The Importance of a Recall System for Physician Practices


Medical practices can run a serious risk if its patients are not recalled for follow-up as required by medical protocols and just as important, also lose revenues. Practices can easily develop a recall system using their own computer system. This type of system should ensure that patients will not “fall through the cracks.” Recalling patients for follow-up attention is more than just good marketing. It's an essential aspect of good medical care. In fact, a practice could be courting trouble with a potential malprac¬tice issue if it does not bring certain patients back.

For instance, take a gastroenterologist who has seen a patient with early indications of potentially cancerous polyps. Professional protocols call for re-examination on a regular basis. If the patient ends up dying of colon cancer, an effective malpractice attorney is going to wonder and ask if the gastroenterologist had recalled the patient as the pro¬tocols require.

Many practices have a very simple recall system. This is when the receptionist pulls the charts of patients he or she had listed for recall when they checked out from their prior visits. But the receptionist, in a busy front office, often misses some names and never check to see if the people ac¬tually recalled made and kept their appointments. Worse yet, the system would probably collapse if the receptionist ever quits.

A practice’s computer billing system is the logical device for highly effective patient recall. When the physician marks “months," or "one year" on the patient's fee slip, for example, the instruction can be punched into the computer system along with the fee for the current visit. Having a set of codes for "reason for recall" (such as to recheck polyps) allows storing the reason until the patient is actually re-contacted.

A practice’s system should then be able to automatically print out recall letters a month before the visits are due. Those letters may include pre-drafted sentences or paragraphs, keyed to your "reason for recall" codes, telling the patient why the visit is important to his or her health. The system should also print out a list of patients to be recalled so your staff can check them off as they are actually scheduled and seen.

Some computer systems can automatically check off the recall patients as they are later billed for their visits. It can then generate a list of patients who have not responded to the recall and who should thus be followed up further. If appropriate, the practice should send a final warning letter, retaining a copy in the chart, to each patient who fails or refuses to honor the recall effort. The computer should be able to generate this final letter as well.

An effective recall system can be handled by most medical software systems. If a practice’s system cannot handle this, make sure at least a manual recall system is in place and is being implemented properly. Whether to provider a better service, to avoid potential liability or to increase practice income, a recall system is too important to be left ignored.

Have questions? I’m here to help.