After the end-of-the-year crunch and madness to see all the patients trying to utilize the last of their dental benefits comes the time to breathe. The holiday craziness is slightly relieved by the specialist offices bringing in plates of goodies to make us fatter by the day and provide the sugar rush to push through lost lunch hours and long days. In all my years of clinical practice, December has been a time of stress to make everyone happy and help as many patients as possible. After the holiday rush, holes in the schedule start to appear. Usually in my office we have lull in business once patients prefer to stay in out of the blustery winter weather.
Recall, recare, or reactivation—no matter the name—is a boring task. However, it is a necessary duty of every dental practice. Without a patient in the dental chair, the practice does not generate the needed income to cover overhead and pay the bills. When the schedule is full, times are good and working an overdue hygiene patient recall list is not a priority for the dental practice. When the schedule is light, it affects all aspects of office production, which can lead to less time in the operatory and ultimately affect the paychecks of everyone.
Each dental practice has a different plan of execution when it comes to filling the holes in the schedule. It is the job of the office manager, the hygienist, or does it fall onto any employee who has time to make the calls? Who makes the calls and how often they are completed can vary widely from week to week, and many times it falls through the cracks when other office duties take priority.
To help with the duties of recall and reactivation of patient scheduling, there are multiple options of outside companies that are able to help free up the time of dental practice staff. There are multiple companies that can use text messaging and emails to send reminders to patient to call and schedule at their convenience, and there are companies that can make a personal call from patient list. Companies are available that offer services from appointment reminders and confirmations.
Having a cell phone is almost like an appendage for many patients; it always within reach, even if they are not able to answer while working during daytime hours. Our working culture is no longer the traditional 8-to-5 for everyone; therefore, reaching patients can vary from early morning to evening hours. Options range from leaving messages with the hope that patients call back to schedule, or continue to make calls until the patient calls back.
Is it the best use of employee time and resources to work a recall list during daytime hours, or it worthwhile to hire an outside company, especially in those offices where the staff is spread thin and always struggling to complete daily tasks without any added duties.
There is a company that can make the chore of recall more effective in reaching overdue patients with a personalized touch during the optimal evening hours. CallForce representatives are all located in Utah and have experience and knowledge with multiple dental practice software programs to make scheduling within your practice easy. One appealing feature for many offices it that you are not locked into a yearlong contract. It is month to month, and you only pay for the patients who are scheduled, not per patients who are called. The trained representatives contact your overdue patients as a representative from your office, and have the ability to schedule firm appointments directly into the schedule in a manner that works well for the patient.
As we all know, the doctor’s production often comes from treatment diagnosed in the hygiene operatory during recall exams. With 57% of patients who have not seen a dentist in 18 months or more, a small percentage of that population reactivated into the dental office can make a difference in not only the patients’ health but also boost the residual income of the office for each and every individual scheduled.
Cory Pinegar, CEO of CallForce, states the average value of a returning patient is $520, which, in my opinion, is a great return on the investment that it costs for reactivation contact. In my experience, patients that you contact personally are more apt to schedule at the time you have them on the phone and often don’t realize that it has been past the recommended time for recare, and many are thankful for the reminder call.
Let’s face it. Scheduling a dental visit doesn’t top the list of priorities for many individuals. So a reminder when overdue can provide a gentle reminder to care for ourselves. With a report generated as part of the service the practice will be able to update records to reflect those patients who have moved, changed offices and update address information. Each overdue recall patient that is contacted off your list will have a report to reflect all contact made and details whether an appointment was scheduled or not. The personal touch and correspondence are what makes a difference in patient experience.
No matter the method of reactivating patients after an absence from the practice it presents a challenging but necessary duty. Helping maintain patient flow through an effective recall process keeps the schedule full, the doctor happy, and can help ensure the flow of the office and production. Keeping patient flow steady throughout the year takes work and deciding on a method of contacting and retaining patients can be a progressive process through trial and error to find a system that works for the practice.
Jamie Collins, RDH, CDA, is a clinical practicing hygienist in Idaho and Washington states. She has been in the dental field for nearly 20 years, both as an assistant and hygienist. With a passion for patient care, especially those with higher risk factors, Jamie enjoys sharing the tips and tricks of dental profession through speaking and writing. In addition to clinical practice Jamie is also an educator, has contributed to multiple textbooks and curriculum development, and contributes as a key opinion leader. Jamie can be contacted at [email protected].