Creating a Need
Many offices complain about patients not showing for appointments, canceling at the last minute or scheduling the appointment the day before and the patient confirming they would be there and then they do not show up.
When the patient is called, they just state, “I forgot”. So…overnight they forgot they had an appointment with the dentist? They may have, particularly if they do not place any need or value to the appointment.
Throughout the professional hygiene appointment, the hygienist should show the patient, with the aid of a hand mirror or the intra-oral camera, potential problem areas; whether periodontally involved or requiring possible restorative work in the near future. The more verbal communication and visualization are used, the better the patient understands the need to return and how it will benefit them.
The patient needs to know how important it is to return on an interval appropriate for them and a system to track and contact patients. Today’s computer system allows you that ability. It will remind you when they are expected to return, why they need to come back, how much time is needed for their appointment, and when is the best time to schedule them and all the information needed to contact them.
At the completion of the hygiene visit, the hygienist should review the findings with the patient. The patient is informed when it is appropriate to return for the next hygiene visit and why it is important to schedule that appointment when they receive notification.
The hygienist will write a personal note on the invitation style recall notice, or note card, reminding the patient why it is important for them to return for their appointment. This personalization tells the patient he’s not just one of the thousand mouths you look at a year, but an individual that you specifically care about. It is best to reference a clinical observation versus a personal message. This message will also be put into the computer so the patient coordinator has access to this information when they call to confirm the patient’s appointment.
The clinical, “why you need to return message”, can be used as a “selling” point to the patient when doing telephone follow up. Being able to reinforce the reason of why the patient needs to return is critical. The American Dental Association has stated that the number one reason why patients don’t visit the dentist is because they don’t perceive the need.
The patients rely on the dentist and hygienist for expert advice regarding why they need to maintain good oral health and how to achieve it. That’s why they go to a professional rather than relying on their own judgment.
It is also important that the dentist point out again, with the aid of visualization, possible areas for treatment that need to be “reevaluated” on the return recall visit. The hygienist will still have the pictures on the intra-oral monitor areas of concern for the doctor to address.
Once again it is the responsibility of the entire team to help with creating a need and educating the patient on why they want to make it to their dental appointments. This is just one recommendation that will help decrease the amount of no shows and cancellations that your office is experiencing.
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