Fix Your Recall System and Grow Your Practice
You’re in a rut. Production numbers are stagnant, patient retention rates are lower than you’d like to admit and your bottom line has seen better days. Nothing seems to be going your way, and to say you’re frustrated is a bit of an understatement. You’re fed up, and feel like you’re running out of options.
Before you throw in the towel, take a step back and look at what’s causing your problems. Why are production numbers so lackluster? Why are you losing patients? I bet I know one of the reasons. You’re ignoring your recall system.
That’s right doctor, if you want to have a profitable, successful dental practice, you can’t push your recall system aside and hope patients will magically appear in the chair. You have to invest time in your recall system if you want a full, productive schedule and loyal patients that sing your praises.
The first thing I recommend is to consider hiring a Patient Coordinator. I know what you’re thinking, that’s simply not in the budget right now. A good Patient Coordinator should be able to handle a patient base of 500 to 1,000 in about 15 hours a week – at an hourly rate that equals a small price to pay for turning inactive patients into active patients who are scheduling treatment and boosting your production numbers.
Now you can’t just hire a Patient Coordinator and think your work is done. You must provide proper training along with the tools needed to succeed. This person should have access to a well thought-out written script and the most updated patient information. Hold the Patient Coordinator accountable for the recall system, and make sure your expectations are understood. Develop a detailed job description that clearly outlines the role. This should include making a specific number of patient contacts each day, scheduling a specific number of appointments, scheduling to ensure hygienists are producing 3 times their daily wage, and managing a specific number of unscheduled time units in the hygiene schedule each day. The Patient Coordinator should also work with the practice management software to send email and text message reminders to supplement professionally printed reminders and phone calls.
While the Patient Coordinator plays a critical role in successfully running your practice’s recall system and improving patient retention, it isn’t his or her responsibility alone. Getting patients to come back to their recall appointment starts chairside. During every recall appointment, the hygienist should focus on educating patients on their oral condition and the importance of maintaining their oral health. Make sure the hygienist shows educational videos and uses the hand mirror and intraoral camera to show patients exactly what’s going on in their mouths. Hygienists should answer patients’ questions and let them know your practice is there to help.
It’s also important to make sure the dentist and hygienist are on the same page. Touch base with the hygienist before you look patients over, and resist the urge to tell them everything looks OK before you move on to the next treatment room. Take the time to talk with patients about any trouble spots the hygienist found and remind them of the importance of reevaluating those areas during their next recall visit. This will make them much more likely to come back than if they think everything is just fine.
If you’re like most practices, you probably rely on generic recall reminders to get those patients you just spent so much time educating back to your practice. Stop. Patients know they’re cheap, and they’re the least effective form of patient communication. Instead, send out professional Educational Recall Reminders. These go beyond a form letter and enable you to write a personal note to your patients, helping them feel a deeper connection to your practice. And trust me, it is well worth the effort to improve any and all aspects of your recall system. Remember, it costs five times as much to get one new patient as it does to keep the ones you currently have, so investing in your recall system will actually save you money.
A strong recall system can also help attract new patients to your practice without spending a single marketing dollar. That’s right – happy patients talk, and recall patients who continue to have a good experience will be sure to tell their family and friends about your practice and all the wonderful services you offer.
If your practice is struggling, I urge you to take a look at your recall system and make the necessary improvements. A robust recall system will take you from struggling to thriving, finally making you the proud owner of a successful, profitable dental 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
You recently decided that you need to hire a new team member. It doesn’t matter if this person is front office, assistant, hygienist, or doctor – it is imperative that your newest team member practices dentistry with the same belief system you do. This means they have to walk the same walk and talk the same talk as the entire team. Otherwise, patients may end up losing trust in your office, which can directly affect patient retention.
As much as we would love to believe that it’s the doctor and the dentistry he or she does that keeps patients coming back, this is just not the case. It is the entire team, the trusting relationships, compassionate care and great customer service, which really makes the difference to the patient.
You want to start by hiring the correct team in the first place. McKenzie Management offers many tools that you may utilize, such as Online Employee Assessment Testing and other recruitment and hiring guides. In addition to these tools, you may want to have the candidate read the actual job description they are interviewing for. Ask the candidate point-blank if they are willing and able to perform all of the duties listed. If you do not have written job descriptions for each position in your office, you may want to look at creating them. In addition to having the candidate read the actual job description, you can ask them some specific case-study type questions and do some role playing.
For instance, you might ask a hygienist or associate: If there is a new patient in your chair who has not been to the dentist for 5 years, what would you do? Allow them to answer, and then ask them to pretend you are the patient in the chair. Have them go through what they would say to the patient. If they are confident and have specific beliefs, this should come easily to them. If they probed the “patient” while going over the scenario with you, give them the periodontal health of the patient and see what they would recommend as future treatment. This will tell you right away if they have the same belief system regarding periodontal disease and how to treat it. You may want to go over more than one scenario, because we know periodontal disease and treatment are not black and white, there are many gray areas too.
This type of interactive interview can be performed no matter what position you are hiring. For a front desk position, you may want to pretend you are a patient with a complaint and see how the potential new hire handles it. If it is a recall position, have them pick up the phone and call you on another line, and actually go over what they would say to a patient to encourage them to keep their hygiene appointment. This approach will also give you an idea of how much training is going to be involved. Yes, many of us dislike role playing – but these are scenarios that will happen in your office, and how they are handled by any one employee will make a huge difference in patient retention.
Next, take time to train your staff. Have protocols in place, and be confident in your decisions. Once you have hired and trained your employees with the verbiages and protocols for your office, encourage them to pursue continuing education and learn new concepts to bring back to the office and share with the entire staff.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that patients don’t notice staff turnover in your practice. Patients like to see the same faces they know and love every time they walk in the door. If there are new team players every time they come in, that reflects back on the dentist.
If you have a successful growing practice, you want to keep it that way. There may be a time when you hire a person who is just not right for your practice, and in this instance you should cut your losses quick. The less patients that person comes in contact with, the better. This will reduce the number of patients who even know you let a new hire go.
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
And the Oscar Goes to...
This Sunday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will honor cinematic achievements in the film industry. The prestige and accolades of winning the coveted ‘Oscar’ translates into big bucks in an actor’s career. The easiest part of acting, and hardest at the same time, is using imagination. It’s called visualization…the process of making movies in our minds. We all have the capability to do that, although many of us have forgotten as we’ve grown up. But it’s a skill you can refine. By developing positive strong mental movies, you can use the incredible power of your mind to picture your way to greater practice profitability and enjoy success at your own box office.
How often do you stay on the track of ‘what is’ rather than challenge your initial reactions and ask ‘what might be’? When you only focus on the problems of your life – revenues are down, holes in the schedule, employee conflicts – you are near-sighted. You allow your vision to be obstructed by what you see now or what you believe based on past experiences. Success truly begins in your mind. As the motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, “You must see the reaching before you reach the reaching.”
Although the human brain is able to take a lot of helpful shortcuts, our minds often misperceive reality through the distortions of our own thinking. Once you recognize that reality is an invention you’ve constructed, then there's no reason not to believe that you can create what you once considered impossible.
Leadership is about thinking in new ways, about envisioning possibilities that do not yet exist. Sight without vision is dangerous because it has no hope. The question of vision is a very simple one - what do you want in your life?
Be aware of the things that are influencing you. For example, what books do you read? What words do you speak? What thoughts do you think? With whom do you spend the most time? If you’re constantly mixing with people who talk about how lousy life is, these people form the basis of your reality. Be careful about what you allow into your head, because these things shape your views and eventually your vision.
While you silently count to 10, do not think of a zebra, that horse-like animal with black and white stripes.
If you were successful in this little exercise it’s probably because you directed your mind to other possibilities. Perhaps you pictured a giraffe or an elephant. You had vision that enabled you to go beyond the obstacle of ‘zebra’. If you only focus on the “zebras” of your thinking, you’ll remain near-sighted.
Just like physical exercise, visualization requires dedication and practice. If you focus on problems and obstacles, you will find yourself directing a horror film that is filled with fear. When you create images of where you want to go, that energy propels you to new levels of success and achievement. You have total control over the pictures that occupy your mind. So the tip here is to consciously decide which pictures & movies to play and your mind will actively select the mind movie for you.
Set aside five minutes every day. During that time, imagine that everything you want for yourself and your practice has become a reality. Concentrate and focus on the details. Once you have captured the specifics, imagine how you might feel waking up in the morning. In your mind’s eye, notice how you would respond to people at home and at the office. Picture yourself driving to work and what differences there would be. How would you respond to traffic or aggressive drivers? How would you talk with your staff? What kind of expression would be on your face as you worked? Make your visualization come alive.
Before your next appointment with a patient, a staff meeting, or any new interaction, produce a new movie where you see yourself as confident and persuasive. See yourself enthusiastically explaining your points and see the other person being receptive and interested in what you're saying. See a successful outcome.
Imagine what might be.
Lights, camera, ACTION!!
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here
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