No Patient. No Production. No More.
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Here’s the scenario: It all starts out very innocently. You’re busy with a patient, just working away, when your business employee, Mary, appears at the door to the operatory. She explains that your son’s pediatrician’s office is on the phone and they want to talk to you.
You page through the files in your mind. Why are they calling? Is there a problem? Is there a question, a concern? No, it must be an appointment confirmation. You tell your business employee to take a message. The next day, the same scenario occurs. Again you’re busy with a patient. She explains that someone from the pediatrician’s office wants to talk to you. You tell Mary to take a message. You promise you’ll call them back when you get a minute.
The third day, the same scenario, but this time you can take the call because your patient didn’t show. Yes, the pediatrician’s office has been trying to reach you for the past few days to confirm your son’s appointment, which was scheduled to take place 15 minutes ago. You missed it and now he’s going to have to wait another three months for his required school physical. Oops.
Certainly, situations like this happen to the best of us. Appointments get overlooked, left off the calendar—life just happens, and occasionally it catches us off guard. But compounding your embarrassment is the fact that you are all too familiar with the scenario from the other side of the table. You are painfully aware of the financial impact that, “Oops, I forgot,” can wreak on seemingly rock-solid production.
No question. Confirmation calls work when dental teams take the time to make them. They are even more effective when those making the calls use scripts and proven communication techniques. And when the staff is actually able to reach the patient rather than voicemail or a gatekeeper, yes, they can and do work.
But as you know, your patients are very busy (albeit well-intentioned) people. They intended to return the call; they intended to remember the appointment; they were sure it was scheduled for Wednesday not Tuesday. Yes, one good intention after another.
However, there is a way to reach these too busy yet well-meaning patients and it’s proving to be extremely effective. I’m talking specifically about email and text messaging. Studies show that more and more patients prefer to be contacted via email or text message when a practice is attempting a routine communication, such as an appointment confirmation.
It’s quicker, more efficient and, most important, reliable. Why? Because it requires considerably less patient time to reply to text and email messages than it does to look up a phone number, dial, wait on hold to talk to the right person, wait for the person to find the information that is relevant to the call, confirm the appointment, and wrap up the conversation. On average, a phone call takes some 7–10 minutes, as compared to just seconds for email or text messaging. What’s more, there are patient communication programs available today that take care of the entire confirmation process require absolutely no staff time and cost absolutely nothing. And in today’s economy, how can you argue with effective, efficient and totally free?
It’s called Dental Senders. This is a truly impressive patient communication package that enables dental practices to confirm appointments via email or text messaging, send special greetings to patients throughout the year, contact past-due patients and send informative newsletters to patients.
The best part of Dental Senders is that there is no burden on your dental team. The program synchronizes with your practice management software to identify upcoming appointments. The email and text messages can be sent out according to a schedule that works best for your practice, and your office is given a daily report as to which appointments have been confirmed and which will require additional follow-up.
Messages are personalized to include the patient’s name and the message is customized for your office. Patients can confirm their appointment, place the appointment on their electronic calendars, map directions to your office and refer friends and family.
What’s the catch? How can this be free, you ask, when other companies are charging upwards of $2,000 to $4,000 for similar services? The messages contain a small ad from dental industry leaders, such as Philips Sonicare. That’s it. No hardware. No software. No contract. Check it out for yourself at www.dentalsenders.com.
Next week, bridge the gap between appointments.
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