5.13.11 Issue #479 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
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Jump Start Your Recall Program
By Nancy Caudill, Senior Consultant McKenzie Management

“I have been in practice for almost 13 years and I only have 3 days of hygiene. Something must be wrong.”

Comments similar to this are common from doctors that call McKenzie Management.  Granted, there are also doctors who call in that haven’t thought about the fact that only having one hygienist after 10 years is an indication of a system breakdown, until we start doing the “math” and illustrate the following:

If you average only 15 new patients a month x 12 months x 10 years, that equals 1,800 potential active hygiene patients. Let’s say that you are retaining only 50% of these patients, that is still 900 patients that are being seen at least 2x a year = 1,800 appointments. If you have 1 hygienist working 190 days a year and seeing 8 patients/day, she has the capability of seeing only 1,520 appointments. This reveals a deficit of 280 appointments / 8 appointments per day = 35 days short or 3 days a month.

This is nothing new to you if you read our weekly newsletters. I want to share something that you may be overlooking in your Recall System. Maybe you feel that you do have enough active patients but for some strange reason, there are still too many openings on the hygiene schedule and your Schedule Coordinator swears to you that she is doing all she can and is following the 5-step process:

  1. Notifying the patient a month prior to their due date or appointment
  2. Calling those patients that are currently due as well as one month past due
  3. Sending a nice friendly letter on letterhead stationery to the patients that are 2 months past due
  4. Calling and contacting by email, text or snail mail patients that are 6 months past due
  5. Finally, mailing a reactivation letter at 12 months past due, indicating the importance of maintaining their scheduled professional cleanings/periodontal maintenance appointments in order to keep their gums and teeth healthy

Loop Hole
As you know, your patients come at various “intervals” throughout the year, depending on what you and your hygienist feel is best to help the patient maintain good dental hygiene and reduce the bacterial colonization. These intervals could be 3, 4, 6, 9 or 12 months, depending on whether they are alternating with their periodontist, live out of town part of the year, etc. Your hygienist will make a clinical note at each visit indicating when the patient should be seen again, based on your recommendations.  For example:  NV – 3mo recall with 4 BWX and 2 PAs – 60 minutes (or 6 units).

Here is where your system will break down if you are not careful!  All dental software programs will default the recall interval at 6 months. If someone doesn’t manually open the patient’s information portion of the software and change the interval, the patient will remain at 6 months.

You may say, “So what - we schedule our patients in advance so even if the computer says 6 months, their appointment is made for 3 months.” Here lies the problem if you are not familiar with how your software works.

Running the Reports
The Patient Coordinator needs to contact the patients that are due for the upcoming month that do not have appointments. This includes patients that may have made an appointment but cancelled it at some point. She runs the report for all patients that are due for the month of June. Let’s say that Suzie Jones was seen 3 months ago and she is on a 3-month recall interval. However, it was not changed in her patient information, so she is still set on 6-mo intervals. Guess what? Her name will not be on the recall list and she won’t be contacted! Imagine if this is happening to 25% of your patients - their recall interval is not set accurately.

Loss of Treatment
Maybe when Suzie was in 3 months ago, you found a carious lesion on Tooth #31 and you told her that you would make a recommendation for treatment when she returned in June.  Unfortunately, she won’t be returning in June since her recall is set for September! Your treatment has now been delayed as a result of this “minor” oversight.

Loss of Hygiene Days
For patients that are supposed to come every 3 months, the hygienist has the potential of seeing them 4 times in a 12-month period, compared to 2 times for a patient that has an interval of 6 months. Calculate the dollar amount that is lost due to this error - it can be THOUSANDS of dollars in lost revenue. This error also leads to unscheduled time for your hygienist, creating an increase in her salary overhead compared to her production. Even more important, it is inaccurately reporting the number of hygiene days that are needed for your practice, as this calculation should be performed every 3-6 months to determine when to add more hygiene days or, when to reduce the number of hygiene days.

Work together as a team to ensure that your recall intervals are correct for all your hygiene patients. Review it at the morning meeting for accuracy. Establish the person in your office that is responsible for this very important task in order to grow your Hygiene Department and increase production for your practice.

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

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