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Improve Patient Recall by Telling Patients WHY They Need to Return

11/20/2019

In many practices, the percentage of patients who return every twelve months for an eye exam can be disappointing. Even with practices that pre-appoint, many offices struggle with getting those patents to return for their prescheduled exam. To further exasperate the problem, many of these patients don’t bother to call to reschedule the exam or notify the office that they won’t be able to keep their appointment. On the list of things that frustrate practice owners, patient no-shows are near the top!

Let’s consider the following question: Why don’t more patients return for their annual eye exam when they receive their recall reminder? I’ll propose a simple answer. They don’t want to!

On average, glasses only patients return every 24 months, and contact lens patients return every 12 to 15 months. These numbers may vary by study, but the research shows that most people are not getting an eye exam every twelve months.

Let’s circle back to “They don’t want to.” From the patient’s perspective, they are saying, “Yes, I received your recall reminder, but…”

…I’m not having any problems seeing.

…I still have unused contact lenses.

…My insurance only covers glasses every other year.

From the patient’s perspective, these are all good reasons for not returning. Without more education from their doctor or a more compelling reason to return, it’s easy to be ambivalent about a yearly eye exam.

What I regularly stress with doctors is to start the recall process when the patient is in the chair by educating patients on why they should return in twelve months.

We stress follow-up care for high-risk patients like diabetics and glaucoma suspects, but why not have similar conversations for less serious conditions like dry eye, SPK, high myopes, and so on? We sometimes talk to patients about these conditions but fail to stress the importance of regular monitoring. When a patient gets their recall reminder a year later, they default to the above excuses.

We can’t control whether or not a patient returns for an annual exam, but if we give the patient a compelling reason to return, they may be more motivated to keep their appointment.

AUTHOR

IDOC Optometry - Color Bar
Steve Vargo

Steve Vargo

Steve Vargo, OD, MBA is a 1998 graduate of Illinois College of Optometry. After working in clinical optometric practice for several years, Dr. Vargo pursued his passion for practice management by earning his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Phoenix in 2008. A published author and speaker with 15 years of clinical experience, he serves as IDOC’s Optometric Practice Management Consultant. Dr. Vargo advises optometric alliance members in all areas of practice management and optometric office operations.