May 24, 2023

Preventing Patient Drop-offs: A 3-Stage Communication Plan for Your Clinic

Drop-offs, fall-offs, lapsed patients, no matter what you call them, they happen at every clinic. You treat a patient, make some progress, but by session three or four they don’t come back. They cost your clinic time and money and minimizing them is critical to your clinic’s growth. But as with most complex problems, the solution is often found by breaking it down into smaller pieces. 

In this blog, we’ll break down how to manage drop-offs in three stages and provide actionable strategies you can implement at your clinic. Each stage poses a unique challenge that requires a stage-specific solution that, if applied, can prevent the patient from falling off the map. But what’s at the very heart of preventing patient drop-offs? An effective communication plan your whole team can follow. 

With that, it’s time to pull out the power tools for preventing drop-offs.

Stage 1: “How are you feeling?”

Time lapsed since last appointment: 7-14 days

Note: This plan’s timeline was designed for a patient who is on a long term treatment plan. Depending on your course of care, these timelines could vary.

It’s been a week since the patient's last appointment and still no follow-up appointment has been booked—it’s time to reach out personally.

sms icon Hi John, it's [Name] from [Clinic Name]. I wanted to ask, from 1 to 10, how is your shoulder? (10 is an emergency and 1 is no pain)

*Template Credit: Rick Lau, Clinic Accelerator

A personal message helps to build rapport with a patient and open up dialogue to better understand what may be holding your patient back from rebooking. As much as possible, have the message come from the patient’s care provider. After all, they have the primary relationship with the patient and know the patient’s case best. 

Text messaging is by far the most effective way to reach a patient at this stage. Why? Because, we know most people are glued to their mobile phones. Texts are also less invasive than a phone call, more direct than an email, and have an exceptionally high response rate with 90% being opened and read within 3 minutes!  Plus, depending on your clinic software, texts can be sent directly from your EMR making them quick and easy to send. Juvonno’s Practitioner Dashboard, for example, allows practitioners to manage drop-offs and even send a text to the patient in-app from the clinic’s phone number.

send patients a text message right in-app

When text messaging the patient, keep it simple and friendly. Start by asking them how they’re doing using a standard 0-10 pain scale, and from there make it a conversation to understand if the patient’s circumstances have changed since their visit. Try offering a free short assessment to get them into the clinic and then together decide on a longer course of action. If the patient is warm to the idea of coming in for another visit, offer them a set time to come in. Offering the same day and time as their last visit is always a good option to start and continue with throughout their treatment plan.

Tip: Set follow-up tasks or reminders in your EMR to ensure every lapsed patient has been appropriately contacted.

Stage 2: “Haven’t seen you in a while”

Time lapsed since last appointment: 30-60 days

Your drop-off communication plan should be both effective and scalable. For this reason, incorporating automated message campaigns may be wise at this stage. Patients have not been in contact with your clinic for over a month now. The first round of personal messages did not result in reactivating the patient. It’s time for a two-pronged approach: set up an automated email campaign followed by a phone call or text message.

Your automated email should provide a clear reason for reaching out, offer added value specific to the patient’s needs (think blogs, news articles, promotions etc.) and a link to your online booking page. The beauty of the automated campaign is that once it’s set up you won’t need to do it again. With an EMR-integrated tool like JComm, emails and texts will be sent in the background once patients meet the set parameters.

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From here, you can determine which patients require a follow-up call or text and assign the task to your admin staff. This second outreach should take a more direct approach to getting the patient rebooked. Consider creating a script or text message template and training your staff on how to make these interactions as effective as possible.

sms icon Hi John, it's [Name] from [Clinic Name]. It's time for your next appointment! Tap here to book online or call [Insert Clinic Phone Number]

If by the 90-day mark your patient still hasn’t rebooked or been responsive to messages, it’s time to proceed to stage 3.

Stage 3: “Here if you need us”

Time lapsed since last appointment: 90+ days

You’ve had no luck reactivating the patient so far. So what’s next? Abandon hope? Curl-up and cry in the corner? The answer may shock you, but it’s none of the above. No, this stage is all about tending to the little flame that is a potential future visit. They may not need you now, or have found someone new, but that doesn’t mean they are a lost cause. 

Generally after three separate attempts to reactivate the patient have been unsuccessful, it’s time to mark the patient as ‘self discharged’.

The best plan of attack for the segment of patients deemed self-discharged is having proper tagging and reporting tools in place that make it easy to put automated email campaigns in place. These campaigns need to be thoughtful and creative, just popping in to say “Hi” won’t do. Have a campaign that highlights success stories from those who completed treatment at your clinic, remind them of their remaining insurance benefits for the year, or share practical health and wellness tips. If applicable, offer a re-booking incentive or added value for returning to your clinic. 

If you're a JComm subscriber, you can create and have these campaigns and more trigger automatically. Just set it and forget it!

During the patient journey, never underestimate the power of an effective communication plan. By implementing these actionable strategies, you can minimize drop-offs and build happy long-term relationships with your patients, ultimately leading to clinic growth and success.

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