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Ignoring Recall? How it’s Hurting Your Practice
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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Patient retention rates are down and cancellations and no-shows are at an all-time high. Production numbers are not even close to where they should be, and your bottom line is suffering. You’re stuck in a rut, and have no idea how to pull yourself out.

If you feel like I just described your practice, it’s time to make some changes – and I suggest starting with recall. Yes, I said recall. While most dentists ignore this vital system, investing in recall is one of the best, most effective ways to increase practice revenues. Most dentists send out generic recall reminders and then call it a day, but trust me, that’s not nearly enough. You need to make recall a priority in your practice if you want to increase your production numbers and grow your bottom line.

Still not convinced you need to revamp your recall system? Here are a few ways ignoring your recall system is hurting your practice that just might change your mind.

It’s costing you patients. If you want a successful, profitable practice, your patient retention rate should be hovering at around 85-95%. That isn’t the case at most practices. In fact, I recently conducted a survey that looked at dental practices in business for an average of 22 years. You know what it revealed? A patient retention ratio of 31%. That means if you have 1,000 patients on file, only 300 of these patients are actually active.

To raise that number, consider hiring a Patient Coordinator and tasking that employee with reenergizing your recall system. Have this new team member, armed with a written script and the most up-to-date patient information, call past due patients to get them on the schedule. But don’t stop there. Send patients professional marketing materials and educate them about the services you provide and the importance of caring for their oral health.

When you actually reach out to recall patients, they’ll be much more likely to come back – and that will do wonders for your production numbers and your bottom line.

You’re not getting referred. Only happy patients who trust you with their care refer you to family and friends – a free form of marketing every practice needs to help them grow. But if patient retention is down, fewer patients are referring you, costing you potential loyal patients and who knows how much in lost revenues.

When you reach out to recall patients and educate them about the importance of dental care, they’re more likely to feel a connection to your practice. That connection is what keeps them coming back, making them loyal patients who are more likely to refer.

Cancellations and no-shows are eating into your bottom line. If broken appointments are common in your practice, it’s a good sign something is wrong with your recall system. Why? Part of the problem stems from pre-appointing.

Like most dentists, you’ve likely always scheduled appointments six months out. But that doesn’t mean it’s an effective way to manage your schedule and operate your recall system. Most patients have no idea what they’re doing six months from now on a Tuesday. So even if they schedule an appointment, chances are they’ll forget or something else will come up that prompts them to cancel at the last minute.

Another problem with pre-appointing? It gives you the illusion your schedule is full, when it really isn’t. That means there’s no reason to work the recall system, except of course when those appointments fall through and wreak havoc on your day. The other issue? Patients who try to schedule treatment can’t get in to see the doctor right away, which is a good way to send them to the practice down the street.

Instead of relying on pre-appointing alone, consider offering some patients the option to be contacted two to three weeks before they’re due for a recall appointment. This frees slots up for patients who are ready for treatment, and helps reduce broken appointments – as well as the stress and frustration that come with them.

Production numbers are down. You can’t reach your daily production goals if patients aren’t in the chair. This is a frustrating scenario for you and your team members, and of course is costing your practice money. When you invest in recall, you’ll soon find more patients are scheduling treatment. This helps boost team morale, and, of course, your bottom line.

Ignoring your recall system isn’t doing your practice any good. In fact, it’s causing damage. Investing in your recall system will help you turn it around, increasing practice production and profits.

Next week: How to make recall a priority.

For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side

Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
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Belle DuCharme, CDPMA
Instructor/Consultant
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Dentists and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act
By Belle DuCharme, CDPMA

A July 10, 2015 order from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has caused a blip on the radar screen of those who make outbound collection calls to patients from dental practices. No one likes the annoying robocalls or the telemarketers and the hang-up calls. People don’t want to get collection calls or texts on their cell phones, so the law has been interpreted to ensure dental practices are in compliance.

This law applies to all healthcare businesses and now requires a consent form to be signed prior to calling or texting a patient’s cell phone. According to a California Dental Association article from 8-25-2015, the healthcare exemption applies only if the communication:

• Is sent only to the cellphone number provided by the patient to the healthcare provider;
• States the name and contact information of the health care provider (information must be at the beginning of a voice call);
• Does not include telemarketing, solicitation, advertising, billing or financial content (including insurance information requests);
• Complies with the HIPAA Privacy Rule; and
• Is short (one minute or less for voice calls and 160 characters or less for text messages).

A healthcare provider must:
• Limit communication to one per day and three per week for each individual;
• Provide individuals with a simple method to opt out of receiving communications; and
• Immediately honor the opt-out requests.

What you should do to take action now is to:
• Review procedures to determine if the practice uses patient cellphone numbers for communications related to dental benefits, financial arrangements or marketing/solicitation. Review patient forms to determine if required consents, obtained after Oct. 16, 2013 (effective date of original rule), are included. Update forms as needed.

• Ensure that the practice's HIPAA business associates who communicate on behalf of the practice are in compliance with TCPA rules. This would include dental billing services or marketing and recall services you are using to contact patients.

• If patients list their cell phone number as a work or home phone number, they must sign a release such as the following obtained from the California Dental Association:

*❑ I consent to the dental practice using my cell phone number to (choose one or both) ❑ call ❑ text regarding appointments and to call regarding treatment, insurance, and my account.  I understand that I can withdraw my consent at any time. My cell phone number is _____ (include area code) _____ (initial)

Another important note from the FCC in regards to telephone solicitation:

“A telephone solicitation is a telephone call that acts as an advertisement. However, some phone solicitations are permissible under FCC rules, including: calls or messages placed with your express prior permission, by or on behalf of a tax-exempt non-profit organization, or from a person or organization. However, having an established business relationship no longer meets the rules for permissible unsolicited calls to your landline phone. Companies and telemarketers must have your express permission to call.” 

In a dental practice, making outbound calls to schedule recall appointments or unscheduled treatment without the permission of the patient may be considered telemarketing. The above consent would cover these calls also.

In this ever-changing world it can be difficult for busy dental practices to keep up. It is important to embrace the changes and be prepared for the unexpected. The best insurance is to have excellent dental business systems in place that are monitored for trends in practice change. McKenzie Management offers the business training and consulting services to keep you aware and on top of what is good for your business and how to make it grow and prosper. Call today and speak to one of our professional staff for questions regarding your practice performance.

If you would like more information on McKenzie Management’sTraining Programs  to improve the performance of your team, email training@mckenziemgmt.com

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Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
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You Are Letting Me Go?
By Nancy Caudill, Senior Consultant

As an employer, it is never easy to dismiss an employee. Many of you would prefer the employee simply quit and save you the pain and suffering involved from this act, while at the same time, the employee is often of the mindset that they will simply wait it out until you finally “pull the plug”. 

I have always been of the opinion that employers don’t fire employees; employees fire themselves if the employer/employee relationship is adequate. I would like to review a couple of areas that I feel make this relationship adequate. Please keep in mind that I am not an employment law attorney, so I am bringing this to you strictly from a practice management point of view.

Expectations
Many dentists do not have sufficient job descriptions to outline what is expected of employees. During the hiring process, it is vital to have clear guidelines of what is expected of the new employee. Your ad says “Business Manager”. What exactly does that mean? The job description should be in writing and the applicant should review the list with you. But this means that you must actually have a job description, opposed to something generic saying, “I would like for you to run the front office.” The job description should be a part of the new employee’s personnel file.

Professional Training
No matter how many years of experience your new team member has in the dental field, every office is different. Your new hire may be used to a variety of protocols and systems. Provide professional training based on the employee’s written job description so new hires can perform at their maximum potential. This training (date, time and objective) should be documented in the new employee’s personnel file.

Frequent Performance Reviews
Take the time to sit down for a performance review with your new hire after the first week or two and see how things are going. Ask if they are clearly grasping their responsibilities and if the training is sufficient for their best performance. Keep an “open door policy” and invite your new employee to come to you with any concerns or needs. Note any conversations that are conducted regarding the employee’s improvement or lack of improvement along the way.

Should there be roadblocks with the employee’s ability to learn the tasks related to the position, it should be made clear what the expectations are. A related timetable should be presented, as well as the consequences should the new employee not be able to perform to your expectations. The dialogue might go something like this:

“Susan, I have enjoyed having you on the team. You always come to work with a smile on your face and you have a great attitude. My notes indicate that quite a bit of time has been spent by Kathy reviewing with you how to post insurance checks in our practice management software and you are still struggling with this. Since this task is part of your job description, it is vital that you are able to learn these steps. I will review your progress in two weeks and if your ability to perform this task is not adequate, I am sorry to say that this position is not a good fit for you in our office. Is there any additional assistance or training that I can provide for you?”

The expectation has now been established and Susan understands that she has two weeks to learn how to post insurance checks or she may face dismissal. A written warning should be signed by the doctor and the employee stating the concern, the offer to extend additional training and assistance, and the consequence.

The Dismissal Day
No dentist enjoys this day. You and your team have spent time and energy interviewing and training Susan. She is a ray of sunshine at the front desk but she simply has not learned her tasks within a reasonable amount of time. This is not a surprise to Susan either. She knows that you have provided adequate training and have been very supportive of her. It is unfortunate that her strengths are not as a business manager, and you have no other positions available in the office for her to apply for.

Your discussion with her reveals her lack of progress and she is aware of it. There are no surprises. This doesn’t make it any easier, but you can now sever the working relationship opposed to dragging it out and causing dissention between Susan and the team members training her. Wish her well and have her final paycheck available. Remember to ask for the key to the office and other specifics that are in your employee manual relating to employee dismissal protocols. She leaves knowing that she gave it her best and you feel good knowing that you have given her every opportunity to learn the job.

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Consulting Coaching Programs can help you implement proven strategies, email info@mckenziemgmt.com

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