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How Top Doctors Follow Up After an Appointment

You might invest in marketing to attract new patients and provide excellent care during each and every appointment. But if you don’t excel at follow-up, your practice could still be falling short of its potential.

From the patient perspective, follow-up is key to understanding medical care. A study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that, within four to 18 days after being discharged from the hospital, just 64 percent of patients could name their new medication(s) or understand their purpose. What’s more, only 56 percent of these patients could remember their medication dosages, and a mere 11 percent could recall being informed about their medications’ potential adverse effects.

High-quality providers understand that follow-up has other benefits, too. It can strengthen the patient-provider relationship, help patients get involved in their own treatment, and even serve as a marketing tool for the practice. If you’re ready to amplify your follow-up game, use these 5 tips to get started.

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Follow up every time

Top physicians don’t just follow up when it’s necessary; they touch base with a patient after each appointment. You’re already doing necessary follow-up to share abnormal lab results or schedule additional appointments, but what about follow-up after routine examinations? Quickly check in with patients after every visit to see how they’re feeling and answer any lingering questions. The exceptional service and your attention to detail will stand out.

Use this same philosophy when sharing lab results. Most patients think that no news is good news when it comes to medical tests, but a lack of follow-up could signal that the physician hasn’t reviewed the results yet. Not only is this poor practice, but it could pose a serious health risk to patients, as found in a 2012 review paper of 760 articles. Following up on lab results every time puts your patients at ease and helps ensure you don’t accidentally miss reviewing their results.

Make follow-up interactive

There is a large opportunity to use follow-up as a tool to help patients become more actively engaged in their healthcare. For example, you could point patients to an app that encourages regular blood pressure checks as a way to keep your treatment plan top-of-mind.

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Giving homework after an appointment creates an opportunity for follow-up since you can reach out to ask patients if they have any questions about their assignment. This approach also means that patients will come to their next appointments with additional health information to share.

Use several communication methods

Chatting on the phone is the most appropriate way to follow up after certain appointments, and it may feel most natural to some patients. However, feel free to explore the other options. Consider using email or text messages to follow up after routine appointments so patients can respond at their convenience.

You can even semi-automate the process, crafting a few brief template emails or SMS notifications that can be customized in seconds. A small time investment up front can help streamline your process for years.

Turn follow-up into feedback

Following up isn’t only a great way to enhance the patient experience, it can also be a powerful tool for your practice. Email your patients a satisfaction survey after their appointment to help you identify what you’re doing right (and wrong) and catch any patient complaints early.

You may get a glowing review that you could, with permission, use as a testimonial to bring in more business. Sending a survey may also create an opportunity to smooth over a relationship with an upset patient before you lose them.

Keep the conversation going

A strong plan for following up can turn one-time appointments into long-term patients, the lifeblood of a successful specialty practice. Follow up to remind patients about upcoming routine appointments, and keep your client base engaged with a monthly or quarterly email newsletter full of helpful and shareable information.

Ongoing communication merges follow-up with marketing, allowing you to advertise your practice and boost patient retention in a way that feels organic and authentic.