1.22.10 Issue #411 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
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Hygiene Department Falling Apart?

Dr. Brighton was hoping for "brighter" days ahead. His hygienists appeared to be "busy" front office ladies, but neither were focusing on the hygiene schedule at any given time. He had 6 days of hygiene a week, but wondered if he may need less. The practice pre-scheduled all recall patients into the future so the schedule looked full and productive, but was it really going to be that way when the time rolled around?  

Number of Hygiene Days
An easy way to determine how many hygiene days are needed is to generate the Recall Report for the next 12 months for all patients with and without appointments. Determine how many appointments are needed based on their recall interval. Add to this appointment total enough additional appointments to manage the new patients, past due patients and scaling and root planing. Compare the number of appointments that you really need to the number of appointments that you have based on the number of patients seen per day x the number of hygiene days you have for the next 12 months. If you discover that you have too many available appointments compared to how many you will need, this is NOT GOOD.

Pre-scheduled Appointments
If all the hygiene patients are being pre-scheduled, this can result in an excessive number of last minute cancellations and no-shows. Patients who scheduled their appointments six months ago, indicated that they did not know if their work or personal schedule would allow for this appointment. Unfortunately, Dr. Brighton’s Schedule Coordinator would respond with, “Why don’t you go ahead and make your appointment and you can always call and cancel it if you can’t make it.”  A better solution would be to NOT encourage those patients to schedule six months in advance when they indicate that their schedule is unknown at this time.

Hygiene Coordinator
Dr. Brighton employs two wonderful front desk employees who are very hard workers and very willing to do whatever it takes to make the practice successful. However, there are no job descriptions so neither one of them knows who is responsible for the hygiene schedule other than to call and confirm the appointments and pull the patient records for the next day. It is necessary to divide up their workload and “assign” one of them as a Hygiene Coordinator so she knows that it is her responsibility to manage the Hygiene Department.

Reports that are needed:

  • Past Due Recall Report for the past 12 months
  • Recall Report for patients without appointments that are due this month
  • ASAP List for hygiene patients that have appointments but would like to come sooner

All dental software programs are capable of generating a recall report for patients that were due at a point in the past but never made an appointment. This report is the heartbeat of the Hygiene Coordinator, as this list keeps patients from “falling through the cracks.” Calling patients that are on the list, in order to fill the openings in hygiene, is the ONLY way of managing these openings. If it is left to chance that a patient will call and schedule the appointment that is available tomorrow morning, it probably will never happen.

How many patients need to be called for one opening? As many as it takes! Calling one or two and leaving messages on their cell phones is not sufficient. Even if these patients return the phone call, they may not be able to take the appointment that is open. When placing these calls, it is vital that the Hygiene Coordinator make a note in the computer notes section indicating that this call was placed to avoid duplicating her efforts.

Inactive Recall Patients
It is also vital to reach out and contact those past due recall patients that haven’t been seen in the past 12-24 months by generating a well-written “merge letter” inviting these lost patients back into the practice. The letter should be printed on your letterhead stationery and include an educational brochure about the importance of professional cleanings and oral exams as well as a promotional offer.

How to Implement
Dr. Brighton’s Hygiene Coordinator was instructed to generate her 30-day past due recall report first and place telephone calls to each of these patients. The script was as follows when she received voice mail:  “Hello Cathy!  This is Carol at Dr. Brighton’s office. It is important that I speak with you. Please call me at 456-1234. I look forward to hearing from you.”

If Cathy answered the phone, Carol would then say, “Hi Cathy!  This is Carol at Dr. Brighton’s office. He noticed that we failed to make an appointment for your professional cleaning and exam that was due last month. Do you prefer a morning or an afternoon?”  It is important not to ask a question that can be answered with a “yes” or “no.”  Should Cathy elect not to schedule, attempt to establish a time that you can call her again.  “I understand, Cathy. It is a busy time for everyone right now. However, this is a very important appointment so I will call you again next month.  Look forward to speaking with you then. Have a good day.”

Next, Carol will generate the past due recall report for 60 days past due and repeat the steps. This process continues until all the patients that are past due for the past 365 days have been contacted at least once.

Over a period of two months, Dr. Brighton’s Hygiene Coordinator was able to create appointments for 123 past due recall patients!  The campaign was successful and he has reestablished a relationship with these patients who not only needed their teeth cleaned, but over 50% of them also needed additional restorative treatment, beefing up his production as well.

Give your business team the tools to do their jobs 100% by sharing these simple steps with them. If they don’t know how to generate these reports – call your software support office and learn. These reports are vital to a strong and healthy Hygiene Department.

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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