Holes In The Schedule?
Students are heading back to school, and this means a lot of additional costs for families as they buy clothes, school supplies and furniture for college dorm rooms. The last thing they are thinking about is getting in for a hygiene or dental appointment. Many practices are looking at open time in their schedules, as historically these months tend to be slower for dental offices. Hopefully your practice is tracking production, open time, cancellations, and no-shows in order to determine when the slowest months are, and preparing ahead in order to prevent this from happening.
Sending out a letter, email blast or newsletter to your patients is a great way to contact people. However, you want to get this out before the slower months arrive. Making contact with your patients about a month before may help increase revenue. If your slow time is the end of August or beginning of September, you may want to send this communication out at the end of July. You want the patient to receive it not too early, but early enough that they will have time to call and get on the books before school starts.
You want to remind patients to get their kids in for a hygiene appointment before school starts, and also remind them to maximize their insurance benefits. If you have patients who are about to be college students, remind them that they should get in before leaving for school in order to maximize insurance benefits and help maintain good oral health. Many of them will not be back until December to visit, and as long as there are not any plan limitations, they will be able to get their second hygiene appointment in over winter break. By stating this, you are also helping to fill the schedule in December and January when they are back home visiting.
In addition to written communication, the slow months are a great time to increase the number of people who are working the recall system and “dialing for dollars.” Every hole in the schedule that is filled will help to keep the practice profitable during slow times, instead of just surviving. The recall system is one of the most important systems in the practice, and yet it is one of the most under-worked areas by the majority of all dental practices. Many practices that have a designated recall person end up utilizing that person in other areas, instead of concentrating whole-heartedly on the recall system and filling hygiene and the doctor’s schedule. The employee who is accountable for recall should be concentrating all of his or her time on recall, and nothing else.
Remember that it is also always a good time to remind your patients how much you appreciate their referrals, and to ask for more. Word of mouth referrals are some of the best patients, as they are entering your practice with a different level of trust than a person who walks in off the street. Your practice earns that trust by providing quality care and customer service to your referring patients.
Hopefully your employees are well aware of where money comes from in order to meet payroll. There should be goals set based on the overhead of the practice. Having the hygiene schedule full is important, not only to keep the hygienist and dentist busy, but to continue employing the current support staff that you have. If there are not as many insurance claims, then there is not as much posting and follow-up on insurance needed. This frees up time for other staff to help work the recall also.
This is the time for staff to get going and work the hardest on filling the schedule. The time to do this is before there are a lot of holes in hygiene. As we all know, prevention is much easier than trying to recover.
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