How To Tell Your Recall System Is Broken

By Sally McKenzie, CEO Printer Friendly Version

The recall system just isn’t a priority in many dental practices. Sure, dentists send out generic postcards to remind patients when they’re due, but this isn’t a very effective method of getting patients in the chair. So instead of taking advantage of the revenue boosting potential this system has to offer, most dentists ignore it and have no idea how it’s hurting their practice.

If you’re one of those dentists, I’m here to help you revamp your recall system so you can start reaping the many financial benefits it provides. But before you can fix recall, you need to figure out why it’s broken. Here are the most common signs your recall system is suffering, and some tips to help you get it back on track:

You have lack-luster patient retention numbers. Patients are the lifeblood of your practice. Without them, you have no reason to come to work each day. So to be successful, you need to build a solid base of loyal patients who accept the treatment you recommend and who refer your practice to family and friends. In fact, according to industry standards, patient retention rates should be between 85 and 95 percent. If they’re not, it’s time to make some changes.

One of those changes is hiring a Patient Coordinator and empowering this team member to revamp your recall system. This means reaching out to a specific number of past due patients every day and getting them on the schedule.

Provide this team member with proper training and develop a well-thought-out script she can turn to when making these calls. The coordinator should be armed with all the necessary information before picking up the phone, and know to use these conversations as an opportunity to educate patients about the importance of maintaining their oral health. She also should be prepared to address any perceived barriers to care these patients have and to explain how the practice can help them meet their oral health goals. This is an effective way to get patients back in the chair, boosting your production numbers and your bottom line.

Your recall efforts only consist of sending out generic postcards. I’m sorry to tell you this, but these postcards usually end up going in the trash and can be a waste of your time. I suggest you send educational materials in an envelope ( see here ) that get attention, instead, if you are going to stick with USPS as a means of communicating with your patients. These materials should include information on the services you provide and the value of dentistry. If you are using a patient communication system, don’t forget to still apply human intervention. Give patients educational information they can use—and then to call to schedule an appointment.

Broken appointments are a daily occurrence. While you’ll never be able to avoid them altogether, last minute cancellations and no-shows shouldn’t be the norm. It they are, it’s a sign your recall system needs some help.

Broken appointments cost practices thousands of dollars in lost revenue every year, while also adding a lot of extra stress to your day. Ready to put an end to the madness? One of the best ways is to stop relying on pre-appointing alone.

Most dentists schedule hygiene appointments six months out and have done so for years. They like it because they think it fills up their schedule, but the reality is it doesn’t. Think about it. Patients don’t know what they’ll be doing on a Tuesday morning six months from now. So even though they schedule an appointment, there’s a good chance they’ll cancel at the last minute or just not show up at all because something else came up.

And because the schedule seems full, you don’t see the need to contact past due patients—until of course someone cancels at the last minute and you have an opening to fill. Then there’s the fact patients who are ready to go forward with treatment can’t get on the schedule for weeks or even months, again because the schedule is “full.” This might prompt them to look for a new dentist who can fit them in sooner, further hurting patient retention numbers and costing you money.

This is why I’m an advocate of hybrid scheduling. Instead of scheduling all your patients six months in advance, I suggest you tell patients who are known for flaking out that you’ll contact them a few months or a few weeks before they’re due. They’ll have a better idea of what their schedule looks like then, helping you reduce the number of broken appointments you deal with each day while also opening up spots for patients who are ready to schedule treatment.

Your hygienist is in charge of recall. Calling past due patients is not something your hygienist should be doing in her free time. Her job is to focus on producing and educating patients about the treatment they need. Any time she spends on the phone takes her away from that. Hiring a Patient Coordinator is much more effective.

If your recall system is broken, it’s time to make fixing it a priority. Revamping your recall system will give production numbers a boost and grow your bottom line. Following these tips will help make that happen.

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