With school starting earlier than ever (my kids begin August 5th!), the dreaded fall downtime begins for most dental practices. Most families avoid scheduling any dental appointments during school hours for at least the first few weeks of school, hoping that new routines take hold and school requirements for doctor appointments are understood. Some families encourage their children to strive for “Perfect Attendance” and these families are a challenge to fit into a dental practice schedule at all!
So, what can you do to keep your dental office schedule full? Set up a system.
Dentrix makes it easy to follow up with patients that have a treatment plan, but have not scheduled. They provide the report – you provide the system to work it. Here are the instructions to run this report:
- Go to Reports – select Lists – and choose Unscheduled Treatment Plans
- Select all patients, all providers, and all tx plan amounts
- Choose the date range you want
- Select Include Detailed report (not condensed)
- Click Ok and print this report from the office manager
The system I recommend works like this:
- Run the Unscheduled Treatment Plans report every week – perhaps Monday morning for the week prior
- During that week, your office manager should call every patient on the list, saying something like “Hi this is Jill with HealthPark Dentistry and I am calling to follow up on the ________ (filling, crown, partial, etc. ) that Dr. Smith recommended for you. Can I answer any questions for you about that treatment?” – hopefully, this starts a conversation about this procedure.
- Since money can be a reason people refuse to schedule, the office manager should look at the insurance estimate and see what the patient’s portion will be. Then, during the conversation, the office manager can share the financial information with the patient – especially if this person isn’t sure they are ready to schedule. “Susan, I hear that your schedule is super busy right now, but since I happened to catch you on the phone, I thought you’d like to get all the information you need for when you’re ready to get this _____ done. In fact, I checked your insurance for you and the total fee for this treatment is $_____ and your insurance will cover $____, leaving your portion at $____. How does that sound to you?”
- Often, the office manager ends up leaving a voicemail message for the patient – and if that happens, I’m also a big fan of sending an email with the pertinent information. I believe that if we share the financial information, we make it easier for the patient to find room in their budget to schedule the appointment. I also suggest referring to some open time in your schedule and including a link to your DemandForce or Dentrix eCentral request an appointment page.
- Okay – so, you run the report on Monday morning for last week and you leave a message for the patient. Make a note right on the list of the day & time you called. The next week – try again – maybe call right before you leave at 5pm or try their cell over lunch hour, but definitely try them a different day & time. Your hope is to actually talk with the person so you can get them scheduled. If you have no luck and end up in voicemail again, I wouldn’t leave a second message. Again, just note the day & time on the list.
- Now – if your dentist is motivated to help fill her/his schedule – after the office manager has tried for 2 weeks to schedule this patient (and the documentation is right on the list) – give the list to the dentist. The dentist can make a follow up call of her/his own! For a dentist making follow up calls, “Hi Susan, this is Dr. Smith. I’m calling to offer to answer any questions you may have about the ______ (filling, crown, partial, etc. ) I recommended for you a couple weeks ago. Feel free to reach me at 123-1234.” If the dentist is lucky enough to reach the patient (the dentists in my group practice often called in the evening and had great success talking with their patients) then he can answer the clinical questions and if the patients says they’re ready to schedule, he can have the office manager take over the call. Dentists, be sure to document your call in clinical notes.
- If you’re a dentist now turning up your nose at the prospect of making a follow up call – here’s a big benefit to your making these calls personally: Fabulous Public Relations! How many people ever receive a phone call from their doctor? And, you’re not calling to talk money – you’re calling to talk dentistry! Even a voicemail left with a genuinely caring tone of voice – and if you’ve documented a personal comment about the patient you can throw in a “Hope you have a great vacation” even better. When patients get a call from The Doctor, they believe the treatment recommendation is even more important since it was worth your time to call. When you actually talk with a patient, they often will be surprised and appreciative of your time – and they’ll thank you so profusely, you’ll feel great after a few phone calls!
- Finally, count up your practice success at getting these patients scheduled. Dentists – you may want to give this report back to the office manager to total up – how many patients total were on the list? How many scheduled? What was your batting average? In our group, we averaged 50% success at scheduling these patients. Now, that’s a great way to fill your schedule!
To make this system work, you must enter a treatment plan for every patient – whether they schedule an appointment or not. If your team takes the time to chart a treatment plan, then your office manager can run the Dentrix Unscheduled Treatment List and keep you and your clinical team busy for the fall.
As you’re setting up a system to fill your schedule, you’ll need to make sure your team has time to make these calls every day. To download a free Ideal Day that you can use to manage your team’s time – just click this link:
Setting up a system to follow up with unscheduled treatment patients 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.