10.21.11 Issue #502 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Carol Tekavec, RDH
Hygiene Consultant
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Phone Scripts for Recall Patients
Carol Tekavec RDH

Various mechanisms are used for keeping track of recall patients and making sure that the hygiene schedule is full.  The hygiene schedule is important, not only because the hygiene department is an income center for the practice, but also because necessary patient treatment is often identified and scheduled from recall appointments. When the hygienist(s) have “down time” the office definitely loses productivity and income.

While McKenzie Management has an excellent workbook for “Building a Successful Recall System”, detailing all pertinent aspects of beginning and maintaining a viable recall program, this article focuses on the topic of what to say when calling overdue patients.  Many staff members dislike calling patients to schedule “past due” recall appointments, often for the simple reason that they don’t know what to say or how to say it. However, getting these patients back into the system is vital. It is not cost effective to spend time and money on getting new patients into the practice, if existing patients are allowed to disappear from neglect.

To begin with, the office “recall caller” needs to have basic information about the patient being called. Computer data can provide what is needed:

  1. Patient or parent name
  2. Address
  3. Date of birth (We don’t want to be surprised by asking to speak with a child)
  4. Home, work, and cell phone number
  5. Best time to call patient
  6. Insurance coverage (If insurance is about to run out for the year, getting the most from insurance can be a powerful incentive for patients to make an appointment)
  7. Medical alert
  8. Frequency of appointments
  9. Time needed
  10. Account information (If the patient has an outstanding balance, this will need to be cleared up before making an appointment)
  11. Hygienist preference
  12. Treatment not completed (Being able to mention treatment needed but not completed can add “urgency” to setting up an appointment)
  13. Date last seen
  14. Date due

Armed with this data we can begin to develop effective scripts for patient calling. Here are some examples:

“Mrs. Jones? This is Carol from Dr. Westin’s office. I’m very happy I was able to reach you today. Our records show that your last professional cleaning and oral health exam was in March. As you know, your dental insurance covers at least two professional cleanings and exams each year, but does not carry over that benefit into the next calendar year. In other words, if the benefit is not used you lose it. Most of our patients want to be sure to take advantage of their insurance, and we are happy to help them keep track of what they can use. Our hygienist, Mary, has time next Wednesday at 2 pm and Thursday at 9 am, which of these appointments would you prefer?

“Hi Mrs. Jones, this is Carol. I’m one of Dr. Westin’s hygienists. Our records show that you had special gum and bone treatment, in the form of infection elimination and root scaling in March. As you know, after being diagnosed with a gum and bone infection it is extremely important to never let the infection take hold again. That is why we decided to put you on a reliable maintenance schedule of care four times a year. We missed seeing you in July, and want to be sure that you are getting the follow-up care you need.  I have time next Wednesday at 9 am and next Thursday at 2 pm. Which of these appointments would work for you?”

“Hi Mrs. Jones, this is Carol from Dr. Westin’s office. Our records show that your last professional cleaning and oral health exam was in March. At that time Dr. Westin also noted that he wanted to check two teeth on your top left side when you returned. We missed seeing you in September, and want to be sure that you are getting the follow-up care you need. We have time this Wednesday at 9 am or Thursday at 2pm. Which of these appointments would work for you?”

“Mrs. Jones? This is Carol from Dr. Westin’s office. As a courtesy I’m calling to schedule your son Joey’s professional cleaning and oral health exam. As we talked about when you brought him in last time, we want to be sure that we are keeping ahead of any cavities he might be getting. We want to examine all “in-between-the teeth” areas, and provide him with a fluoride varnish. None of us wants him to need more fillings. We have time tomorrow at 2:30 in the afternoon. Can you bring him in then?”

If the recall caller has any personal connection with the patient, it can be helpful to mention the connection.  For example:

“Hi Mrs. Jones, this is Carol from Dr. Westin’s office. I took care of you when you came for your professional cleaning and exam this past spring. You mentioned that you were getting ready to take a cruise then. Did you enjoy your trip? (If the patient wants to talk about the trip, go ahead!) It sounds like you had a great time. Well, today I’m calling because we missed seeing you at your regular professional cleaning and oral health exam last month. I’d like to schedule you right away. I have time tomorrow at 2pm.  Would that time work for you?” (If not - keep trying to pin down a time.)

If the patient does not want to schedule, but tells you he/she will call back, you can try to get acceptance for another call from the office. For example:

“Mrs. Jones, I can call you back next week if you prefer. It’s no trouble.”

If the patient says again that they want to call you; do not press the issue. We don’t want our patients to feel “harassed.” Instead you might say:

“That’s fine, Mrs. Jones. We have your records and our notes so whenever you are ready we can set up a time. I’ll make a note in your file that you will call us. Thanks!”

Setting up scripts for calling patients helps keep the focus where it needs to be, namely, getting the patient to set up an appointment.  While no one needs to say exactly what is in the script, a script takes much of the guesswork and some of the stress out of making these calls.

Carol Tekavec RDH is the director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management.  Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office”.  Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department?  Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com.

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