Reviving your recare system

Sept. 30, 2010

By Hollie Bryant, DA II

Do you know how many patients you have in your practice that are really interested in dentistry? Whatever the number, this could be a sign that it’s time to revive the recare system. During the time that your practice is not attracting as many new patients is the time to revive the recare program and shift the focus to your existing patients.

If what you’re currently doing isn’t working as well as you would like, then maybe it’s time to examine the process. Here are a few questions to ponder:

• Is there time for treatment options to be discussed in hygiene? (How do you expect to get production from those chairs if there isn’t time to talk about it?)
• Is treatment being discussed in hygiene or during daily life events? (If the focus is not on dentistry, then there is a problem.)
• Is hygiene sharing the new smiles, technology advancements, and education that are occurring in the practice? This should occur at EVERY appointment. (If they are not, who is?)
• Are photos on the screen during the patient appointment? (How do patients learn if photos are not shown?)

Just having to mention recall appointments causes upset stomachs in many dental personnel. Maybe this is due to the lack of control in that department, or even interpersonal office issues that involve hygiene. When you truly analyze the practice, you will discover that the hygiene portion of your practice affects all other aspects of your operation. (Why wouldn’t you want to have a tight handle on this portion of the practice?) By using all of the potential that exists in your recare system, you can further discuss treatment with clients.

The old recare paradigm: Patients come in every six months for a “cleaning and checkup.” The hygienist tries to squeeze in perio treatment for a prophy fee, and the “doctor exam” consists of a quick glance at the teeth while the dentist is still thinking about the two patients in the treatment rooms. Then just before the patient is dismissed the hygienist admonishes him or her for not flossing (a major guilt trip), and then tells the doctor that there is something suspicious around tooth number __. This type of visit contributes little to the health of patients and is a behavioral failure. The result is that patients receive little to no education about the recent advances in dentistry, and because they have infrequent comprehensive examinations, their health suffers. Lack of education means dentistry is not accepted. No one wins!

The revived recare paradigm:
Your recare system, when used to its maximum potential, is the most powerful aspect of your practice. All of the functions can be done by the hygienist, but can easily be performed and controlled by other members of the team. Here are a few aspects of the recare system that can be revived:

1. Periodontal treatment — Maintenance and basic perio services will always be part of an exceptional recare practice, except that now periodontal treatment will be diagnosed, scheduled, and treated for what it is, and not completed during prophy visits.

2. Relationship building — This is a critical aspect of every dental visit, but even more so when the visits have the periodic nature of recare. Developing and maintaining relationships within your patient base is essential for increasing acceptance of cosmetic and comprehensive dentistry. People purchase from people they like and with whom they have a relationship.

3. Treatment explanation and enrollment — If all of your patients in your recare system have treatment plans, it is easy for team members to understand and motivate patients toward healthier mouths. This is a natural event that occurs during the recare visit. If you spend the time to perform and document patients’ values, the rest is easy. You will need all the tools to perform the educational part of the function: digital photos, before and after pictures of your cases, brochures, and even educational videos.

During the next year, you will be able to develop a “revived recare system.” These steps could revive your recare and allow dentistry to be diagnosed out of your hygiene in an effective manner. You could even create a rating system to identify patients that are interested in having dentistry performed. This would be an additional step that would increase the effectiveness of your recare system. They could get a priority standing over patients who have shown little interest in the type of dentistry you offer. Previously restored patients who would have no dentistry diagnosed because it has already been completed would have priority standing.

When you begin to see patients who want the dentistry and value the care you provide, you will become more profitable and begin to work fewer hours. Taking time with each patient, rather than rushing them through the $94 cleaning two times per year, would produce more profit, more effective relationships, more referrals, and less stress.

Is your recare system ready to be revived?

Hollie Bryant is a graduate of Bowman Gray Dental Assisting Program and is the former chairside assistant for Dr. Ross Nash and clinical instructor and treatment coordinator at the Nash Institute. She is currently a member of the American Academy of Dental Office Managers, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, North Carolina Dental Association, Academy of Comprehensive Esthetics, and the American Dental Assistants Association. She is the former editor-in-chief of Contemporary Dental Assistant magazine and currently serves on the Advisory Board for DentalCompare. She is on the editorial board of Dental Assisting Digest™ and Contemporary Product Solutions, and is a consultant for various dental manufacturers. She has authored numerous manuscripts on clinical assisting and practice-management topics. Hollie lectures for the NICHE Practice Seminars nationally on clinical and management topics, while she travels for her independent consulting firm from practice to practice working with teams to increase customer service, profit, and implement effective systems. You may reach Hollie at [email protected].