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Changing a recall date

U2.1.13 Changing a recall date

A recent query received at the Membership Department made me stop and think a little. The member wanted to know if she could change a recall date on a record in the practice.

There are two types of recall: one for an eye examination and another for a contact lens check-up appointment. There are others of course for various services within a practice, but these two are the most used.

If we look at the recall for an eye examination, it appears quite simple. The optometrist informs the patient that they should return to the practice for their next check-up in two years’ time, or whatever interval they feel is clinically necessary. That information is recorded on the patient’s record for the practice to update their recall system.

Barring glitches, the patient will be recalled on the appropriate date. There might even be a system in place for second or subsequent reminders should the first one be ignored. There is debate about how much these reminders might be considered harassment but a polite, friendly letter (or text or email) would be fine.

Of course, you don’t always want a patient to return. If there has been some problem over payment perhaps, or they stormed out after a disagreement, it hardly makes sense to remind them they need to return, although a surprising number do come back as if nothing had happened. It is perfectly permissible not to remind such patients. The optometrist has told them when they should have a further eye examination, it is a simple courtesy of the practice that they are reminded in due time as well. It is certainly an excellent form of direct publicity – but only to the correct people.

Contact lens check-up reminders are very similar. The eyecare practitioner records when they wish to check the patient again and it is registered on the system and reminders are sent out as needed. Often patients have a contract with a practice for aftercare and the reminder is a courtesy again, especially as check-ups ensure the care required before a further supply of lenses can be issued. It is a good opportunity to remind patients of the importance of both contact lens checks and eye examinations to enable further contact lens supplies to be available.

This member wanted to change the information on the patient record, which made me wonder why you would want to do that. If the incorrect reminder interval had been entered originally, it would be most appropriate to make a subsequent note on the record, something like: ‘On discussing the issues with the patient post examination it was decided that a six-monthly recall would be more suitable. The recall system has been amended appropriately’. Anything else would appear to be a fraudulent attempt to doctor records.

Some recall systems automatically enter a recall date, which may be incorrect and since changing a system once in place can be very awkward and time-consuming, an amendment such as the one above might be a better solution.

As always, it is a question as to what is in the patient’s best interest rather than the convenience of a software program that should guide your actions.