“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Google attributes this quote to an assortment of characters—from esteemed author Oscar Wilde to writer and humorist Mark Twain to the late-great actor Will Rogers. It really wouldn’t be surprising if many a great thinker espoused a similar nugget of wisdom, because the sentiment is a universal truth. First impressions leave a lasting effect on any relationship—and that includes the relationship between rehab therapists and their patients. In fact, a patient’s first impression of you and your practice (i.e., during the intake process) can be the difference between that patient sticking with therapy through discharge or calling it quits early. For that reason, we’ve pulled together the following tips to help PTs, OTs, and SLPs put their best foot forward with every patient who steps in their clinic:
1. Give patients the ability to book a consultation online.
In today’s world of fast, convenience-based service, getting your patients on the books ASAP can be a massive differentiator between you and the competition. While you should always have your phone number listed on your website—ideally, on every page of your site—you can offer patients a convenient alternative to picking up the phone by including an automated scheduling tool like Calendly or Doodle on your “Contact Us” page. These services integrate with apps like Google Calendar—thus keeping them separate from your patient appointment schedule—and allow incoming patients to select an available time slot for an initial phone consultation. Your front office staff can then reach out to the patient at the selected time and begin the intake process in a timely manner.
2. Touch base ASAP.
Once a new patient has booked a consultation, it’s game time. One of the quickest ways to lose a potential client is through faulty communication. So, whenever a new patient books a consultation, send that patient a confirmation email immediately to let them know it’s on the books—and that you look forward to speaking with them. You can even go the extra mile by letting patients know what kind of information they’ll need to provide during the consultation (e.g., insurance info, the name of their primary care provider, primary complaints, etc.). That way, they’ll have some time to locate the necessary documentation and come prepared with answers.
3. Allow patients to complete their intake paperwork digitally.
Ask any patient what the most time-consuming part of the intake process is, and the answer will almost always be the paperwork. Furthermore, when new patients show up to their initial evaluations without ample time to fill out their intake packets, it can throw off the whole rest of your day—especially when you have back-to-back appointments. So, what’s the solution? Easy: digital patient intake forms.
If you use WebPT, digital intake is a breeze. After a patient’s initial consultation, your front office staff can simply email the patient a link to a secure, HIPAA-compliant intake form to complete anytime prior to the patient’s first scheduled appointment. Even better, if you use a digital intake form that integrates with your EMR, all of that info will transfer directly into the patient’s record—no paper shuffling required.
Review your current intake packet.
Another thing to consider when it comes to intake paperwork is what you actually include in your intake packet. Scan the contents for areas that ask for the same information, and remove any redundancies. If a patient can skip over any parts of the packet that aren’t relevant to that patient’s specific case, be sure to say so—or remove those sections from the intake packet entirely. If you use a digital intake form that can be customized on an individual basis—like the one offered by WebPT—ensure the form each patient receives is tailored to that patient’s needs.
Furthermore, ensure any and all forms in your packet are up to date and include all necessary acknowledgements. As this Physicians Practice article recommends, “the new patient needs to receive the practice financial policy, assignment of benefits form, HIPAA, documents (offer copies at least), and if necessary, consent forms” in addition to the regular demographic and contact information forms.
4. Set up a self-service intake kiosk.
Of course, even if you have a digital intake form, some patients may not be able to complete it prior to their first visit. So, give patients the opportunity to fill out their forms on a secure kiosk when they arrive. That way, you’ll still have the benefits of a digitized intake form delivered straight to your EMR.
Also, when setting up an in-clinic kiosk, consider using a tablet or laptop instead of a desktop computer. Many clinics simply provide patients with a tablet (e.g., an iPad) preloaded with the form when they check in at the front desk. This only amplifies the convenience factor—and signals to patients that your clinic is on top of every little detail.
A first impression can last a lifetime, which is why creating a simple and seamless intake process from start to finish should be at the top of every rehab therapist’s list. Got any questions about the patient intake process? Let us know in the comment section below!