How to run your dental practice: Reactivate patients
The top priority for dental office managers is to fill the schedule. Most practices have a system to contact patients when they are due for their 6 month checkup. However, what about patients that end up overdue? To stay in contact with these patients and try to get them back into your schedule is an untapped market. This is one way to run a successful dental practice because so many patients try to keep their healthcare expenses low by stretching out their visits that you can keep them oriented towards your practice.
Organize a system
Once you decide to contact all patients that haven’t been seen in over one year you need to create a system that allows you to spread out this work. Otherwise, there will be too many people to get in touch with at one time! One way to divide and conquer is to set up a calendar to contact a few letters of the alphabet at one time:
January – Contact last names starting with A – B
February – Contact last names starting with C – D
March – Contact last names starting with E – F
Now – the lookup instructions in Dentrix are:
1. Office Manager – Letters
2. Select the criteria – Last visit date: 2 years ago – 1 year ago, Select patients including the correct letters only.
3. Select the Data fields – First and last name, phone, email, balance, insurance
4. Create / merge the data file only
5. Paste into excel
Run this report every end of month. Once you have your list, your job is to contact each patient on this list during the month. The purpose of these calls is to personally invite the patients to come back in and get their teeth cleaned. Depending on your recall system, these patients have already received emails, postcards and perhaps a letter reminding them they need to schedule an appointment. Your responsibility is to call and get them scheduled. Your goal is to schedule 10% of your list.
Make the calls
Your script for this call is: Hi, this is Jill with HealthPark Dentistry. You’re due for your cleaning, exam and oral cancer screening and I’m calling to get that scheduled for you. Would a morning or afternoon appointment be more convenient for you?
If you figure it will take an hour to call one page of your call list, then plan your schedule for time to contact these patients. Its best to call cell phones and its best to call as late in the day as possible – evenings are the best to try to catch people after they are home and can look at their calendar to schedule an appointment. You may want to try calling at two different times – only leave a message on your last call! Document the times you call so you can vary them. Of course, call cell phones instead of home numbers. Document your attempts.
More success than you expect
When you work this call list, you will definitely talk with patients who have moved or have switched to a new dentist. You will mostly leave a mountain of voicemail messages – but there will be a few people you get on the phone. This is your best judge of your success. If you talk with someone, you should get them scheduled close to 50% of the time! Remember all the reasons they should come in for a cleaning:
• They also will receive an oral cancer screening
• Coming in for preventive visits helps catch any problems before they grow and become expensive (it saves a ton of money doing an occlusal amalgam instead of a crown)
• If they have dental insurance (especially a PPO the dentist has joined) the visit will be paid for by their plan – costing them nothing
Often, patients will return phone calls as well. So, you’re not wasting your time by leaving voicemails and inviting patients to come in to your practice. In fact, think for a minute – is there a single medical provider that ever calls you to invite you to come in when you haven’t been in the practice for over a year? This is a great way to maintain long term relationships with your patients.
Keep your active patient list accurate
Another benefit of creating a yearly recall contact list is that you can inactivate patients that have moved or have truly left the practice. Why continue to waste your budget on direct mail or other advertising to patients that aren’t returning? So, when you talk with a person who tells you they moved to another state or they switched to another local dentist – inactivate them! In Dentrix simply go to the family file & double click on the top box to change this person to inactive – or even non-patient. You decide what makes sense for your practice.
The final calculation
At the end of the month, go back to this list and check to see if anyone has scheduled (remember to look in the ledger to see if they came in that month – and also check to see if they have an upcoming appointment too) – highlight every patient you successfully scheduled. Now, calculate your success:
Total number patients scheduled
__________________________ = Success %
Total number of patients on the list
At this time, you also will change all patients status to inactive if they have not scheduled an appointment. Now, this recommendation depends on how you search patients to stay in contact with. In my group, we included both patients and inactive patients in many of our follow up emails as an attempt to keep patients oriented towards our practice. However, we never included any non-patients – so this status was used for people that moved, told us they left the practice or passed away. The benefit of changing the status to inactive was primarily to make our active patient numbers more accurate.
Be sure to let your dentist know about patients that left the practice. Pull the charts and note the reason they left and put them on the dentist’s desk. For patients that passed away, you may want to get a sympathy card and put it with the chart so the dentist could send a note to the family. If someone unhappily tells you they left for another local dentist – asking, “May I let the dentist know why?” is a great way to give the dentist some notes and the opportunity for her to follow up with that family and either apologize or try to right the wrong.
Creating a yearly recall list is just one way to run a successful dental practice. If you’re interested in new ideas on running a dental practice, please subscribe to my weekly blog. One of the biggest challenges to managing a dental practice is managing dental insurance. With dental insurance handled, then dental marketing for new patients becomes a primary focus. In today’s day of online reviews, handling patient complaints well is essential. As your practice grows, hiring dental staff becomes more important. With 16+ years of dental practice management experience, I’m open to your questions to help you run a successful dental office.
Feel free to email me.