How Often Should You Communicate With Your Patients?
- Good patient communication should always have a purpose in mind.
- There are many reasons to communicate with patients, and the ideal frequency will vary.
- Research shows the ideal frequency for appointment reminders is three reminders a week, including the day before and a few hours before the appointment.
- Practices need to respect patients’ preferences as much as possible and remain pleasant during all communications.
Patient communication is an important part of any chiropractic practice, and there are right ways and wrong ways to communicate. When communication is appropriate and timely, it will be welcomed and will often lead to a positive response, such as scheduling an appointment.
Communication mistakes, however, can lead to negative outcomes, such as the patient opting out of automated messages or even ending care at your practice.
Following some guidelines about patient communication should avoid most problems and lead to more satisfied patients and better care overall.
Guidelines for Patient Communication
Have a Specific Goal
Did you know that email messaging from healthcare providers has only a 16% open rate? The good news is, if you’re using email as your messaging method, you can increase that percentage considerably by carefully planning the types of messaging you send to your patients.
“On average, email messaging from healthcare providers has only a 16% open rate.”
Messages that seem to have no purpose (or worse, try to sell something) will likely be ignored, so make sure you know the purpose for each message and that it’s a purpose that will be acceptable to your patients. Some possible goals for communication could be the following:
- To get inactive patients back in the office
- To reschedule missed appointments
- To remind patients of upcoming appointments
- To remind patients about bills or invoices due
- To keep your practice on their radar between infrequent visits
- To introduce new services
- To improve care with exercises between visits
- To give information about a larger health emergency, like COVID-19
- To notify patients of changes in hours, services, or insurances accepted
- To ask for referrals
These are all legitimate reasons to message patients, and most patients will welcome tailored messages that address these concerns and situations.
Balance Business With Pleasure
Of course, much of your communication has to do with items of business like appointments, insurance, and billing, but it’s important for chiropractors to show that they also care about their patients’ lives outside the office.
You can remember patients’ birthdays, treatment anniversaries, or other significant events. You may also want to commemorate National Chiropractic Care Month (October) or Day (October 1).
Automated message tools make it easy to send one message out to all your patients or to send to each patient on a specific day, such as birthdays.
Strike a Pleasant Tone
It can be tempting to push a hard sell like giving negative consequences of missing appointments or reiterating a punitive cancellation policy. However, it’s better to be pleasant in electronic communications and to leave any other kinds of communication for in-person visits, where nonverbal signals can convey a more nuanced message.
Being positive and pleasant in your messages to patients makes them more likely to associate your office with positive things and to be willing to come back for further care.
There will always be a small number of patients who decide they don’t want further electronic messages from your office and will request removal from your list of automated messages. Respecting these requests and acting on them immediately is your best option, even if it means you lose touch with the patient.
In the best-case scenario, staff can double-check with the patient that they don’t want messages the next time they come into the office. You could make a phone call to feel out the reason for the stoppage, but tread carefully. You could end up making things worse if there is a problem.
Frequency of Messages
The frequency of the messages sent to patients should vary depending on what is needed from you or from them. Frequency is not as important when the patient initiates the contact, such as with questions about care or requesting an appointment.
As long as your messages all have a clear purpose and meet your communication goals, several times a week is probably not too often to communicate with patients, at least on some weeks. Multiple messages a day will definitely become wearisome, but a whole month without contact could be enough to kill the relationship.
For routine messages like practice news, calendar events or special days, once a month may be just right.
Three Appointment Reminders is Optimal
“156% more patients confirm appointments when three staggered reminders are sent.”
On the other hand, sending three appointment reminders — one a week ahead, one the day before, and one three hours before — has been shown by research to help fewer patients miss appointments.
In fact, 156% more patients confirm appointments with three staggered reminders are sent — more than double the number who confirm without the reminders.
Using reminder messages in this way can cut significantly into the typical 18.8% no-show rate that can be so frustrating to many medical professionals, including chiropractors.
Frequency of Other Types of Messages
Keeping each message frequency to the appropriate level will let patients know you value their time and attention. They will be more likely to respect yours in return.
One celebratory birthday message may be ideal, for instance, but multiple birthday messages might be permissible if you offered a free gift during patients’ birthday month and wanted to remind them to come in and get it before the end of the month.
If you aren’t sure how many messages is too many, it’s probably better to err on the side of fewer messages, particularly if you have ever had patient feedback about too-frequent messages. There is a line, and once you cross it, patients get irritated and are likely to unsubscribe or opt out.
Some automated messaging software allows patients to set their own preferences for messages, which can help adjust your frequency in a more tailored way so that everyone is happy. Patients who don’t mind getting lots of messages can do so, while those who only want obligatory reminders can limit their contact as much as they want.
CT Engage makes it easy to stay in touch with patients via email or text. Set up automated appointment reminders however your patients prefer to receive them. This is a great way to reduce no-shows, which can improve patient outcomes. You can also keep them engaged after they leave your office with automated recall campaigns or online review collection. Improving your online reputation and retaining more patients can both lead to greater revenue.
When your patients are happy, your practice will be humming along at just the right speed. And that’s an outcome anyone can be satisfied with.
For More Information
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Have a well-adjusted day!