4 ways to improve recall

October 5, 2015

You likely haven’t put much thought into improving your recall system. You rely on sending generic postcards to remind recall patients they’re due for an appointment, and you know your hygienist makes phone calls when she can.

You likely haven’t put much thought into improving your recall system. You rely on sending generic postcards to remind recall patients they’re due for an appointment, and you know your hygienist makes phone calls when she can.

If this is how you approach recall, I can pretty much guarantee your practice struggles with patient retention. Cheap postcard reminders aren’t going to encourage patients to schedule an appointment, and asking your hygienist to squeeze in calls when she can, which won’t be very often, isn’t going to do much to improve patient retention and grow your bottom line.

The truth is, recall is the most ignored practice system yet it’s the system that has the most potential to increase practice revenues. Just think about all that unscheduled treatment and how actually getting these patients on the schedule would improve your production numbers.

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But these patients aren’t just going to magically show up. For that to happen, you have to start investing time and money in your recall system. Ignoring this system isn’t doing you any good; it’s only keeping you from reaching your full potential.

Investing in recall will help you grow your production numbers and increase your patient base, putting you on the road toward true success and profitability. Not sure how to get started? No worries. I’m here to help. Here are four ways to revamp your recall system and grow your bottom line.

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Hire a patient coordinator

I know what you’re thinking. Hiring a new team member can be time-consuming and costly, and you’re not sure it’s an expense you can afford right now. But hiring a patient coordinator who is accountable for the recall system will help you grow your practice, making it well worth the time and expense of bringing on this important new team member.

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Beyond that, hiring a patient coordinator is more affordable than you think. A good patient coordinator can handle a patient base of 500 to 1,000 in about 15 hours a week at a rate of $15-$18 an hour. This is a small price to pay for turning inactive patients into active patients who schedule treatment and boosting your production numbers.

Once you find the right person to take on this role, provide him or her with the training and tools needed to succeed. Develop a well-thought-out telephone script, and give your patient coordinator access to the most up-to-date patient information. Create a detailed job description that includes specific performance goals, such as making a certain number of patient contacts a day, scheduling a certain number of patients each day and ensuring the hygienist is scheduled to produce three times her daily wage.

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 Educate your patients

 Recall patients will be more likely to return to your practice if they understand the value of maintaining their oral health and the services you provide. Your hygienist should educate patients during every recall appointment. This includes giving patients brochures and then going over the information in those brochures together, playing educational videos and using an intraoral camera and hand mirror to show patients what’s going on in their mouths.

Your hygienist should also answer any questions patients have about their condition and treatment options, and make sure they understand your practice is there to help them reach their oral health goals.

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Communicate with your hygienist

Touch base with your hygienist before you examine patients to make sure you know what he or she found. Don’t tell patients everything looks OK and then run off to the next treatment room; that will pretty much guarantee they won’t return for their recall visit.

Talk with patients about trouble spots the hygienist found, and let them know how important it is to re-visit these areas during their next appointment. Once they understand the importance of maintaining their oral health, they’ll be much more likely to come back.

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Use professional education reminders 

Generic recall reminders, whether by text or email, are not going to get you the results you’re after.

Instead, send your patients professional educational recall reminders that give them information about any conditions they have and the importance of maintaining their oral health. The No. 1 reason patients don’t go to the dentist is because they don’t think they need to, making education key to getting patients back in the chair. Educational reminders also go a long way toward creating connections with your patients that will keep patients loyal to your practice and happy to come back for their next recall appointment.

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For patients who prefer to be contacted by mail, I suggest sending a professionally printed recall notice that fits into a business envelope. Have patients handwrite their name and address on the envelope, and be sure to let them know to call your practice to schedule their appointment once they receive the reminder in the mail.

Remember it costs five times as much to get one new patient as it does to keep the ones you currently have, which is why investing in your recall system is so vital to your practice’s success. You can’t ignore it any longer. And once you invest in recall, you’ll soon notice your practice reaping the benefits, which include a stronger patient base, increased production numbers and a more robust bottom line.

Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, which offers educational and management products available at www.mckenziemgmt.com. Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

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