Bringing new patients into your direct primary care (DPC) practice requires a few key steps, to ensure they understand how the DPC model works, what they can expect from you as their independent physician, and what you expect from them. Here are some helpful tips for onboarding new patients at your DPC practice.
Your onboarding process will typically be your new patients’ first impression of your DPC practice so it’s important to get them started out with information and guidance that will benefit you both. You can take advantage of your direct primary software during the onboarding process to capture information and establish communication channels with your new patients.
A seamless digital workflow using direct primary care software such as electronic health records (EHRs) can help your clinical team work with your new patients more effectively. It also gives your patients confidence that they have access to you and your staff, as well as to their medical records, through their patient portal.
The first consideration when onboarding a new patient is that the initial point of contact, whether an established appointment, an electronic message, or a phone call, will take some time. You will need to gather complete information regarding their medical history, discuss any current concerns they may have, and request and review their previous health data. You will also need to review their preventive history, to determine whether they are due for screenings or exams.
Another consideration is to ensure the new patient clearly understands the structure of a DPC practice and, specifically, what your practice offers as part of their membership fee. You may also need to address concerns they have from previous experiences with the healthcare system, particularly if they were unhappy with their former provider.
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The onboarding process may require more than one visit, message, or phone call, to keep from overwhelming you or the new patient initially. Some DPC providers will interact with a new patient on a weekly basis at first and then space out the appointments to an “as needed” basis or based on the need for regular wellness checks.
DPC physicians report that, once their patients are on a routine visit schedule, they interact with an average of 1-2% of their patient panel per day, including communications using their direct primary care software and in-person visits.
The primary goal of onboarding new patients at your DPC practice is to welcome them, gather their health-related data, and provide them with information about your practice so they’ll have a better understanding of how they can access their healthcare. You and your clinical staff will set the tone for your ongoing patient-provider relationship with your onboarding plan.
Some specific steps for successfully onboarding new patients include:
- Plan your onboarding process carefully. Involve your clinical staff in the plan so they’ll all be onboard with each new patient interaction.
- Conduct a preliminary phone screening. Ask basic questions to complete the patient data in your EHR so the information will be readily available at their first in-office appointment.
- Send a welcome email. Use secure direct messaging to reach out to the new patient. Include details about how the practice operates and which services are included in the patient’s monthly membership fee.
- Anticipate your clients’ questions. As you continue to onboard new patients, you will gain an understanding of common questions they have about the DPC model. It’s critical to be prepared with detailed, informative answers.
- Review important policies in person. Clarify any questions the patient may have about the DPC structure and explain what is – and is not – covered.
- Follow up after the first appointment. Reach out via the patient portal or with a personal phone call to gauge the new patient’s comfort level and understanding, to help you and the patient be more successful in the longer term.