Bringing Inactive Patients Back to Your Practice

Cassandra Shepard, CPBA, CPVA

In last month’s article, we talked about nurturing a solid relationship with your new and current patients. But what about all the patients who were once new to your practice but haven’t been back for quite some time?

Studies show that it costs five times as much to attract a new patient as it does to keep an existing one using your services. With numbers like that it becomes abundantly clear that rather than always searching for new patients, it makes financial sense to focus on reactivating “inactive” patients. Here’s how.

Your Game Plan

The best way to reactivate inactive patients is by sending a letter to each person who was a patient in good standing with your practice but who hasn’t been back for an appointment in the last 12 months. Yes, you need to craft a letter—not a postcard. Why no postcards? Quite simply and bluntly: they tell the patient that you are cheap. You want the patient to invest hundreds of dollars in your service, but you won’t spring for more than 25 cents in postage and a one-paragraph message? Think about the message that sends.

Here are some additional tips to incorporate in crafting and sending your reactivation letter:

  • Your reactivation letter should be written in a warm and friendly style…as if you are catching up with a long-lost friend.
  • Along the same lines, personalize each letter with the person’s first name rather than using the typical “Dear Patient” salutation. A simple “mail merge” from your database into your word processing software makes this customization easy to do.
  • Be sure to include information about things that are new in your practice, new techniques and treatments you are using, and any continuing education programs you’ve completed that will benefit the patient directly.
  • Keep the letter light and positive to release any tension and apprehension your inactive patients may feel about not having previously returned to your practice. You want to make it easy for them to come in again.
  • Include a strong offer for them to return and a deadline associated with the offer to encourage immediate action on their part.
  • Sign the letter yourself. The personal touch this adds makes a difference.
  • Handwrite the patient’s address on the envelope and use an eye-catching stamp versus using bulk mail. Mailing labels and bulk or metered postage tend to look like junk mail—cold and impersonal.
  • Prioritize your appointment scheduling to be sure that when a reactivated patient calls, he or she can get in to see you fairly quickly. There’s no sense spending the time or effort trying to reactivate patients if they have to wait longer than two or three weeks to see you because of your schedule.
  • Follow up. One week after the letter is mailed, follow up with a quick phone call referencing the letter and the upcoming deadline on your offer. Make this a warm, informative, and sales pitch-free call. In all cases, this will increase your conversion rate and help you reactivate even more patients.

Use any returned letters you get to update your patient database by noting in your records people who have moved away from your immediate community so that you don’t mail to these individuals again in the future. Doing so will save you time and money in the future.

Last but not least, make it a habit to reactivate inactive patients on a regular basis. Determine what constitutes an inactive patient (going forward, is it someone who hasn’t been back in six months?), and schedule sending the reactivation letters in your marketing calendar. Having this activity scheduled increases the odds of it actually getting done, and now that you’ve crafted your letter and established your process for contacting inactive patients, future mailings are very easy to replicate.

This process is designed to make reactivating patients easy. And think, for most practitioners, just one reactivated patient will likely more than cover the cost of the mailings. In next month’s column we’ll focus on developing an ongoing communication strategy that encourages repeat patients and generates referrals.


Cassandra Shepard, CPBA, CPVA, president of Prosperity Solutions, LLC, provides practice-building consulting and coaching to naturopathic doctors to help them book their practices solid with proven marketing and practice-building strategies not taught in school.

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