Becoming a better appointment coordinator can mean new patients

March 21, 2012

You may be finding it more challenging to fill both the doctor’s schedule and the hygiene schedule and keep them filled. Many patients have had financial setbacks because of our still challenging economy, and many other patients seem reluctant to spend money on anything but what they consider essential. Maybe your number of new patients has declined too? Here are some steps that self-directed appointment coordinators can take to keep the schedule full and productive and also increase the number of new patients:

You may be finding it more challenging to fill both the doctor’s schedule and the hygiene schedule and keep them filled. Many patients have had financial setbacks because of our still challenging economy, and many other patients seem reluctant to spend money on anything but what they consider essential. Maybe your number of new patients has declined too?

Here are some steps that self-directed appointment coordinators can take to keep the schedule full and productive and also increase the number of new patients:

  • Take more time with new patients during the first phone call to ensure that questions are invited and thoroughly answered

  • Make sure you ask them who referred them-this plants seeds that your office appreciates referrals from patients; follow-up with a thank-you note to patients who refer

  • Take time with each new patient at their first visit to explain appointment guidelines face-to-face; this will reduce the number of short-notice cancelations

  • Make a courtesy call to the new patient after their initial visit to get their feedback on how their visit was and to ask them if they have any questions

  • Enhance your confirmation calls-“Mrs. Williams, this is Diane at Dr. Smith’s office calling to see if you have any questions regarding your appointment with Dr. Smith on Thursday at 2:00?” End the call with “We’re looking forward to seeing you on Thursday."                                                                                                             

  • Make sure that every patient who walks through your door is given a warm welcome and a big smile

  • Work on scheduling due and past-due hygiene patients every day-don’t wait for holes in the schedule-run recall reports routinely and do calls and letters every day. Leaving a message one time on a patient’s voicemail isn’t all you do; you must identify and follow through with the next step until the patient is scheduled or is not returning to your office-document all contacts

  • Work the unscheduled restorative treatment list too-“Dr. Williams has asked me to contact you because he is concerned that you have not scheduled the treatment that he diagnosed and recommended. How can I help you today?” If the patient will “call you back” is “not ready” or is “thinking about it”, create a little urgency-“It’s been our experience that when patients postpone needed treatment, they risk more complex and costly treatment in the future-we don’t want this to happen to you”.

  • Create verbal skills scripts that project care and concern for the patient; make sure that follow-up letters do the same

  • In September of every year, send a courtesy reminder to those patients who have remaining dental benefits and who are due or past-due for hygiene and to those patients who have unscheduled restorative treatment-encourage them not to lose these valuable benefits

Through implementation of these steps, you will get more patients on the schedule, and you will get more new patients because of your going the extra mile with customer service. By being creative and pro-active, you are increasing your value to your employer as well as increasing your satisfaction with your job.

About the Author

Callie Haynes has over thirty years of experience in dental practice management and has been a consultant for Pride Institute since 1996. Callie’s extensive experience in this wide variety of roles in the dental office gives her instant credibility with dental teams and enables her to understand the challenges that a practice may face from different perspectives. Callie specializes in relationship building with patients and teams, customer service and systems implementation. To ask Callie about this article or for more information about Pride Institute, go to http://www.prideinstitute.com/subpages/ask/ask_pride.htm or call Pride Institute at 1-800-925-2600.