Tips for Getting Patients to Schedule Preventive Services

Preventive care is essential for a healthy population, and that includes rheumatology. By catching diseases or conditions in their early stages, doctors and physicians can find effective treatments and lessen their patients’ suffering much sooner. In more practical terms, preventive treatments can also be a dependable source of revenue. Some payers offer financial incentives for certain preventive services because it saves them money in the long run. It’s not often that something is good for the patient, the physician, and the insurance company, but when all three can benefit from the same thing, it’s a good idea to embrace it. 

The only problem with preventive services is that it can be hard to get patients to schedule them. Technically, nothing is “wrong” and so people don’t think about going to the doctor. In other cases, patients don’t realize they’re not up-to-date on their preventive services—they don’t know which screenings are recommended, or how often. This is why “holidays” such as Arthritis Awareness Month (in May) and Pain Awareness Month (in September) are so important.

If you’re trying to get your patients to schedule more preventive services and screenings, there are several strategies you can employ. Below are three that we’ve found effective. Try them, and see if it makes a difference at your practice.

Send personal messages to patients from their doctor.

Patients trust their doctors, and the personal connection they form makes them more likely to follow their doctor’s advice—especially if it comes in the form of a friendly reminder. You can also send emails or text messages, but nothing beats a real voice on the phone, especially for older patients who may not be as comfortable with technology.

Avoid decision fatigue and limit options.

Don’t give your patients a lot of options. While they may benefit from multiple screenings or services, a long list of choices and possible dates will quickly overwhelm them. They may avoid deciding and simply not respond. Instead, focus on the most pressing or serious screening for each individual patient, and begin by setting up that appointment. Other appointments can take place later, once you’ve established a rapport and set a precedent for preventive services.

Conduct multiple screenings during one visit.  

If possible, combine screenings and services into a single visit. Most patients from a similar population will have similar needs, such as osteoporosis screening for women aged 65 and older, or routine bloodwork to test for vasculitis, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis. You can also take the opportunity to educate your patients on chronic diseases, offering screening, prevention, and awareness during regular checkups and visits. Your patients will appreciate the convenience and efficiency, and you’ll accomplish more in a single visit that you might otherwise.

Preventive services are a key method for lowering healthcare costs, providing better healthcare, and helping your patients live longer, healthier lives. Have you had success with preventive services? If so, leave your best tips on NORM’s Facebook page, and we’ll be happy to share them!

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  • As a speaker at the first ad hoc meeting of rheumatology practice managers gathered in a single small room at its infancy a decade ago, I’m amazed to see how NORM has blossomed into a high energy organization of depth and professional meetings with parallel break-out symposia between plenary sessions. NORM has truly come of age. This is where the “business” of rheumatology gets learned. The ”guildmanship” for rheumatology practice management is now strong.- Paul H. Caldron, DO, FACP, FACR, MBA, Arizona Arthritis and Rheumatology Associates
  • In a time of demanding changes in the management of medical practices in the US, NORM has been a lifesaver to the community of Rheumatology practices.  NORM has allowed our practice to stay ahead of the many demands of CMS and others payors and has ensured that our practice remains cognizant of new issues that arise in HIPPA compliance, human resources and medical billing to name a few. Sending our Practice Manager to NORM's conferences has been cost-effective and beneficial to our practice because she returns to our office with an abundance of information that otherwise would have taken months to compile. Every Rheumatology practice that wishes to stay on top of emerging issues in practice management should consider sending a member of their staff to NORM's conference.- Michael S. Rosen M.D., Chester County Rheumatology PC
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