
All of these fears can be overcome. But getting doctors to check a box isn’t a challenge that can be solved with technology. Checking a box is something that has to be solved with trust. We have worked with many physician groups helping them build better, stronger relationships internally. (Here's one of our case studies)
Have you ever heard, or even said those words, when you were breaking up with someone? (Don’t answer that.) That phrase is exactly what patients think but may never say when they don’t want to continue seeing their doctor again – even for a follow up visit. Why?
When their treatment isn’t working, patients can feel anger and resentment. But they can also feel shame or embarrassment – ‘it must be me’. When treatments aren’t working as fast as patients think they should, a steady loss of hope creeps in. They think, ‘why go back and solve what can’t be solved?’ Likewise, when their treatment is actually working, patients can become over-confident and feel a lack of need for anymore help. They believe they don't need you anymore and 'doctors simply want more money.'
In all of these cases, the practices never had enough banked up trust with their patients. And as we all know, it’s always easier to keep someone’s trust than to try and earn it back again. And yes, we have worked with a number of clients to help them earn back what had been lost. (Here's one of our case studies)
There are other reasons patients give for not coming back, such as lack of time, busy schedules, etc. But those justifications never matter when someone really wants to, or needs to, do something. After all, they chose to come see you in the first place without using one of those excuses.
The title of this article was misleading. Every practice already has a trust fund. Many of them, in fact. Each one was started the moment a patient chose the practice to fix their problem. Every interaction after that was either earning interest on the trust fund for that patient or decreasing its value. And those funds aren't just between patients and physicians. They are also built and maintained between physicians and their staff.
Our marketing agency finds the most creative and effective ways to connect with patients and get them to come back again and again. (another case study of ours) We use all the latest tools and technology to do so. But using them without any banked up trust between doctors and their staff and patients and the practice, makes our job, with any technology, much more of a challenge.
Physician trust funds don't hold any monetary amount, although they certainly transform themselves into profit. The more a practice builds trust both internally and externally, the greater the rates for their follow-up compliance will grow. In our experience, a practice using our creative alongside healthy trust funds, will see their patients yielding a very, very high rate of return.
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Ten years running, Mentum has specialized in healthcare marketing. But they also have strong vitals in other areas like food, beverages and education as well.