Text messages, while gaining in popularity, have not yet hammered the final nail in email’s coffin as practices keep this efficient method of delivery alive and well.
Patient communication software, such as 4PatientCare, Demandforce, Solutionreach and WebSystem3 from CooperVision, offers efficient, streamlined solutions to stay in touch with patients. Successful use of a system’s email functions allows businesses to grow and retain their patient base. Here’s how a few eyecare professionals are still using this relevant tool.
“I use 4PatientCare to send emails to patients for recalls and appointment reminders, which are set for five days before the appointment and for after-visit surveys,” said Frances Leung, OD, Granite Pointe Eye Care in Roseville, CA. “Instead of physically being on the phone to call patients for recalls, appointment reminders, product pickup notifications and making appointments, our staff can take care of the patients in front of them,” she said. “Our patients like the appointment reminders, and this helps us reschedule them earlier. It also keeps our schedule full since we don’t have many last-minute calls to reschedule the appointment.”
What about patients without email? Demandforce and others offer a postcard option to send the information to a patient list via snail mail.
Some patients like the connection to a human voice, yet others prefer the convenience of making their appointments online. There are systems that feature real-time scheduling or forward preferred times to the office. “When patients make their appointments online, 4PatientCare sends us an email so we can put that in our records,” Leung explained. “Currently, we are part of a beta testing program to have the patient’s name added directly into our schedule after they make their appointment online.” This functionality will further streamline the scheduling process.
With most patients coming in only for their annual exam, newsletters can help relay trends and educate patients on eye health year-round. Creating one using these programs couldn’t be easier. “It’s as simple as picking and choosing a few items,” said Lowell H. Lebovitz, OD, FAAO, co-administrator, Western Pennsylvania Vision Source, and owner of Envision Eye Care in Pittsburgh. “It’s a great way to stay in touch with the patient,” added Lebovitz, whose practice uses WebSystem3.
In addition, you don’t need to write original content. For example, the Solutionreach e-newsletter feature contains a library of pre-written articles so you can insert educational content into a customizable newsletter template and send to your patients. Furthermore, you can send tailored information to specific communication groups you’ve created.
Another useful feature of these programs is the ability to survey patients. “I use a 10-question boilerplate on WebSystem3 that can be customized,” Lebovitz said. He chooses from survey questions such as: How was making your appointment? Was it convenient? Was the staff knowledgeable? Was the office neat? Would you refer us? He then holds staff meetings twice a month to review the surveys and takes the time to respond to customers’ suggestions and questions.
Leung’s patients are also sent a survey to fill out after their appointment, evaluating the care they receive from the practice. “We have an opportunity to find out what we are doing well and how we can improve our service and patient care,” she said.
Campaigns and promotions
We have to be careful about how often we communicate with patients, even if it’s great content, Lebovitz warned. “We send a few campaigns a year. In December, we distribute one about using flex funds that might expire at year’s end. Then we follow up with a campaign in January prompting patients to plan the use of their flex funds in the new year.” Additional campaigns include topics such as glaucoma, sports and sunglasses for summer sun protection.
Ryan Stybel, OD, Positive Eye Ons Optometry in Los Angeles, uses 4PatientCare to send announcements of new frames, parties and trunk shows. “We also have the ability to choose the criteria about who should receive the email, for instance, women aged 30 to 45, women with children under 18 in the home, men aged 18 to 35, and other demographics. This way, we can target the exact customer we want to reach.”
Lebovitz sends out short “Happy Birthday” emails, too. “Short being the key word,” he said. “You just want to
keep your name in front of people.”
Joanne Van Zuidam is senior editor of VCPN.
WHERE TO FIND IT:
4PatientCare 877.777.9078877.777.9078 FREE • 4patientcare.com
Demandforce 800.210.0355800.210.0355 FREE • optometry.demandforce.com
Solutionreach 866.605.6867866.605.6867 FREE • solutionreach.com
WebSystem3 866.575.3937866.575.3937 FREE • websystem3.com