10.30.09 Issue #399 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
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Run This Report – It's Critical!

Dr. Jim Carrigan – Case Study #221

Your dental management software program provides you with numerous reports. This article is to teach you about one report that can make or break your Hygiene Department, which in turn, curtails the growth of your practice. This report is called the Past Due Recall Report. If you have seen this report in the past 30 days, good for you!  If you haven’t, then you need to. Dr. Carrigan had never seen this report, and he was concerned because the number of new patients coming into his general family practice dropped from 35 down to 21 in one month.  What he discovered was that his practice was the revolving door- new patients were coming in the top, and existing patients were dropping out the bottom.

Let’s take a look at Dr. Carrigan’s hygiene statistics:

  • Averaging over two 50-minute openings per day per hygienist
  • Perio production was only 11% of total hygiene production instead of 33%
  • Hygiene salary as a percentage of production was 43% instead of 33%
  • All hygiene appointments were booked 3-6 months in advance
  • No pre-blocking for new patients or scaling and root planing
  • No notices were being sent out to patients with or without appointments as reminders

Pre-appointing all Patients
Let’s take this scenario:  Mrs. Jones is dismissed to the Schedule Coordinator to be checked out.  She needs to return for her professional cleaning and exam in six months.  Suzie Coordinator says to Mrs. Jones:  “Let’s go ahead and schedule for your next six month cleaning and check-up.”  Mrs. Jones responds with, “Gosh Suzie, I am not sure what my schedule will be in six months.”  Suzie responds with, “Well, let’s make your appointment and if you can’t make it, it is fine to call and cancel.”  Reluctantly, Mrs. Jones says okay, thinking to herself that there is no way she will be able to keep this appointment but if that is what Suzie wants, okay.

What has just happened?  Mrs. Jones now has an appointment six months from now that she probably is going to cancel, or worse, not appear and fail to cancel. Five months from now, there is a patient that wants an appointment soon but there is no place to put them, since the schedule is full with patients that scheduled six months ago, including Mrs. Jones, who said that she wasn’t sure what her schedule was. Statistically, about one-fourth to one-third of all patients that pre-schedule will either cancel or not show for their appointment!  That’s 2-4 patients per day per hygienist. The problem is, you don’t know which ones it will be until you call the day before or they don’t arrive at all. At the same time – it isn’t the patients’ fault when they plainly tell you that they don’t know what their schedule will be six months from now.

The Solution:  Don’t schedule those patients!  Suzie would respond with, “Mrs. Jones, that is perfectly fine. I understand. The envelope that you addressed to yourself in the hygiene room will be mailed to you about a month before you are due. You can call us then and schedule your appointment at a time that is convenient for you.”

The 12-month Past Due Recall Report
In addition to pre-appointing all the patients, Dr. Carrigan’s office was not sending out reminder notices to their patients with appointments. I suppose he thought that all of these patients were going to remember. How did I know that they weren’t?  The Past Due Recall Report revealed 252 patients that were past due for their recall appointments! What did this mean? If all the patients were pre-appointed at some point, 252 cancelled or failed their appointments and were never rescheduled! That is an average of 21 lost patients a month. Remember that he is now seeing an average of 21 new patients a month so he is “breaking even” at best.

Now What?
Methodically work through the list, reaching out to 10 patients per day instead of trying to contact 252 the first week. If a patient is contacted, the script would be something like this: “Mrs. Smith, this is Suzie at Dr. Carrigan’s office. Dr. Carrigan noticed that we failed to make an appointment for your six-month professional cleaning and exam. He was concerned about your tooth on the upper left side. Do you prefer a morning or an afternoon?” Notice that she didn’t ask if the patient wanted to schedule but rather when they wanted to schedule. This is very important.

Suzie was given the job description of Hygiene Coordinator, so it became her responsibility to maintain the Hygiene Department’s Recall System. The number of openings on each hygienist’s schedule has been reduced to only 1 per day – a big improvement.  Past due recall reports for 1, 2, 6 and 12 months are generated every month and these patients are contacted either by phone, mail, email or all three in an attempt to schedule their hygiene appointments. Dr. Carrigan feels comfortable now, knowing what his monthly patient retention rate was 89% last month, which is close to his goal of 90%.

Please run your Past Due Recall Report for the past 12 months. You may find that you don’t need more new patients, you just need a system to retain the ones that you already have!

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies, email info@mckenziemgmt.com.

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