The power of the patient follow-up

Communicating with your clients keeps the conversation going and keeps your business top of mind

April Salsbury

You could probably count on one hand the number of businesses you interact with on a regular basis that actually make your life easier through communication. The simple act of communicating with your clients – even when they are not using your service – keeps the conversation going and your business top of mind for when you are needed. Simple techniques such as friendly reminders by mail, text messages, email newsletters and quick phone calls to “check-in” build rapport and loyalty, which will dramatically increase and improve your business.

Within the healthcare industry, communication has the ability to make or break an organization. Practices that have figured this out understand that they are generating a different type of “need” for their services. The need is driven by the patient’s reliance on the clinic feeding helpful information that benefits them and makes each transaction go more smoothly. These benefits also extend to the organization because they receive timely information to improve services and an immediate response from patients that lead to greater revenues.

Fortune 500 companies have already recognized this and have gotten onboard. The majority of healthcare organizations have not. Here are two examples:

1. I am one of the lucky few with massage therapy covered by my insurance, so I try to make it in once a month. My massage therapist is self-employed and is always struggling to make ends meet. I have been going to this business for at least two years, yet I keep forgetting to schedule my next appointment and haven’t been in for five months.

Simple communication tools could fix this. The massage therapist could easily get me to schedule a future appointment by calling, sending me a text message or even a postcard in the mail. A quick reminder that I am “due” for my next appointment or a quick phone call to “check-in” and make sure everything is alright on my end or some form of notification that keeps her business top of mind is all it would take. Is it likely that my massage therapist could end her financial struggles if she just took the time to communicate? Yes! Do I now believe that my business is insignificant to her because she hasn’t reached out? Yes!

This business owner received zero revenue from services delivered to me over the last five months. Just think what would happen if she proactively communicated with her clients and had all of them scheduling on a regular basis. Business would be great and she would be far from struggling.

2. My dentist has communication down pat. I love it. When you are due for an appointment, they send you a postcard with an appointment already scheduled six weeks out – perfect timing to plan for the appointment or rearrange schedules. Additionally, appointment reminders are sent via text message. All I need to do is reply to confirm or reschedule. After an appointment, my dentist calls to see how I am feeling, how the service was, if I was comfortable and if there is anything I would like next time. They keep these notes and make good on their promise. I always get a nice warm blanket and my favorite radio programming when I visit. The experience is great and the communication makes my life so much easier.

I rely on my dentist to do these things to make my life easier. Because they consistently follow up and follow through, I am highly loyal to them and I am constantly referring business to them.

We are all too busy. Take the time to think of how businesses you interact with either fail to make your life easier or go above and beyond to do so. Then, utilize these techniques to improve your own practice. Increase your patient retention, patient loyalty, referral business and frequency of services provided. All it takes is a follow-up.

April Salsbury is the owner and CEO of Salsbury & Co., a Ridgefield-based consultancy firm focused on helping businesses and private healthcare organizations succeed. She can be reached at