Confirmation Calls: The ‘Rotary Phone’ of Patient Communication
Call them. Confirm them. Greet them. And you’ll reduce overhead, increase production, and enjoy success. No problem, right? I love three-step formulas, especially the ones that promise to lower my stress, slim my waistline, and make me rich. The only problem is that once you scratch below the surface, most of the time those seemingly simple formulas require a multitude of not-so-simple sub-steps. And that is usually where we get bogged down and give up. Shelve another good idea because it’s too much work, too much time, or too much money.
In the dental practice, ensuring that the practice achieves specific production benchmarks can easily fall into this category. There’s widespread recognition for the importance of achieving production goals, but it takes work - and no, I’m not talking about the dentistry. There is that seemingly always unpredictable variable: the patients.
Sure, everyone wants patients in the chair at the appointed hour. After all, that translates into money for the practice and production goals achieved. The concept of confirming appointments sounds so simple. Call them. Confirm them. Greet them when they show up on time as directed. But the truth is, this process is labor intensive and inconsistent for a variety of reasons.
For the staff, there are a multitude of other responsibilities that they believe warrant their time and attention far more than “babysitting” the schedule as it is often viewed. For patients, the phone calls are commonly viewed as annoying. And if they get the voicemail message you left, maybe they will remember to call back and let you know if they will keep their appointment, maybe they won’t. Given the digital communication options that practices have available to them today, it’s clear that the traditional model is not only outdated, it’s expensive – averaging nearly $3,000 per month – not to mention labor intensive.
What’s more, with so many other competing demands on dental teams, it can be very difficult to commit the time, energy, and staff to ensure that each of the key communication systems that support practice production are achieving the desired results. Translation: The dental practice is a hectic, fast-paced work environment. It is a real challenge to consistently and effectively execute each practice system successfully. The consequence is spotty, inconsistent practice/patient communications that can do more to undermine practice production than support it.
Consider “Jane” the business employee. She walks in Monday morning to four messages on the voicemail from patients who are cancelling their appointments – two that day and two more booked for Tuesday. Jane might as well put on the red cape because she will need to pull off more than a few super-hero moves, starting with promptly filling the gaping holes that now threaten today’s production goal, as well as shore up the schedule for tomorrow. In addition, in this small office, Jane must turn her attention to patient check-in and check-out every few minutes. Is it any wonder that those confirmation appointments that are supposed to be made no less than two days prior are likely not going to get the attention they need and deserve?
But what if a significant portion of the practice/patient communication responsibilities could be completed using today’s digital communication options? Would the practice have to spend thousands more than it already is to automate practice/patient communication? Quite the opposite. According to data from Sesame Communications, most practices would reduce overhead costs by nearly $21,000 per year. What’s more, while costs go down, effectiveness goes up.
So how does automated patient communication work? When the patient comes into the practice, the business staff collect the patient’s email address and input it into the practice management system. An email will automatically be sent to the patient that explains to them the many features they can access through the practice website, such as subscribing to specific emails, viewing their treatment plan, paying account balances, confirming their appointments, and more.
Appointment reminders are just one aspect of communicating with patients in a way that is fast, easy, convenient, and consistent. But beyond the fact that digital patient communication significantly simplifies this critical practice system, the fact is, today, patients expect it. In their minds, those phone call reminders need to be boxed up and stored away right along with those vintage rotary phones.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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