Does Your Recall System Scream "Unprofessional"?
APOLOGY – My sincere apologies for the link in my article last week not working to my new designed recall cards. Try this: http://www.mckenziemgmt.com/recall.htm.
Hygiene profitability is a multi-step process, but you can make significant inroads if you focus on one critical point: Recall. It is number one on the list of patient retention and revenue boosting strategies, and most importantly, it automatically improves service to patients. Yet, after 30-plus years, I continue to be astounded by the number of practices whose recall “systems” are not systems at all.
In fact, some practices do nothing more than send the ultra-cheap and unprofessional little 3x5 postcards. These are adorned with pictures of cartoon characters or puppy dogs and are printed with inane comments like, “It’s time for your routine cleaning. Call us today at 555-1212.” If ever there were a method to totally minimize the importance of this essential patient service, the cheesy postcards are it! I just shake my head when I see these and think to myself how in the world does any self-respecting doctor allow this stuff to represent his/her practice? These scream cheap. You want the patient to invest in a $5,000 treatment plan, but you won’t spring for more than 32 cents in postage and a one-line message? Think about it.
Recall is your reputation. The tools you use to promote it either convey the image of a health care provider that is offering a valuable and necessary service…or they don't. Moreover, recall is your primary practice feeder. A successful recall program is indicative of a thriving and healthy practice. This isn't news. For years I've been saying that you have to manage recall - or practice profitability gets hammered. In 95% of the practices we work with, hygiene alone is losing $35,000-$150,000 annually. This says nothing of the thousands of dollars in additional dentistry that also disappears. A successful recall system helps patients to secure the dental care they need in a timely fashion, which would be one of the primary responsibilities of your practice. But it doesn't take care of itself.
Take these steps and shore up recall today. First, communicate with patients using professionally developed materials. Next, assign the job of patient coordinator to one person - NOT the hygienist. The patient coordinator is professionally trained to communicate effectively with patients. They are given uninterrupted time to carry out their responsibilities and this is their mission:
A good patient coordinator should be able to manage a patient base of 500-1000 on an average of 15 hours per week at an hourly rate of about $15-$18. Obviously, reactivating a few inactive patients pays for the position quickly. Monitor patient retention. Each month, divide the number of patients due to be recalled for prophies that month by the number of prophies performed. Your goal is 95% or higher.
While you are at it, take a close look at the effectiveness of your six-month scheduling efforts. Typically, this creates merely an illusion that the schedule is full. Because patients' lives are as busy and unpredictable as our own, oftentimes practices that rely exclusively on booking patients six months out average only about 76% patient retention and have a nearly 50% higher loss of patients than similar-sized practices that do not pre-appoint. I know that this is a practice that many offices are wedded to - my only suggestion is that you track the number of pre-scheduled patient cancellations, and consider offering patients, particularly those that have a higher no-show or last minute cancellation history, the option of being contacted 2-3 weeks prior to when they are due to schedule. You just might find that these patients join the ranks of your most loyal and reliable.
Finally, offer reasonable financing options for patients. Establishing a relationship with a patient financing company like Care Credit makes treatment more affordable, and more patients will proceed with both necessary and elective dental treatment. Send a professionally printed announcement to your inactive patients informing them that patient financing is now available.
For more information on this topic and for additional Dental Practice Management info, visit my blog: The Lighter Side.
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