The Most Important System
It is very rare for a practice to be working their recall system as much as they should be. Some practices only work on recall when there are openings in the hygiene schedule. Other practices work on recall when they see a lot of holes in the schedule, and they just start filling holes instead of scheduling patients based on goals and the “perfect day” for the clinician. There are also practices that only work recall when there is nothing else to do – which is usually never.
It is unfortunate that the majority of dental practices are not more actively working their recall system and scheduling appropriately based on goals. All major practice functions revolve around the recall system; this is what creates the money to pay the bills, provide paychecks, and put patients in the chair so insurance can be billed for the services provided.
It all starts after the patient is seen by the hygiene department. The bulk of the hygiene schedule is filled by existing patients in the recall system, and a very large portion of the doctor’s schedule is filled by patients who were either seen in hygiene or are existing patients with problems. This shows the importance of the recall system. Without returning patients, you don’t need a team to do follow-up.
So why is recall the most neglected system in most offices? Because many people do not like working recall, or they do not understand how important it is. Many offices wait until there is a problem with open time in the schedule before they even start paying attention. Even then, many times it is the hygienist (who should be busy at the chair seeing patients) who is working the system, when there should be a person whose number one priority and responsibility is focusing on recall.
We work in a health care profession that is preventive-based. We want to help our patients by diagnosing and treating disease before it becomes a big problem. It is recommended that you treat your practice the same way – particularly your recall system. When you book every single patient six months out, you may get a false sense of security that your schedule is full, only to find that it falls apart days or even minutes before. The recall system should be worked on a regular basis, even when it appears that you have a full schedule.
It is also recommended that you have a team member whose job description is focused on working and being accountable for the recall system. This does not mean the entire team cannot help with recall, because the entire team should be helping, but having one designated recall person will ensure you are reactivating old patients and keeping current patients coming back.
When there is a change in the schedule, the recall person is the team member who immediately stops what they are doing to start “dialing for dollars” – by getting on the phone and talking to patients who are overdue for their hygiene appointments or have treatment pending with the doctor to come in for their appointments. This person is also responsible for making sure postcards are sent out, letters are sent, and an ASAP list is created to call from.
It is especially effective if the recall person is proactive about working recall. Once postcards are sent out for the current month or week, the recall person should be on the phone making contact with patients who have not already called and made their appointment for the upcoming weeks. Why wait until they are overdue? If the patient is on a three-month recall, this may have an effect on their health. You don’t want to have more patients walking out the back door than you have coming in the front door. The sooner you contact a patient who is overdue, the more likely it is that the practice will maintain that patient.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email email@example.com and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
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