Fix Your Recall System and Grow Your Practice
You’re in a rut. Production numbers are stagnant, patient retention rates are lower than you’d like to admit and your bottom line has seen better days. Nothing seems to be going your way, and to say you’re frustrated is a bit of an understatement. You’re fed up, and feel like you’re running out of options.
Before you throw in the towel, take a step back and look at what’s causing your problems. Why are production numbers so lackluster? Why are you losing patients? I bet I know one of the reasons. You’re ignoring your recall system.
That’s right doctor, if you want to have a profitable, successful dental practice, you can’t push your recall system aside and hope patients will magically appear in the chair. You have to invest time in your recall system if you want a full, productive schedule and loyal patients that sing your praises.
The first thing I recommend is to consider hiring a Patient Coordinator. I know what you’re thinking, that’s simply not in the budget right now. A good Patient Coordinator should be able to handle a patient base of 500 to 1,000 in about 15 hours a week – at an hourly rate that equals a small price to pay for turning inactive patients into active patients who are scheduling treatment and boosting your production numbers.
Now you can’t just hire a Patient Coordinator and think your work is done. You must provide proper training along with the tools needed to succeed. This person should have access to a well thought-out written script and the most updated patient information. Hold the Patient Coordinator accountable for the recall system, and make sure your expectations are understood. Develop a detailed job description that clearly outlines the role. This should include making a specific number of patient contacts each day, scheduling a specific number of appointments, scheduling to ensure hygienists are producing 3 times their daily wage, and managing a specific number of unscheduled time units in the hygiene schedule each day. The Patient Coordinator should also work with the practice management software to send email and text message reminders to supplement professionally printed reminders and phone calls.
While the Patient Coordinator plays a critical role in successfully running your practice’s recall system and improving patient retention, it isn’t his or her responsibility alone. Getting patients to come back to their recall appointment starts chairside. During every recall appointment, the hygienist should focus on educating patients on their oral condition and the importance of maintaining their oral health. Make sure the hygienist shows educational videos and uses the hand mirror and intraoral camera to show patients exactly what’s going on in their mouths. Hygienists should answer patients’ questions and let them know your practice is there to help.
It’s also important to make sure the dentist and hygienist are on the same page. Touch base with the hygienist before you look patients over, and resist the urge to tell them everything looks OK before you move on to the next treatment room. Take the time to talk with patients about any trouble spots the hygienist found and remind them of the importance of reevaluating those areas during their next recall visit. This will make them much more likely to come back than if they think everything is just fine.
If you’re like most practices, you probably rely on generic recall reminders to get those patients you just spent so much time educating back to your practice. Stop. Patients know they’re cheap, and they’re the least effective form of patient communication. Instead, send out professional Educational Recall Reminders. These go beyond a form letter and enable you to write a personal note to your patients, helping them feel a deeper connection to your practice. And trust me, it is well worth the effort to improve any and all aspects of your recall system. Remember, it costs five times as much to get one new patient as it does to keep the ones you currently have, so investing in your recall system will actually save you money.
A strong recall system can also help attract new patients to your practice without spending a single marketing dollar. That’s right – happy patients talk, and recall patients who continue to have a good experience will be sure to tell their family and friends about your practice and all the wonderful services you offer.
If your practice is struggling, I urge you to take a look at your recall system and make the necessary improvements. A robust recall system will take you from struggling to thriving, finally making you the proud owner of a successful, profitable dental practice.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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