5 Tips to Maximize Patient Responsiveness
Get in touch with your leads, faster
One of the most common issues we hear about from research sites is the inability to get in touch with patient referrals. While there is no silver bullet to this issue, below are some helpful tips to assist your site in getting your leads on the phone.
Tip #1: Reach Out Quickly
If you take any of these five tips to heart, let it be this one. Reaching out to a patient soon after he/she signs up is probably the most important thing you can do. Patients are trusting you with their health and a responsive, fast-acting site builds trust and shows a patient that he/she is a priority. This does not mean you have to call within 5 minutes of getting an inquiry (although the sooner the better) but 24 hours should be the maximum time a patient has to wait for someone to reach out. The longer the patient waits, the more trust is lost and the lower the priority they will place on responding to you.
Tip #2: Use Text Messaging
Phone calls are necessary for screening a patient prior to a visit to the clinic. However, calls can be time-consuming and, when a patient receives one from an unfamiliar number, will often let it go to voicemail. Before trying to reach someone with a call, use a text message. This non-intrusive and quick way to reach out to lots of people can help you set up a time that works best for a patient to pick up your call, familiarize them with your number, and streamline your outreach. Plus, patients can respond quickly and even while they are working to a text. Just remember when texting, keep it short and use it as a tool to get the patient to schedule a call. Getting someone involved in a long text conversation – unless the patient initiates it – is a surefire way to get on a patient’s bad-side.
Tip #3: Reach Out Often
You’ve sent a text message, an email, and even tried to call a patient. They haven’t answered and you are ready to give up on them – Don’t. On average it takes 7-9 points of contact before trust is built and people are willing to give something a try; especially when we are talking about something to do with your health. Try texting a patient 2 or three times, shoot him/her an email once a week, and call in between these other attempts at outreach to show the patient that you take them and their inquiry seriously. Just be sure to spread-out your outreach so the patient doesn’t feel bombarded. Additionally, if you have tried 7-9 times to no avail, it is safe to say the patient is not interested at that time.
Tip #4: Make it Personal
When first reaching out to a patient, personalize the effort. Outreach is all about trust-building and the best way to do that is by showing the patient you care about them and are there to help. In your initial text message, make sure you mention your name and the name of your research site. You should also mention what study they signed up for, how they would have singed-up to be contacted (whether through a TV ad, online, etc.) and that you are their point of contact for any questions. This will make the patient feel more comfortable responding and know that you are aware of what he/she saw and are there to help answer questions and not just to convince them to join the trial should he/she qualify.
Tip #5: Vary Your Outreach Times
It is a simple concept, yet sometimes difficult to implement. If you have tried to reach a patient 2 or 3 times but have yet to receive a response, mix up the times you are contacting him/her. If you typically make your calls / send emails between 9 – 10 AM this may be when the patient is at work, at the gym, or still asleep. Try to allocate time in the beginning, middle, and end of the day to reach patients and cycle through your list of candidates so that you reach out to them at different times. A patient who has been unresponsive to calls at the end of the day may respond immediately to a text sent earlier in the morning. Mix it up and remember that these patient’s lives are unique and sometimes do not correspond with the work routine of your site.
If your site is not already utilizing these strategies to reach patients, they should help you see a sizable jump in responsiveness. However, the big lesson here is to connect with patients on their schedule and build trust with them to remove any anxiety about potentially joining a research study.
Remember that most people do not first consider a research study as a viable option for their health, so they are most likely not answering or responding because there is some implicit mistrust of the process. Go the extra mile to accommodate the patient’s schedule, show them how a research study can help them, and – above all – treat them the way you would like to be treated when you are considering trying something new for the first time.
By reaching out to them over their preferred platform, following up consistently, and doing so on their schedule, you should see a significant jump in your contact rates and, ultimatley, the number of patients enrolled in your study.
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