June 30, 2021
Automating a patient recall system will allow practices to identify and contact those patients that need follow-up or periodic monitoring. This is what MACRA calls population management.
What is the key to this process? Patient communications.
Automating a patient recall system starts with determining the treatment protocols for the various populations within the practice. For example, how often should a 65 year old male with elevated a1c and blood pressure be seen by a physician? How about those on medications that need monitoring? Or procedures that need follow-up? Once a practice has these business rules in place, communications can be built.
How long until a patient can get an appointment? This is how soon, before the due date, for the first message to the patient. Start with lower cost electronic forms, and test a few patients with mail.
Best practices suggest patients be contacted twice a week for 3 weeks (at least) over 2-3 different channels (email, text, call, mail). Remember, the patient may agree with you and want to come in, only to have a difficult time contacting a scheduler.
Automated, electronic forms of communication are appropriate for these messages, however, don’t expect a patient to call several times; allow them to respond in the channel the message was sent in.
Most PM systems look only to the well-visit exam codes to identify patients and most systems require a manual entry of a due date for the recall. If the patient does not respond to 1 or 2 contacts and the date becomes older than 2 or 3 months, most systems will miss the record as being out of the date range requested.
If the manually entered date is not removed and the system goes on to be used for years, a recall list will become useless as many years of old recalls may be included on the list.
The best practice is to read all the data from the PM & EMR system in addition to the recall indicator.
What happens when the patient does not respond? Is this after one contact? Is a call sufficient, does the practice need record-keeping on the attempts to recall a patient? These are all important factors for a system to process.
What about patients with a balance? When practices move to an automated, multi-channel system, more patients will respond, including those that have balances. In the first several months after the change, get the patient to respond, then ask for payment when the appointment is set, or when the patient arrives. Don’t make a drastic change all at once.
The manual process that most practice management systems utilize can be aggravating and almost always under-performs versus automated communications systems. Practices should have treatment protocols that outline the various patient populations with the appropriate visit frequency.
When it comes to recall appointments from reluctant patients, make it easy. Understand what the last communication is and how that process is recorded.
An automated system provides confidence in the consistent, continual, 24 X 7 X 365 operation of your business and allows your staff to spend time caring for patients. An added benefit is it also leads to healthier patients!