Most medical practices want new patients. But bringing your current patients back for regular visits can be more cost-effective. Booking the next appointment for your patients when they check out is an obvious way to make sure they don’t forget those regular check-ups or follow up visits, and making it easy to book an appointment at your website is also important.
That’s not the only way your website can help, though.
Why do people miss appointments?
One reason is simple forgetting. When patients feel better, their follow up appointments fall to the bottom of the priority list.
Set up a system of reminder texts or emails. There are plenty of automatic services now, and the personal touch can also make people feel special. Better yet, ask people how they’d prefer to get their reminders. Research shows that being given a choice makes people feel better about their circumstances.
For example, dental patients who are told, “Let me know if you feel pain and I’ll stop” are much less likely to complain or ask to stop than those who don’t get that offer.
People in a cafeteria who are asked “Do you want an apple or a banana?” are more likely to take a piece of fruit than people who are left alone to pick up a piece on their own.
So include the question “How would you like to be reminded about your appointment?” on your intake form or in your booking form on your website. You’ll cut down on no-shows.
Sometimes it’s about money
40% of Americans in a recent survey have failed to follow through on a test or treatment and 44% have failed to make an appointment when they believed they needed medical care for one reason: cost. Even though a record number of people had health insurance just last year, the number without health insurance is growing. Those who do have insurance often have high deductibles. And many Americans are confused about insurance coverage — confused enough to do without health care rather than chance high bills. In fact, one national survey found that only 4% of respondents clearly understood basic terms like “deductible” and “co-pay.” Research from the New England Journal of Medicine found that consumers are “overwhelmed” by insurance.
How can you help? While we’ve found that healthcare providers often want to avoid putting any information about costs or insurance on their websites, this is worth rethinking. An insurance page can list insurance companies or example companies. Your blog can clarify basic terminology. You might add a statement about financial policies, including an assurance that patients will get information about costs before they commit to treatment. Even a line saying, “If you’re wondering about costs, call…” with a phone number can be reassuring.
Including some information about costs on your website can make it easier for patients to ask these questions up front. This can keep patients from choosing to avoid your office because of costs that might not be as high as they fear.
Education about preventive care
Patients who schedule wellness visits and have a good experience are likely to keep coming back. But the study we mentioned earlier found that 47% of healthy younger adults skipped their routine physicals. So did 37% of older people.
Preventive care is important, though. Early identification of and intervention in conditions is often key to successful treatment. You can make this points to patients whom you see… but what about those who don’t make their wellness visits?
Make the point in your practice blog. 80% of Americans use the internet to find information about their health. Make sure that your website provides that information, and they will choose to visit you as a trusted adviser. This allows you to make the point that preventive medicine is important.
Like so many other healthcare points you make with your patients, this is a lesson that has to be seen repeatedly before it sinks in. Your website can take on the work of sharing that lesson.
Social media can help, too — especially when it brings patients back to the website to learn more.
Your website can be your healthcare marketing partner.