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From checkup to follow up: A guide to effective patient recall with free templates

Follow-up appointments are an important part of patient retention and quality care. Here’s why they matter — and 4 templates to use when you reach out to patients.

patient recall meaning

At a Glance

  • A robust patient recall process, emphasizing timely follow-up appointments, boosts patient retention and practice revenue
  • A personalized approach to follow-ups fosters stronger patient-provider relationships and improves operational efficiencies
  • Use our free templates for letters, calls, forms, and email patient follow-up communications to get started

Whether you're a newer or established healthcare practice, one fundamental truth prevails: your vitality depends on nurturing a dedicated and engaged patient community. Unfortunately, this task is not easy in today's competitive healthcare landscape. With more choices available than ever, modern patients have higher expectations of their healthcare providers. According to a 2023 patient experience survey by Tebra, 73% of respondents would contemplate leaving a practice due to a poor experience with a healthcare provider. This underscores the significant repercussions faced by practices that fail to adapt to these evolving demands — and patient recall's meaning for your success.

While the current landscape poses unique challenges, practices can effectively address and manage many of these issues. By strategically implementing a patient recall process, healthcare providers can mitigate patient attrition and enhance retention rates. To emphasize its significance, a 5% increase in patient retention can lead to a 25-100% rise in lifetime healthcare costs for an individual patient. When you realize how dramatically patient retention can affect your financial success, the importance of providing continuous patient care becomes clear.

In this article, we clarify the patient recall meaning and present a comprehensive patient recall guide to assist you in elevating patient retention rates. We'll delve into the reasons for follow-up appointments, how follow-ups enhance patient care, and 4 follow-up templates that you can start using in your practice immediately.

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A guide to the patient recall process

While it is preferable to schedule a patient's next appointment before they leave their current one, many patients hesitate to book appointments months in advance. This hesitation stems from the uncertainty of their future schedules. Instead of risking potential rescheduling, these patients prefer to book follow-ups closer to the time of their appointment.

To adapt to this evolving patient behavior and minimize the risk of missed follow-ups, practices must establish robust patient retention practices with the patient recall meaning as the foundational element. This strategic approach ensures a proactive system that accommodates patients' scheduling preferences while guaranteeing they receive necessary follow-up care.

What is patient recall? 

Patient recall, meaning the process of reminding patients to schedule routine checkups or follow-up visits, is crucial for healthcare practices. Sending postcards and letters as reminders for well-child appointments resulted in significantly higher attendance rates for both the letter (75.0%) and postcard (73.7%) groups compared to the control group, which received no reminders (67.5%). Importantly, there was no statistically significant difference in show rates between the letter and postcard groups, emphasizing the effectiveness of postcard reminders in improving follow-up attendance rates. Patient recall not only helps individuals stay on top of their care but also ensures a steady flow of patients — and revenue. 

Patient recall not only helps individuals stay on top of their care but also ensures a steady flow of patients — and revenue. ”

While each practice’s patient recall process will be different, a successful process typically includes the following components:

1. Identify suitable segments

First, identify key groups that are prime candidates for recall campaigns. This could include people with uteruses due for annual exams, individuals with chronic conditions that require annual monitoring, and those due for annual vaccinations like flu shots. A good electronic health record (EHR) can help you to identify suitable segments and an integrated practice growth automation platform will streamline the messaging process.

2. Select communication channels

Recall messaging campaigns, especially for crucial medical needs like vaccines or follow-up appointments, can be highly successful. However, given that 70% of consumers penalize brands for communicating in undesirable ways, the choice of the right communication channel is crucial. According to Tebra's annual Patient Perspectives report, the majority of patients (67.3%) prefer receiving text messages, both for appointment-related reminders and reminders to schedule follow-up appointments (47%). Patient portals also emerge as a close second choice, with 37% of patients favoring them for appointment scheduling. 

3. Schedule appointments

Once you select your patient recall segments and communication channel, it’s time to schedule the appointment. Sending patient recall campaigns through email, text, or medical practice management software such as Tebra allows you to include self-service scheduling links. This streamlines the scheduling process and empowers patients to take control of rescheduling. With 44% of Tebra survey respondents admitting to canceling appointments in the past 12 months, employing digital booking solutions can alleviate the administrative burden of managing appointments over the phone.

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Find out what keeps patients coming back with Tebra's Patient Perspectives report.
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It's worth noting that even the most extensive patient recall segments may miss some candidates. For this reason, it's a best practice to regularly execute a generic recall campaign. This helps to minimize patient attrition and guarantee a consistent stream of patients.

Ideas for post-appointment patient checkups

Follow-up appointments are a vital aspect of the ongoing support and monitoring necessary to prevent care gaps and enhance outcomes for patients with chronic conditions. However, even all patients benefit from preventative care, which is why it’s crucial to consider the various reasons for post-appointment patient checkups.

  1. New patient checkups: When patients initially visit a practice for specific concerns rather than for a comprehensive physical exam, physicians may have only a partial understanding of their medical history. Scheduling new patient checkups not only nurtures the budding patient-physician relationship but also creates an opportunity to comprehensively address other medical needs.
  2. Monitoring patients' symptoms: Post-appointment checkups provide an opportunity to monitor a patient's condition or symptoms. This allows healthcare providers to adjust the treatment plan and prescribe alternative medications if necessary.
  3. Reinforcing action plans: Healthcare providers reinforce the patient's understanding of their medical condition and course of care. These follow-up visits directly impact patient outcomes and engagement in the healthcare journey.
  4. Confirming medicine regimens: Follow-up visits help to ensure patients adhere to their medications, allowing healthcare providers to confirm proper usage or explore affordable alternatives. This proactive approach helps minimize the risk of complications and contributes to overall patient well-being.
  5. Continuous care for chronic conditions: Continuity of care is vital for patients with chronic conditions. Follow-up appointments provide the ongoing preventive care and close monitoring required to help manage such conditions.
  6. Verifying referral followthrough: If you refer a patient to a specialist or for tests or treatments, follow-up appointments help to verify that the patient has acted on these referrals and receives the care they need.
  7. Sharing lab results: Many healthcare processes involve diagnostic tests and lab work. Follow-up appointments provide the opportunity to explain test results and establish a treatment plan if required.

Importance of patient follow-ups to increase returning visits

Regardless of the reason for a follow-up visit, these appointments form an integral part of the continuum of care. This integrated system of care guides patients from preventive care through medical incidents, rehabilitation, and maintenance, ensuring the monitoring of symptom monitoring and treatment compliance.

This integrative approach has a few benefits:

  • More positive outcomes: By maintaining active engagement with patients, healthcare providers can deliver better care. This fosters more positive outcomes and improves retention rates for the practice. The MIPS (Merit-Based Incentive Payment System) and MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act) provide additional incentives for healthcare providers, offering positive payment adjustments for delivering high-quality care and improved outcomes.
  • Fewer hospital readmissions: Timely follow-ups can help to identify health concerns before they worsen, reducing the need for hospital readmissions.
  • Stronger patient relationships: Consistent follow-ups build trust and strengthen the patient-provider relationship, resulting in more engaged and satisfied patients.
  • Operational efficiencies: Software patient follow-up systems streamline the care process, optimizing resource allocation and appointment availability. This is a significant factor that influences whether a patient chooses to remain with your practice.

By recognizing the multifaceted benefits of post-appointment patient checkups, you can provide higher-quality care and enhance the patient experience.

Patient follow-up template for letters, calls, forms, and email

Whether through personalized letters, informative calls, forms, or efficient emails, the follow-up process typically requires preparation. These 4 ready-to-use templates can help you start reaching out to your patients today. 

Patient follow-up template: Mailed letters

Dear [Patient Name],

We hope this letter finds you in good health. At [Practice Name], we take the well-being of our patients to heart, and we noticed that it's time for your scheduled follow-up appointment.

Our dedicated healthcare team is here to assist you during your visit, whether you have questions, specific health goals, or any changes in your condition to discuss. Your health and well-being are our top priorities, and we’re here to support you along the way.

Please feel free to contact our office at [practice contact information] if you have any questions, need to reschedule your appointment, or require further assistance. We look forward to seeing you at your upcoming appointment.

Thank you for entrusting us with your healthcare needs.


[Your Name]

[Your Title]

[Practice Name and contact information]

Patient follow-up template: Phone calls

Hello, this is [Your Name] from [Practice Name]. I hope you're doing well after your recent visit.

As part of our commitment to your care, we encourage you to schedule a follow-up visit. I’d be happy to book your follow-up appointment today. Is there a time and date [enter timeframe] that works best for you? 

Thank you for entrusting [Practice Name] with your healthcare needs. We appreciate the trust you've placed in us, and we're fully committed to supporting your journey towards better health.

If you have any inquiries or wish to discuss anything further, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at [practice contact information].

Patient follow-up template: In-office form

[Practice Name] patient follow-up form

  • Patient's full name: ______________________________________
  • Date of birth: ______________________________________
  • Contact number: ______________________________________
  • Email address: ______________________________________

Follow-up details:

  • Reason for follow up: ______________________________________
  • Date of last appointment: ______________________________________
  • Preferred date and time for follow up: ____________________________________

Patient's health and feedback:

  • How are you feeling since your last visit?: __________________________________
  • Have you experienced any new symptoms or changes in your health?: ______________________________________


  • Please share any concerns or questions: ______________________________________

[Practice Name] team's notes:

  • Recommended action: ______________________________________
  • Next steps: ______________________________________

Additional comments:

  • Any additional comments or feedback: ______________________________________

By filling out this form, you help us provide you with the best care possible. We appreciate your time and cooperation.

Thank you for choosing [Practice Name] for your healthcare needs.

[practice contact information]

Patient follow-up template: Email

Subject: A quick check in from [Practice Name]

Dear [Patient Name],

Your well-being is always our top priority, and we care about your health and experience with [Practice Name]. With that in mind, we'd like to schedule a follow-up appointment to monitor your progress and address any questions or concerns you might have. 

Please schedule an appointment that suits your schedule using the link below.

[scheduling link]

If you have any questions about your treatment plan, medications, or upcoming appointments, please reach out. We're here to assist you in any way we can.

Thank you for choosing [Practice Name] for your healthcare needs. We appreciate your trust and are committed to your well-being.

If you need anything or have questions, you can reach us at [practice contact information].

Best regards,

[Your Name]

[Your Title]

[Practice Name]

[practice contact information]

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Better outcomes and enhanced patient satisfaction: Patient recall meaning for your practice

Despite the many challenges facing modern healthcare practices, the power to transform your patient experience and retention rates is in your hands. By putting the patient recall process into action and using the above patient follow-up templates, you can strengthen your practice, enhance patient satisfaction, and drive better health outcomes. Get started today and unlock a thriving practice and healthier patients.

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How to get patients to keep coming back. Learn what influences patient choices and behaviors in the 2023 Patient Perspectives report.

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Kali Armstrong

Kali Armstrong is an experienced content writer with a passion for crafting educational content that captivates and resonates with readers. Her commitment to wellness shines through ghostwritten features in Forbes and Thrive Global, showcasing her ability to deliver high-quality, impactful content.

Reviewed by

Baran Erdik

Dr. Baran Erdik, MD, MHPA is a physician with further specialization in Internal Medicine/Cardiology. He has traveled the world, working as a physician in New Zealand, Germany, and Washington State. He’s been published numerous times and currently works in healthcare compliance and consulting.

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