by Dr. Sue Kressly, MD, FAAP
Well visits are essential to high-quality patient care, but they are also crucial for your practice’s financial health. If you want a successful business, you must know where you stand when it comes to well visits. And in most cases, you’ll find that you have an opportunity to improve.
How? By using a multi-stakeholder practice team, you can review your data, set a goal, and get to work. Here are six strategies to improve your well visit rates.
You need to know what percentage of your active patients are up to date on well visits. However, before you determine that number, you must figure out how many active patients you truly have. If you don’t already have a policy and procedure and a practice team member who owns this process, you likely think you have more active patients than you actually do.
How does your practice identify active patients? Perhaps you can run a report showing all patients you haven’t seen in at least three years. Deactivate the patients you don’t plan to recall and focus on your active, engaged patients. This will give you an idea of how big this project is going to be.
Every member of your practice team has a role to play in success and you need complete practice buy-in. It is equally important to create a QI team of champions with representation from every area, including:
Another possible stakeholder is a parent advisory council, which can offer eye-opening insights about families’ preferences for scheduling well visits.
As pediatricians, we often think we’re better than average. But when you look at your practice’s data, you’re probably going to see it’s not as great as you thought. That should not be demoralizing, but rather energizing because you see the opportunity to improve.
Do a root cause analysis and ask yourself:
We’re all busy, and the biggest problem for most of us is prioritizing this work and empowering a team who is accountable for making sure it happens. This analysis is important, and you shouldn’t start recalling patients without first figuring out where your problem is and where you can have the most impact.
When you’re deciding which patients to recall first, there are two main filters you can use: Payers and patients’ ages.
If you’re going to reach out to patients to recall them, you must have the capacity to schedule them. Otherwise, your staff will be frustrated and your patients will be angry. Here are some strategies to make room in your schedule.
After you’ve identified the patients you plan to recall and made room in your schedule, now it’s time to act by reaching out to patients. Choose the team members who will carry out these responsibilities. This may be a couple of MAs or nurses, but you must give them protected time in order to be successful.
Run recalls at the beginning of every month for patients who are due or overdue for well visits.
If you have families who are not responsive no matter what you do, consider sending a series of three letters, with the last one explaining that you will be sending their medical records as you consider them not participating actively in important patient care.
It’s understandable if you feel a little overwhelmed, but take a breath and approach this effort incrementally as a continuous improvement process. As you advance this work over the course of several months, remember that it may take several years for you to make sure that all of your active patients are up to date on well visits. Even then, you must be committed to sustaining this work. However, it will be worth the work because your patients and your practice will be healthier.