By Kirsty Machon
Your practice recall and reminder system helps you maintain contact with your patients and ensure quality evidence-based ongoing care.
A recall letter lets patients know that follow-up care is due and is important to ensure they are getting best-practice clinical care for specific conditions or identified risks. Medicare stipulates that recalls must be based on clinical need.
Reminder notices are issued when patients fall due for their next comprehensive eye health examination. The dates of recalls should be based on the evidence for best practice in each case. A reminder is a general kind of communication that can be used to remind people about the importance of regularly having their eyes examined as part of a patient’s overall preventative care strategy.
You may need to recall patients such as those with diabetes, patients who may need follow-up care arising from a particular incident like an eye injury or infection, or after a clinically-significant test result.
You should be clear in the letter about the reason the patient is being recalled. Provide as much relevant information as you can so that they understand why there is a clinical need for follow-up. For example, you may have detected a clinically significant change to someone’s optic nerve on imaging and recommended that it be monitored.
In the recall letter, clearly remind them of the examination result, the discussion you had and any agreed schedule for their re-examination as noted in their record. Another recall trigger may be a safety or quality alert on a product, such as a potentially contaminated batch of contact lens solution. In these cases, ensure the patient does not miss the communication by thinking it is just a patient reminder.
Reminder notices are sent to patients for a recommended examination. For many patients, it is going to be a convenient and appropriate way to remind them that this is when they are next entitled to a comprehensive examination under Medicare (10910 or 10911).
If you have patients whom you would wish to re-examine more frequently, you will need to inform them that they may not be entitled to the examination under Medicare. In this case, be as clear as you can about why you feel that patient needs to be seen sooner.
Both the Optomate and Sunix practice management systems have integrated recall and reminder functions, allowing you to create discrete recall and reminder lists using the unique patient identifier.
This can be done by letters, emails, which are increasingly the norm, or SMS, which is growing in popularity.
Choose the system best suited to your patient group or patient’s needs. Automated notifications for appointment confirmations can also be sent by SMS. Increasingly, patients are getting used to this means of confirmation, whether from their health-care practitioners or their hairdressers.
How you choose to communicate with your patients may depend on your own convenience, style and technologies. It will also be informed by patient expectations and the opportunities for different ways of communicating now available.
When you collect information about new patients, you may want to record their preferred method of communication.