Monday, February 14, 2011

When was the last time you called your inactive patients?

It's difficult to overemphasize the power of patient re-activation phone calls. It's way easier than cold calling (calling people who don't know you) and it's a tried and true method to get a positive response from the universe in growing your practice.

You don't need to have a huge agenda for the calls, but it may be easier if you write a few "scripts" for the calls. Here are some ideas for those:

1. For patients where you parted ways after treatment success: "I saw a recent article about your condition (which I'd be happy to email to you if you're interested) and it made me think of you. How are you doing? Still no more symptoms?" Then listen to the patient and see what they say. If they are still better, you have at least reminded them of your ongoing care for them as a patient. You might suggest a "tune-up" appointment or two at the next change of season to maintain their health.

2. For the patient that cancelled and disappeared: "I see you cancelled your last appointment and then we never heard from you after that. Can you tell me how you are doing? I was just wondering if you disappeared because you were feeling great, or was there something that did not work for you at our clinic...something that we could have done better?"

3. For the patient where their written contact information no longer works: "I'm calling for two just to check in and see if you are still feeling improvement from your treatment through my clinic. Second, I see that your email address as changed. Did you still wish to be on our mailing list? We really hope so, but we need an updated email address!"

4. The patient where your interaction was OK, but you don't know why they stopped coming: "Hi Jane. It's been awhile since I saw you and I just wanted to say hello and see how you are. I know you had ...(you divorce finalization, our son's graduation, your mother's serious illness, your new job, whatever). I know that was stressful for you and I wondered how you are doing."

After each of these possible openers to the conversation, you then be quiet and see where the patient will take the conversation. If they haven't much to say, you can ask if they'd like to continue to receive your email newsletter; you can offer to send them a coupon for 1/2 off the next time they might want to come in for a visit; you can let them know about a new class you are teaching or a new skill you have acquired; you can tell them about a free lecture you are giving somewhere; you can remind them that regular tune-up treatments can keep them symptom free. Whatever feels appropriate.

After the call, you might follow up with a card or a personalized email and include a piece of research or an article on their condition if you can find one (check out our TCM Infoline here at Blue Poppy for lots of free research: see the search mechanism in the center at the top of our home page). If you send a regualr piece of snail mail (what a concept), include a copy of your biz card as well.

Does this take a little courage? You bet, but then if you were a wimp you probably would not be running your own business anyway. Plus, you don't know what fruit this will bear. For every ten phone calls you make, you will likely get one patient to make an appointment right away and another one to call back for an appointment within a few weeks, or to refer a friend since they have now been reminded about you and your services. Or perhaps one of them calls and asks if you will come and give a talk for their special group. You just don't know.

So don't abandon your inactive patients. Make it a monthly task to call six-or-eight-or-ten of them. The more you do, the eaiser they become (and what's the worst that could happen anyway?). It's easier to get your old patients back into your clinic than to develop new ones who have never been there before!

Honora Wolfe is the author of POints for Profit: The Essential Guide to Practice Success for Acupuncturists. She is teaching a class on biz and practice success at the New England School of Acupuncture on March 20th. Check it out here.

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