Out With the ‘In’ Crowd
Jean Gallienne RDH BS
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So many patients and so many “last minute no shows and cancellations”. Why is it that the one thing that drives most practices crazy is usually the result of the most over looked system in dentistry? Not only can the system be at fault, but then there is no accountable employee overseeing the success of the system. Implementing the position of Patient Coordinator is indicated for many practices.
The Patient Coordinator’s job description can vary depending on the number of hours employed. For example, at the minimum of three hours per day, the main assignment would be strictly making telephone calls to appoint patients who are not already scheduled, due or past due. When consistent effort is applied in securing this “return business”, an increase in production and patient base will occur. As this occurs, the hours the Patient Coordinator applies to the system would be increased.
When to communicate is equally as important as how. Effective communication and education are an essential part of a well thought out and executed patient retention system. Monitoring which hours the most patients are contacted will help to determine the hours the Patient Coordinator should work each day. A monitoring form is in the back of the book, “Building a Successful Recall System,” authored by Sally McKenzie.
A successful Patient Coordinator begins with setting goals. The doctor and Patient Coordinator will outline the parameters of the tasks to be done. This provides direction, increases motivation, and provides a means of accountability.
The Patient Coordinator should have access to: insurance, telephone numbers, any comments, personal or clinical, that may be helpful when trying to retain this patient. When is the best time to reach the patient, other family members? Do they want to be confirmed? What is the patient’s email address? The account name, which can be different from the patient’s name, is needed to monitor the account balance prior to recalling the patient. Patients do not appreciate the call when they have an existing balance that they’re having difficulty paying. Likewise, the practice does not want the patient adding additional charges to an all ready delinquent account.
The patient information stored in the computer needs to be updated and current. The computer will provide a “printout”, or listing of patients who are due for return visits. Keep in mind, these reports are inaccurate as soon as they are printed, due to patients scheduling and or canceling appointments. It is also important that as the patient’s recall information is being viewed, the conversation being held with the patient can be typed and stored in the database.
Therefore, to maintain an effective automated recall system, the Patient Coordinator must be able to “work” the system from the terminal, and not a computer printout that is inaccurate shortly after being printed.
When there is a last minute cancellation or no show, call the patient immediately in order to see if the appointment can be saved. Waiting 10-15 minutes to call them may prevent the appointment from happening. Sometimes the patient may be just down the street and may be able to make the appointment.
What other resources are available to fill cancellations? You have patients who cancel and don’t reschedule…you have patients who fail appointments. Tracking patients who cancel existing appointments or who had one and failed are kept in your computer under a tickler file, or unscheduled appointment report. It is the Patient Coordinators responsibility to look at this report every day as a reference, not only to fill cancellations, but also to be proactive in making “sales” calls to get patients scheduled. Remember when they are on the report there is no increase in production.
Even if a last minute cancellation occurs, try to move the next patient ahead, if there is not a patient currently in your office willing to stay. This will allow a little more time to fill the schedule. This is the easiest measure to take in getting the schedule filled, however, patients who do not have appointments should be sought after first. Whenever possible, avoid filling cancellations with people who are already scheduled but want an earlier appointment time.
Remember an open appointment time is lost productivity. It is also our goal to help prevent any no shows or cancellations from occurring in the first place. Managing “No Shows” is one of dentistry’s biggest practice frustrations. Some practices have more broken appointments than others, but overall the situation does not discriminate from patients with lower dental IQ’s to well-educated busy executives.
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Starting a new practice and jumping into the depths of the ocean, can conjure up the same fears. It depends on how prepared you are, and if you have done your research. If you jump into the deep-end of the ocean wearing a life vest, a well-equipped boat with trained personnel nearby, and in calm waters, you will be safe. Without these things you would surely be tested to survive even a few hours.
Preparing to open a new dental practice, purchasing an existing practice, or buying into the practice, where you have worked as an associate, can strike fear into the hearts of even the most skilled dental practitioner. Suddenly you are faced with:
Recruiting and training the best people, meeting your overhead, marketing to your existing or proposed patient base, seeing the value of your services reflected in your fees (not another dentist’s), gaining the respect of specialists in the area or if you are a specialist, marketing to a general referral base, creating a vision for your practice, building a cohesive business plan with projected tangible goals, and the list goes on.
The McKenzie Management’s Practice Start-Up Program covers every business system to help you navigate your course through the rough waters ahead. The Community Overview Report ,provided in the course, gives you a detailed survey of the demographics and psychographics of the ten-mile area in and around your proposed practice. You have a bird’s eye view provided by statistics, maps and graphs detailing the businesses, the people, and the industries in your practice area. This tool is critical to determining a projected course for success and is invaluable to creating a strategic marketing plan designed to attract people specific to certain zip codes and psychographics. The Fee Analysis Survey provided in the course, sets your mind at ease over where you should set your fee base. The question of whether your fees are too high or too low for the area is answered.
Recruiting, hiring, and training the best people are the most challenging of all to the success of your dental practice. Since you are going to be very busy doing what you do best, dentistry, you want the management of your future million-dollar practice in the hands of someone who understands the business of dentistry and has the professional training to take you there. The course covers the proper recruiting and hiring process including how to write the advertisement to attract the best people, how to screen resumes, how to conduct a proper phone interview, how to test applicants, and the pitfalls to avoid in the hiring process.
The Recall System of a dental practice, most critical to the growth of the practice must be established correctly. Many offices have patient attrition rates of over 30% a year and don’t know what causes it, and how to prevent it. Saving thousands of dollars a year on untargeted advertising by learning how to establish a successful recall program that retains a larger portion of your patient base, is a practice must.
Managing your accounts receivables is the key to paying overhead expenses and allowing you to buy critical supplies and equipment necessary to run your practice. As the CEO of your practice, you must have a clear understanding of the fees, billing, and collection process of your business. Understanding how to read the accounts receivable report generated by your computer software program will keep you informed as to how much revenue is being collected, and if it falls within the industry standards for success. Exploring the PPO, HMO or fee for service options for your practice based on the reports on the community, projected growth, and overhead are part of the course, and critical for you to make the right decision for your practice vision.
Establishing smooth, efficient operating systems for both clinical and business areas of your practice will create the harmony that you desire for your practice. The Practice Start-up Program is the answer to give you the tools necessary to survive your “plunge” into the business world of dentistry. Call us today.