5 Benefits of Focusing on Recall
Over the years, I’ve worked with many struggling practices and they all seem to have one thing in common: a non-existent recall system.
Dentists tend to ignore their recall system, then wonder why patient retention is down and why they can’t seem to meet daily production goals. When these dentists make this important system a priority, they soon see the many benefits that focusing on this system can bring to a practice – benefits that lead to a more robust bottom line.
Like it or not, ignoring your recall system will do nothing but hurt your practice and keep you from meeting your full potential. Here’s a look at what will happen when you finally start giving recall the attention it deserves:
1. You’ll boost patient retention numbers. After you hire a Patient Coordinator and empower that person to revamp the recall system, you’ll soon see your patient retention rate rise. It will finally start to hover between 85-95%, which is where you need to be if you want a healthy, profitable practice. And of course, if you have a larger patient base, your production numbers and your revenues will also begin to grow.
2. You’ll deal with fewer cancellations and no-shows. Broken appointments not only wreak havoc on your day, they also lead to thousands of dollars in lost revenue every year. You might not realize this, but cancellations and no-shows are a direct result of a broken recall system.
The problem is, many practices still rely on pre-appointing patients six months out. Why doesn’t that work? Patients have no idea what they’re doing on a Tuesday six months from now, so when you schedule this way, you’re just asking for them to forget about the appointment or cancel at the last minute.
Pre-appointing also makes it seem like your schedule is full and gives doctors an excuse to continue ignoring their recall system. The seemingly full schedule leaves little room for patients who actually want to go forward with treatment, and that’s a good way to send those patients to the practice down the street.
Now I realize most dentists have been pre-appointing patients for years and are hesitant to give it up all together. If that describes you, I suggest developing a hybrid system. Offer some patients the option to be contacted a few weeks before they’re due for an appointment – and I suggest you focus on patients who are known for cancelling at the last minute. This will not only reduce the number of broken appointments in your practice, it will also leave room on the schedule for recall patients who want to make an appointment.
3. You’ll get more referrals. When you reach out to patients on the recall list, it not only encourages them to schedule an appointment, it also shows them you care about their health. They begin to feel a connection to the practice and that makes them more likely to refer your practice to family and friends, further growing your patient base and your bottom line.
4. You’ll boost practice productivity. Investing in your recall system will help you turn once inactive patients into loyal patients who entrust you with their care. You’ll have the opportunity to recommend treatment to these patients, treatment that may have otherwise gone undiagnosed, and they’ll be much more likely to say yes to that treatment.
5. You’ll have happier team members. When the practice is in a slump, your team members feel it. Dealing with broken appointments and lackluster production numbers is frustrating and brings everyone down. Once you get more patients in the chair, team members will feel like they’re contributing to the practice more, making their jobs fulfilling.
Remember, it costs five times as much to get one new patient as it does to keep the ones you already have, which gives you another reason to start making your recall system a priority. Trust me, focusing on reenergizing recall will do wonders for your practice, ultimately growing your production numbers and your bottom line. I suggest you start by hiring a Patient Coordinator, educating your patients, and improving the recall reminders you send out.
Ready to revamp your recall but not sure how? No need to worry. That’s what I’m here for. Feel free to contact me and I’ll help you improve your recall system and get your practice on the road to true success and profitability.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email email@example.com
Accountability: When Commitments Aren’t Kept
The topic of my last article was the importance of setting and communicating clear expectations to hold employees accountable. Try as you may, however, there are times when staff members don’t keep their commitments. They are human and mistakes happen. The reality is that people on your team are bound to make mistakes or not follow through on their commitments made. At that point, you have two choices: you can tolerate mediocre performance or you can insist on a team that follows your standards and executes on your goals. If you choose the latter, you must start holding your employees accountable.
First, as the dental leader, you are accountable to model the way. Before holding others accountable, you must hold yourself accountable. This requires you to fulfill the commitments you make, follow through in a timely manner, and hold others to the same standard. Once people see you operating at the same standard you expect of them, it is easier to hold them accountable for their actions.
One of the best strategies for effective people-management is addressing troublesome issues early. It’s much easier to correct a problem when it’s small in scope. By extinguishing sparks before they become raging fires you will save yourself the aggravation of having to deal with an inferno later.
The key to creating a successful performance conversation is to emphasize what the employee needs to do to succeed in the future, rather than focusing on what has caused them to miss the mark in the past. Here’s an example to illustrate how to improve your communication and coach an employee.
Mary is your Front Desk Manager. She has a challenging job that entails scheduling, billing, and general reception duties. You have a busy practice that requires her to juggle “customer service” with detailed tasks. Overall she does her job effectively. During the past two weeks, a few patients have complained that Mary was rude to them. You are concerned about this and schedule a private meeting with her.
You: “Thank you for meeting with me today, Mary. I wanted to discuss your performance. There are many things you are doing well.”
You: “I think it would be helpful to review a couple of specific examples so let me give you those.”
Mary: “Some patients ask such stupid questions. It just annoys me. I’m too busy.”
You: “I know you have a difficult job and a lot of responsibilities here in the office. The fact remains that you are the first and last point of contact. You set the tone for how patients view me and the entire team. I need you to put patient service first…no matter what other work you have to do. Without patients none of us has a job.”
Mary: (in an angry voice) “Why are you making such a big deal out of such a little thing? I was just having a bad day.”
You: (in a calm, kind, firm voice) “I agree that you might have had a bad day. You juggle a lot at the Front Desk and I appreciate everything you do for the practice. I also know that patients need to feel valued and appreciated. We can’t go backwards. Starting from today I’d like to give you the opportunity to work on developing a friendlier and more patient-friendly approach with everyone who comes into our office. Patients are our customers and service is #1 in our office.”
Mary: “Well, maybe…I’ll see what I can do” (or, “I can’t make any promises but I’ll try”; or “Alright…whatever you say”)
You: (in a calm, kind, firm voice) “Your tone tells me that you’re not fully committed. I'd like you to think about what we discussed and whether or not it's something you can put the required effort towards developing. In the meantime I'll put together a written summary of our discussion so that you are clear on the expectations I've outlined. Let's get back together tomorrow and you can let me know what I can do to help you.”
No one likes to hear that they're doing something wrong. It’s natural that people will react differently. Create messages that avoid inflammatory wording. Anticipate how the employee is likely to react to feedback and prepare for how you will respond. By concentrating on the desired results rather than the employee's perceived shortcomings, you improve the likelihood of a positive outcome. Demonstrate leadership courage. Give effective feedback and get a more committed team of employees.
Dr. Brackin 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.
Nancy Haller, Ph.D., a McKenzie Management Leadership Coach, contributed to the writing of this article.
Utilize the Best Person for the Job
Team members should all have specific job descriptions they are responsible and accountable for within the practice. However, many jobs within the office may not fall into any specific job description, and even if they do, there may be certain team members who are better fit to do specific jobs than others. These job functions may not be the typical description of a certain team member’s position, but that person may be the best person to get it done. Consider adding it to their job description when you do reviews, particularly if you are increasing wages or benefits.
Here’s an example. Supply orders are often completed by an assistant for the back office and a front office person for office supplies. Or perhaps there is a doctor or manager who wants to do everything him/herself. However, these specific team members may not be the best fit for the job, as there are already enough tasks within their job descriptions to keep them busy. Maybe the assistant or front office person you currently have doing the ordering spends far too much time concentrating on this job, when they should be able to get it done much more efficiently. This causes the rest of the team to work harder while too much time is spent on ordering.
Another common problem is that the office manager or doctor simply do not have the time to do the job as quickly and cost effectively as someone else could – and that’s if they get the job done at all! They have enough things to do and often the job gets pushed back farther and farther because there are other things more important on their lists that need to be done.
When it comes to ordering products for the office, choose the person who knows the most about the items to be ordered, is aware of the pricing for products, and will be frugal when making purchasing decisions. Some jobs, like ordering, may even be divided up. A hygienist may order supplies that pertain to hygiene, while the assistant takes care of doctor supplies, and a front office person may take care of office supplies.
It is recommended that you pick the best person for the job based on their skills, not just because it was originally in their job description. Job descriptions are there for guidance initially, but if a person joins your team and the job they applied for does not include a talent that they excel at, I hope you will add it to their job description. The original person can become the back-up. It is very important for this communication to be made known to all people involved, as there has to be accountability. The lead person for the job may delegate or ask for help when needed, but in the end they are the one responsible.
Another example is putting someone in charge of managing your office’s social network pages, such as Facebook and Twitter. Most people would immediately think a front office person should do this, however, if your front office person is not familiar with the applicable social network pages, and you have other staff members who are familiar with them, they may be a better fit for the task. Of course, you also want someone who has good judgement of what is appropriate to post.
Other additional jobs are OSHA, making sure maintenance is being done on equipment, internal and external lab communication, and writing patient correspondences.
The most important thing is to delegate certain tasks to team members who are best fit for the job. It is also important for additional jobs to be shared amongst the entire team so one person is not taking on everything. You may even have a team member who is responsible for delegating jobs to other team members. This helps to encourage teamwork and eliminate the separation of departments within the office. It may also help reduce the stress of the entire team – because it only takes one leader to be stressed to make the entire team stressed. And don’t ever think that patients cannot tell when an office is stressed!
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