5 Strategies for Getting Patients to Schedule Preventive Services

Preventive care is essential for a healthy population, and that includes rheumatology.

By catching diseases or conditions in their early stages, physicians can find effective treatments and lessen their patients’ suffering much sooner. In more practical terms, preventive treatments can also be a dependable source of revenue. Some payers offer financial incentives for certain preventive services because it saves them money in the long run. It’s not often that something is good for the patient, the physician, and the insurance company, but it’s a good idea to embrace it when all three can benefit from the same thing.

The only problem with preventive services is that it can be hard to get patients to schedule them. Technically, nothing is “wrong,” so people don’t think about going to the doctor. In other cases, patients don’t realize they’re not up to date on their preventive services—they don’t know which screenings are recommended or how often. This is why “holidays” such as Arthritis Awareness Month,  Rheumatoid Awareness Day, and Pain Awareness Month are important.

If you’re trying to get your patients to schedule more preventive services and screenings, there are several strategies you can employ. Below are five of these strategies that we’ve found effective. Try them and see if it makes a difference at your practice.

Send personal messages to patients from their physicians.

Patients trust their doctors, and the emotional connection they form makes them more likely to follow their doctor’s advice—especially if it comes in the form of a friendly reminder.

You can also send emails or text messages, but nothing beats an authentic voice on the phone, especially for older patients who may not be comfortable with technology.

Make scheduling as easy as possible.

Whether it’s scheduling an appointment or requesting more information, the most likely time to get a response is when the message is received. Some options to make scheduling simple include:

  • Automated phone calls – You can set it up to include an option to press a keypad button to transfer to staff.
  • Emails – with modern email technology, you can collect responses with a mouse click.
  • Text messages – can allow for two-way communication by enabling patients to text back or click to call.
  • Patient Portal – sophisticated portals can allow patients to set appointments for themselves.

Give your reminder policy a boost.

After your first wave of recalls, you may find that patients prefer the same day and time for future preventive visits. But when appointments are booked months or even a year ahead, plan to add an extra reminder about 30 days in advance.

This way, if the patient has forgotten about the appointment, there will be plenty of time to reschedule (and to rebook the slot with someone else). Be sure to collect email and text information from patients so that you can remind patients electronically and not just by phone.

Avoid decision fatigue and limit options.

Don’t give your patients a lot of options. While they may benefit from multiple screenings or services, a long list of choices and possible dates will quickly overwhelm them. They may avoid deciding and simply not respond. Focus on the most severe or pressing screening for each patient, and begin by setting up that appointment.

Other appointments can occur later once you’ve established a rapport and set a precedent for preventive services.

Conduct multiple screenings during one visit.  

If possible, combine screenings and services into a single visit. Most patients from a similar population will have similar needs, such as osteoporosis screening for women aged 65 and older or routine bloodwork to test for vasculitis, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis.

You can also take the opportunity to educate your patients on chronic diseases, offering screening, prevention, and awareness during regular checkups and visits. Your patients will appreciate the convenience and efficiency, and you’ll accomplish more in a single visit than you might otherwise.

Preventive services are vital for lowering healthcare costs, providing better healthcare, and helping your patients live longer, healthier lives. Have you had success with preventive services? If so, leave your best tips on NORM’s Facebook page, and we’ll be happy to share them!

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