3 Signs it's Time to Revamp Your Recall System
All too often dentists have no idea how their recall system, or lack thereof, is hurting their practice. They think the postage-cheap, cutesy postcards they send out to their recall patients do the trick, and if their hygienist or office manager happens to find time to squeeze in a few phone calls now and again, that’s just a bonus. I hate to break it to you, but these doctors couldn’t be more wrong.
The fact is, recall is often the most ignored practice system, yet it’s also the system that has the most potential to increase practice revenues. Investing in recall will help improve your patient retention numbers and increase production, and that leads to a more robust bottom line.
Simply put, this forgotten system is crucial to your practice’s success. Still not convinced? Here’s a look at three signs it’s time to revamp your recall system, and how these oversights are damaging your practice.
1. Your hygienist is in charge of recall. Your hygienist does not have time to call patients on the recall list. Hygienists need to focus on producing and educating patients while they’re in the chair. Besides, recall is too important to be something your hygienist gets to when he or she can.
Make recall a priority. Consider hiring a Patient Coordinator who is responsible for reaching out to a specific number of recall patients every day and scheduling a certain number of appointments. This dedicated person should be trained to effectively communicate with patients about the importance of scheduling appointments and maintaining their oral health. Hiring a Patient Coordinator and tasking that employee with recall will help you improve patient retention and drastically increase your production numbers.
2. Patient retention is abysmal. You might think your patient retention rates are just fine, but when you really take a look I bet you’ll find room for improvement. Let me break it down for you. I recently did a survey that covered dental practices in business for an average of 22 years. The survey revealed a patient retention ratio of 31%. So that means if you have 1,000 patient records on file, you actually only have 300 active patients.
You want patient retention to be hovering at closer to 95%, and one way to do that is by re-energizing your recall system. Armed with a well-written script and updated patient information, have your Patient Coordinator call past due patients and get them on the schedule. Send patients professional marketing communications, and educate them about the importance of maintaining their oral health. If you’re using a patient communication system, then you better make sure you’re getting the statistics to “know” that it is getting you the results you’re after.
When you make an effort to reach out to these patients, you’ll find they’re more likely to come back, thus boosting your patient retention numbers, practice production and your bottom line.
3. Cancellations and no-shows are common. Broken appointments are a tell-tale sign something is wrong with your recall system. Why? If your practice deals with a lot of cancellations and no-shows, part of the problem stems from pre-appointing.
Most practices have scheduled hygiene patients six months out for as long as they can remember, but this simply isn’t an effective way to build your schedule or operate your recall system anymore. Think about it. Do you know what you’re doing six months from now at 2 p.m.? Neither do your patients, and chances are, even if they commit to that time today, something will come up that will lead them to cancel.
Not only that, scheduling six months out gives you the illusion that your schedule is full, so there’s really no need to start working the recall list. Until, of course, those last minute holes threaten to ruin your day. When your schedule seems full, patients who are ready for treatment can’t get in to see the doctor, and that means they’ll start looking for another office to call their dental home.
You don’t have to drop this system entirely, but consider offering some of your patients the option to be contacted two to three weeks before their scheduled appointment. This can be especially effective with patients who are known for cancelling at the last minute or for not showing up at all, and frees up slots for recall patients who are ready to schedule their next appointment.
Recall is not a system that can be ignored. Start investing in it now and you’ll soon reap the benefits of a healthier schedule, more loyal patients, increased practice productivity and a growing bottom line.
Next week: Fix your recall system and grow your practice.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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