Signs That It's Time to Start Focusing on Recall
When I talk with dentists about their recall system, they typically don’t have much to say. Maybe they send out generic postcards to past due patients, or they ask their hygienist to make a few phone calls when they have time (which isn’t very often). It just isn’t a priority for most dentists – and that attitude kills practice productivity and revenues.
The truth is, the recall system has the most potential to boost a practice’s bottom line, yet it also tends to be the most overlooked. If you’re one of the many dentists who choose to ignore their recall system, I can guarantee you it’s holding your practice back.
Here are a few common signs it’s time to make recall a priority in your practice.
1. Patient retention numbers are down. To create a successful, thriving dental practice, you need a loyal base of patients who keep their appointments and accept treatment. In fact, your patient retention rates should hover right around 85-95%. Not the case in your practice? Try reaching out to overdue patients.
I suggest you hire a Patient Coordinator to revamp your recall system and raise patient retention numbers. Task this team member with reaching out to past due patients and getting them on the schedule. Create a script and make sure the coordinator has access to all the necessary patient information before picking up the phone. These phone calls serve as an opportunity to educate patients about the importance of maintaining their oral health and help them overcome any perceived barriers to care. This is a much more effective way to win past due patients back than cheesy, generic postcard reminders that will likely end up in the trash.
Now that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for snail mail. In addition to calling patients, consider sending them professional marketing materials providing education about the services you provide and the value of oral health care. This is another great way to encourage patients to come back for their hygiene visit or finally schedule necessary treatment, thus growing your production numbers and bottom line.
2. Broken appointments are a common part of your day. If you’re constantly dealing with the headaches that cancellations and no-shows cause, it’s a tell-tale sign your recall system is broken. Not only is this frustrating, it’s also pretty costly – and I’m talking about thousands of dollars in lost revenue every year. The good news is, you can reduce the number of cancellations and no-shows in your practice. How? Stop relying on pre-appointing alone.
If you’re like most dentists, you’ve probably scheduled hygiene patients six months out for years. Unfortunately, this isn’t an effective way to build your schedule or operate your recall system. Patients have no idea what will be going on in their lives six months from now, so even though they schedule an appointment, chances are something will come up that keeps them from being there.
Another problem? Pre-appointing six months out gives the illusion your schedule is full. You don’t see the need to call past due patients, so you don’t – until someone cancels at the last minute and you’re left scrambling to fill the open slot in your schedule. Not only that, patients who actually want to schedule treatment can’t get in for weeks, sometimes even months, to see the doctor. Instead of waiting, many of these patients seek treatment elsewhere. That, again, costs your practice money.
To fix this, I suggest you implement a hybrid scheduling system. You can still schedule six months out, but tell some patients you’ll contact them a few weeks before they’re due back. This is a great way to schedule some of your flakier patients who tend to cancel at the last minute or simply not show up at all. They’ll have a much better idea of what their schedule is a few weeks out, reducing broken appointments in your practice and leaving openings for patients who are ready to go forward with treatment.
3. Patients aren’t referring you. Referrals represent a great way to grow your patient base and practice productivity. Of course, you don’t benefit as much from this free form of marketing when patient retention numbers are down, because there just aren’t as many happy patients ready to sing your praises to family and friends. You might not realize it, but this could be pretty costly. Once you raise your patient retention rates, you’ll see more referrals coming in – and that starts with re-energizing your recall system.
If you’re among the many dentists who ignore recall, it’s hurting your bottom line. Reaching out to past due patients will show them you care and help put dentistry at the top of their minds. They’ll feel more connected to your practice, and that makes them more likely to schedule treatment and stay loyal. When that happens, you’ll notice positive changes in productivity and your bottom line.
Need more guidance? Feel free to contact me and we’ll get started.
Next week: Practice struggling? It might be time to revamp recall.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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What Is Your Chief Complaint?
“Doctor, we have an emergency worked into the schedule at 11:00 am, he has a toothache in an upper molar.” - Dental Assistant
Every patient who shows up to see you has a reason for coming. We call that a “chief complaint” because that is the motivator for the visit. As defined by the dictionary, a chief complaint is “a subjective statement made by a patient describing the most significant or serious symptoms or signs of illness or dysfunction that caused him or her to seek health care.”
When a patient calls the dental office to make an appointment, they have a clear picture in their mind of why they need to seek dental care. They may not know the reason for the pain or the bleeding or any of the other symptoms, but they know they must reach out to a trained, skilled professional in the business of dental care for relief.
Who in their right mind would tell a patient they should try to solve the pain problem by treating the symptoms themselves? Self-help is a billion-dollar industry in this country and continues to prosper because people believe their answer is in a book, a webinar, a seminar or in a Google search.
Jim Taylor, Ph.D., an authority on the psychology of sport and parenting and author explains: "Change. Whether you call it self-help, personal transformation, growth or just plain change, it is a goal to which virtually everyone aspires. Gaining self-esteem, losing weight, improving relationships, achieving success, getting rich or finding happiness are just a few of the ways in which people the world over want to alter their lives. Our ability to achieve these goals depends on whether we can change the way we think, feel and behave in ways that will encourage the pursuit of those goals.”
Dental practices struggling to make ends meet and find the answer to saving their business have “chief complaints” about their practices. Asking doctors and team members what problems are blocking their practice success, I get the following listed in accordance to frequency. These are the top seven chief complaints:
1. Production is down
Sound familiar? One of the key blockages to solving these problems is unwillingness to change what is currently being done. If it doesn’t work, why wouldn’t you want change? Fear is unspoken, but many times I have heard that change is not implemented due to the thought that “things could get worse.” When you don’t know what to change to make things better, procrastination and avoidance become defense mechanisms.
Do you really think self-help is the answer when you are not only willing to change but don’t know who, how or what to change?
McKenzie Management can take your chief complaints and analyze your practice systems one-by-one, just like a dentist would gather a patient’s health history and diagnostic information such as radiographs, periodontal charting, caries detection, bone level, cone beam and other scanning techniques to achieve a diagnosis and create a treatment plan.
Bring your chief complaints to a full-service practice management consultant who has successfully treated the symptoms and eradicated the diseases of sick practices for decades. Let a trained and knowledgeable consultant guide you through the minefield of staffing issues to help get your team on your side and bring the practice to a new level of success.
Don’t waste any more valuable time on self-help. Call McKenzie Management to discuss your chief complaints and get the answers and action you need.
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