I’m here to tell you this is not enough. Not even close. If you want to grow your patient base and bottom line, you have to start focusing on recall. The truth is, while recall is often the most ignored practice system, it’s also the system that has the most potential to increase practice revenues.
Here are four signs it’s time to revamp your recall system, and what changes you can make to get more past due patients in the chair.
• You’re constantly dealing with broken appointments—Cancellations and no-shows wreak havoc on your day, sending your practice into panic mode as you try to fill the open slots. If your practice deals with broken appointments daily, I can pretty much guarantee your recall system is broken. How do I know? Part of the problem stems from pre-appointing.
Scheduling patients six months out isn’t an effective way to build your schedule or operate your recall system. Patients make appointments, yet have no idea if they can actually keep them. Chances are patients will have something come up they perceive as more important, leaving a hole in your schedule and making it difficult for you to reach daily production numbers.
The other issue? Scheduling six months out gives the illusion your schedule is full. That means there’s no need to turn to your recall list to schedule patients, until of course you have last minute holes to fill. And if your schedule seems full, patients who are ready to go forward with treatment can’t get an appointment unless they want to wait four, five, or even six weeks to see the doctor. As talented as you are, most patients will look for another practice that can get them in sooner.
I know you’ve likely pre-appointed for as long as you can remember, so if you’re not ready to drop this system entirely, consider asking some patients if you can contact them two to three weeks before they’re due for an appointment. Try it first with patients who are known for flaking out at the last minute. This will free up spots for recall patients.
• You rely on your hygienist to call past due patients—Hygienists should focus on producing and educating patients chairside, yet so many dentists task them with calling past due patients in their free time. Sorry, doctor, but recall is simply too important to be an afterthought.
If you’re ready to make recall a priority, I suggest hiring a Patient Coordinator and empowering this team member to revamp the system. Task him or her with calling a specific number of recall patients every day, and scheduling a specific number of appointments. Make sure this person is trained to communicate with patients about the importance of scheduling appointments and maintaining their oral health. Once you have this team member on board, it won’t take long for you to notice an increase in production and your bottom line.
• Patient retention is down—Patients are the lifeblood of your practice, and you have to find a way to keep them coming back. In fact, patient retention should be hovering at around 95%. In a recent McKenzie Management survey, we found that rate is closer to 31%. How can you fix this? Start reaching out to recall patients. When you make an effort to contact them, these patients will be much more likely to schedule an appointment.
• You only send generic postcard reminders—Trust me, these reminders aren’t leading to any appointments. If you want to get recall patients on the schedule, and the US Postal System is your primary source of communication, send out professional Educational Recall Reminders that go beyond form letters. It’s also important to upgrade your email and text message reminders to explain to patients the benefits of scheduling an appointment. These extra touches will help patients feel a deeper connection to your practice, and that connection is what will turn them into loyal patients who refer.
It’s time to stop ignoring recall and turn your struggling practice into a thriving practice. Re-energizing your recall system will give your practice the boost it needs, helping you grow your patient base, your production numbers, and your bottom line.