A New Year, a New Approach to Hygiene Recall?
During a recent staff meeting, the subject came up of how to lessen the number of cancellations and broken hygiene appointments. The same old flimsy, computer printed postcards were going out as usual, phone calls were made to confirm, and the added use of a computer software program that sends texts and emails was being utilized - but there was still an average of 1-2 broken hygiene appointments per day per hygienist. What’s a practice to do? “But we have always done it this way.” There lies the problem. How can you expect a different result when you keep doing the same thing?
Maybe it’s the message, not the manner in which it is delivered, that makes the difference. With a goal in mind of .5 cancellations a day for each hygienist, efforts to bring importance and urgency to the routine hygiene visit brings focus to the system of communication during the patient visit. The words spoken before, during and at the close of the visit make a difference in how the patient views the importance of promptly returning for the future visit.
“You are doing great, your oral hygiene is good, and we will see you in 6 months.” This is a positive statement, but brings no sense of importance or exactness to keeping the appointment. Most people make judgments on their oral health and often postpone the 6 month interval based on the last good report by the hygienist or doctor.
Since the advent of the postcard reminder system as far back as the 1960s, the correlation between dental health and serious life threatening diseases including diabetes, cancer and heart disease have come to light. As health care providers, dental professionals can now detect and monitor the progression of these diseases with regular dental examinations. The best time to communicate your role in overall health care and disease management is when the hygienist or doctor is reviewing the patient’s medical history.
McKenzie Management has an updated line of recall postcards that have space to write a personal health-centered message to the patient, bringing importance to why they should return promptly. The verbiage pre-printed on the card also carries weight for health, and does not devalue the message as a cutesy cartoon card or landscape scene may do.
The patient will self-address a legal sized envelope at the close of their appointment, in which the recall card with the next appointment or a reminder to call will be placed. The hygienist or doctor will write the personal note. You may also insert an educational brochure relevant to the patient, a script for pre-medication, or a promotional offer or coupon for a new toothbrush, etc. Because it is an envelope, it is HIPAA compliant and is now first class mail. The envelope will then be placed in a calendar card file to be sent two weeks before the scheduled appointment or a month before an unscheduled appointment due date.
When the patient receives the self-addressed envelope they are reminded that they need to call for the appointment or make sure the scheduled appointment is confirmed. They read the customized clinical note to remember the appointment is for a routine cleaning and to check the areas of concern. Within the envelope, the patient can be reminded to bring their night guard, splint, retainers, nitrous mask, sleep apnea device or other applicable materials. You may also insert a reminder to use insurance benefits before they expire and a printed break down of insurance benefits to help the patient understand their plan and how it reimburses. A copy of your latest newsletter can also be inserted in the envelope.
For offices that are paperless and are thinking this is a step backward, think of it as a system to create focus on health, not a reminder for a pre-appointed hygiene visit. We are limited severely as to what message we can leave in an email or on a postcard by privacy laws. For some offices in areas where technology does not have as much impact yet or where the demographic is older or poorer, it is estimated that 50% of the population do not use email.
The results of this system can be tracked in the computer by making sure all patients are in the recall system and by indicating when the envelopes are sent, just like you are sending postcards. Yes, it takes more effort and a higher level of involvement and interest in the patients, but the rewards for the patient and the practice make it a worthwhile system to implement.
For more information, call McKenzie Management today and speak to one of our professional consultants on implementing this system into your Hygiene Department.
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