There are no guarantees in life, and that certainly applies to retaining patients. Each time a patient walks out your door, it could be the last you see of him or her. But, there’s good news: tools like patient engagement software, automated appointment reminders, and interactive home exercise programs give providers a way to keep patients engaged throughout the duration of care, making it much easier to catch patient dropout before it happens—and even prevent it. But, it’s not enough to simply have these products—you’ve got to use them effectively.
1. Set appointments—and schedule reminders—during checkout.
If you’re looking for an easy, effective way to curb patient dropout, then I’ve got three words for you: automated appointment reminders. If your front desk staff still distributes handwritten appointment cards, then there’s a good chance your patient attrition rate is significantly higher than it should be. After all, appointment reminders sent via text message or phone call are significantly more effective at preventing patient no-shows than reminder cards are. (Seriously, there’s a whole lot of research on this subject—like this case study from Columbia University, which found that automated appointment reminders reduced patient no-shows by 34%.) That’s why your front office check-out process should, at minimum, require that:
- every patient check out at the front desk after each appointment, and
- staff ask each patient if he or she would like an appointment reminder for his or her next appointment. (Bonus points if the therapist physically walks the patient to the desk.)
Not only will this help patients achieve their therapy goals, but it’ll also keep your revenue stream steady by preventing patient cancellations and no-shows.
2. Stay in touch on social media.
In the early ’00s, most people viewed social media as a fleeting trend for Internet-obsessed teenagers. Fast forward to 2018, and everyone and their grandma has a social media presence—including rehab therapy practices. And with folks spending so much time on social media—more than 2 hours every day, on average—platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have become powerful tools for bringing in new patients and engaging with existing ones. That’s because social media:
- showcases your company culture to prospective patients,
- lets patients interact with your staff outside of the clinic, and
- allows you to gamify engagement through contests and drawings.
3. Use an interactive home exercise program.
As a provider, you know that patient adherence to prescribed home exercise programs is key to achieving therapy goals, but ensuring your patients actually complete their at-home exercises can be a challenge. However, if you use a high-quality, evidence-based, interactive home exercise program, monitoring and promoting HEP adherence is a breeze. Not only do digital HEPs—like the one WebPT offers—let providers know when patients have completed their exercises, but this type of software also helps patients stay motivated by making it easy for them to contact their therapists for additional guidance and feedback.
4. Connect through telehealth.
Unfortunately, Medicare still won’t reimburse rehab therapists for telehealth services, so some providers are still hesitant to hop aboard the telehealth train. However, some commercial payers do pay for these services, so practices that don’t have any telehealth offerings are doing themselves—and their patients—a major disservice. Much like a digital HEP, telehealth services allow your patients to connect with providers remotely and receive additional assistance with exercises. It also helps patients who live in remote areas or have limited mobility by allowing them to connect with providers from the comfort of their own homes—thus decreasing the likelihood that they’ll drop out of therapy.
5. Measure patient satisfaction.
When a patient drops out of therapy, the therapist is often left with a lot of unanswered questions like:
- Was the patient not progressing fast enough?
- Was he or she not well-suited to therapy treatment?
- Was there something I could’ve done differently?
Even if the reason the patient dropped out early was entirely beyond your control, it’s good to know what’s causing patient churn in your practice. And in many cases, there probably was something you could have done—but the patient might not have known how to communicate his or her needs. Fortunately, by measuring and tracking patient satisfaction—and using tools like Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys—you can catch early dropout warning signs before the patient actually quits therapy. Then, you can leverage this data—along with outcomes data—to pinpoint any problem areas and adjust your therapy plan as needed.
6. Automate communication with patient engagement tools.
Another way practices can keep patients invested in therapy is through proactive outreach. Consistent patient-provider communication before, during, and after therapy not only increases engagement, but also keeps your practice top-of-mind should a discharged patient ever seek therapy services again. But, remaining consistent in these efforts can become a challenge, especially as your practice grows. Enter patient relationship management (PRM) software. With PRM software, you can send admission forms, collect satisfaction and NPS data, email newsletters, and send out targeted marketing messages to keep patients engaged throughout the care journey—and beyond.
In a world without guarantees, patient dropout can be a common—yet discouraging—reality. But, with the right tools—and some proactive process improvements—you can be sure your patients won’t forget about you. Got any patient engagement tips of your own? Let us know in the comment section below!