Running your eye care practice is a two-way street—patients need you, and you need them. But more than that, you need patients to fill your schedule and you want them to keep coming back.
When your patients are not returning, you might think that your practice is doing something wrong.
Here are 10 practical ways to increase patient retention. With some tweaks to your recall system, you can increase patient visits to bolster your eye care business.
What Is Patient Recall?
You did not start an eye care practice to see each patient only once, right? Of course not. You want patients to book with you continually, allowing you to develop a long-term medical relationship. Patient recalls fill your schedule without constantly needing to acquire new patients—and it does not hurt that it helps your profit margin, too.
Why Patients Might Not Return
Patients may stop returning to your clinic for various reasons: they moved away, they no longer have access to benefits, or they get a convincing recommendation to an alternative eye doctor. But some patients do not come back because they think it is unnecessary. Here is where your patient recall strategy comes in.
10 Ways to Increase Patient Retention
Whether you try a few or all of the tips listed below, your patient recalls are sure to increase. Of course implementing software helps immensely, but adding a personal touch goes a long way too.
- Use an Automated Recall System
If you are not already using an automated recall system, it may be time to think about one. Scouring enormous lists of clients can be time-consuming and poor use of your valuable work hours. Technology has advanced for our benefit to automate tasks to free up time for things that require human skills, like Tip 3.
Your eye care patients are in it for the long haul. But with so many patients, your staff may not remember that specific person from two years ago who is due for an eye exam. These systems create lists of overdue patients and send them reminders.
- Be Available 24/7 to Book Appointments
Patients may not remember to book an eye appointment during your business hours. Having an online booking system available 24/7 bolsters your patient recall. A patient may have the thought in the middle of the night, and this option allows them to book while it is on their mind. Of course, they will still have to see you during your business hours (unless you follow the advice in Tip 9).
Our Visual Book software empowers patients by allowing them access to online booking whenever it is convenient for them.
- Email a Monthly Newsletter
How often are you connecting with your patients outside of their routine eye exams? Sending a monthly newsletter is an excellent way to reach your patients when eye health may be the furthest thing from their minds.
You will first need their permission because no one wants to receive unsolicited email newsletters. You can include a check box on your online booking form to opt into newsletters with a note about what information they will receive: promotions, deals, eye health news, and fun facts about your clinic.
These newsletters do not have to be (and should not be) long. Focus on one topic, and include a call to action (CTA) to make it simple for them to book an appointment.
- Schedule Your Patient’s Next Appointment Before They Leave
In eye care, your patients will visit you on varying schedules, sometimes with years in between if they have optimal ocular health. While they are still in your office, make sure the administrative staff book the next appointment before they walk out the door.
Your patients may say that they do not know their schedule a year in advance. By scheduling in advance they can guarantee a spot at their preferred time. A quick email / text confirmation with a calendar link can add it to their electronic calendar for their convenience. Remind the patient they will be notified closer to and any changes can be made then, if necessary.
- Reach Out Using Your Patient’s Preferred Method
One size certainly does not fit all when it comes to communication methods. For instance, if your client base comprises patients from later generations, and you are reaching out to Millennials, consider sending them texts and emails since they notoriously avoid phone calls at all costs. That said, your older patients may appreciate talking on the phone, and their tried-and-true landline is the best way to reach them.
Visual-Eyes has built in ways to track the patient’s preferred method of communication. Regardless of how you connect with your patient, be sure to ask them and make a note in your software to use this method next time you contact them. Reach your patients how they want to be reached, and you will see more willingness to engage.
- Stress the Importance of Regular Eye Exams
Your patient recall strategy starts in the doctor’s room. When you say something like, “ everything’s looking good,” the patient might think that they do not need to return. Instead, you could mention the importance of regular eye exams for detecting asymptomatic eye diseases, updating prescriptions, and checking for age-related issues.
Plant the seed while the patients are in your office, and remind them that their eye health is not a one-time deal. Missing an appointment could mean having an eye disease go undetected, which, in turn, could cost the patient a lot more money. Or worse, it could cost them their vision.
- Offer an Incentive for Returning Patients
A simple way to boost patient recall involves offering a little incentive. This could be as simple as 15% off eyewear after 5 visits or a referral program.
Give your patients the option to sign up for the incentive program when they visit your office or send out a promotion in your monthly newsletter (see Tip 3).
- Wish Your Patients a Happy Birthday
You havee probably received Happy Birthday postcards from your dentist—they stick in your mind, don’t they?
Physical cards are time consuming and expensive to send, but you can use your software to your advantage. Visual Connect can be tailored to send out a personalized birthday email to patients each year to keep your clinic top of mind, even when it is not time for an appointment.
- Offer Weekend or Weeknight Appointments
Business hours are set for a reason, but there are times that a patient just cannot make it. By offering booking windows on weeknight(s) or weekend, you make your clinic more accessible for those who cannot make it during the week.
Of course, this will not work for every eye care clinic, but if it works for you, it is a wonderful way to show that you value your patients’ time and want to see them when it is convenient for them.
- Personalize Your Automated Emails and Texts
This may be old news, but it still holds weight. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, famously wrote that “a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
Use this tactic to your advantage; personalized emails and texts are more likely to be read. Also, by fostering your doctor-patient relationship and getting to know each person’s name, the patient feels important and it makes for a memorable experience.
It May Take Patience
These patient recall tactics likely will not get overnight results. Patient retention is a long game, especially in the eye care industry because of the significant period between exams.
Your efforts will eventually be rewarded with increased patient retention and a fuller schedule. Take baby steps towards implementing a patient recall strategy, using a perfect blend of technology and personalized touches. If you are ready to boost your eyecare business and increase patient recalls, contact us to start today!