Get them back

March 21, 2012

Technological advancements have improved virtually every aspect of dentistry in recent decades, from implants to digital x-rays, from orthodontics to bone grafting. The way most of us communicate with our patients, however, has remained essentially unchanged throughout the better part of the last century. Yet patient communication is a significant business driver for our practices-it’s at least as important, arguably more so, than the high-tech procedures we all perform on a daily basis. Generic isn’t good enough

Technological advancements have improved virtually every aspect of dentistry in recent decades, from implants to digital x-rays, from orthodontics to bone grafting. The way most of us communicate with our patients, however, has remained essentially unchanged throughout the better part of the last century. Yet patient communication is a significant business driver for our practices-it’s at least as important, arguably more so, than the high-tech procedures we all perform on a daily basis.

Generic isn’t good enough

For as long as I can remember, to stay in touch with my patients and make sure they come back, I’ve sent reminder cards and had an army at my front desk calling patients. Lately I’ve even upgraded to using e-mail reminders. The fundamental fact remains, however, that no matter what medium we use to communicate with patients (postcards, calls or e-mails), the message always has been generic. There has been little or no personalized message on things that really matter, and every patient receives more or less the same communication, albeit through different media.

This all changed when I put Practice Activator from ActionRun into use at my practice. Activator is an automated service that uses artificial intelligence in the form of dental medical expertise to dynamically assemble-based on each targeted patient’s record-personalized letters that it regularly sends to patients on the dentist’s behalf. Despite my staff’s thorough and persistent efforts with generic recall cards and phone calls, there still always has been a sizeable pool of patients who remain unresponsive. Activator has reactivated these unresponsive patients for me, at an ROI of 450% to 700%, and has directly increased my take-home pay by about 12%.

You’ll see increased production levels 

Activator showed results in the first month. I signed up for the service in November 2009. By mid-December 2009, I had received more than $15,300 in additional production from non-responsive patients who came back to my practice-patients I had considered lost because they remained non-responsive despite my staff’s best recall efforts. As of this June, Activator has brought me more than $91,500 in additional production in 8 months. Considering I have spent about $12,800 in monthly fees during this time, my ROI was 715%.

I was initially skeptical that Activator could achieve this high ROI level, and I had my staff painstakingly verify each patient production amount that Activator claimed to have brought in. Sure enough, our verification results agreed with Activator’s results. In hindsight, this was not surprising, because Activator derives its results directly from my own patient ledger in the practice management system. There are other systems that help bring in patients who already had appointments by sending them generic reminders, but Activator actually brought non-responsive patients back when all else failed. I was amazed to learn that I last saw or heard from these non-responsive patients an average of 13 months ago, with the longest being 24 months, before Activator brought them back.

It's easy to use 

Using Activator turned out to be easy, which is my favorite part. After initial set up that took about 15 minutes, my staff and I had no further involvement. There wasn’t any training required, nor was there any change in our processes, because Activator worked automatically and independently. I could always see which of my patients were being sent letters and for what reason, but my involvement was not required for it to work. The last thing I wanted was to learn a new system! In fact, I had somewhat forgotten about Activator after the initial set up, until old non-responsive patients started calling and showing up for appointments.

These patients need you

Another unusual feature is Activator’s ability to target high-value non-responsive patients for reactivation. Because it intelligently assesses the likely production from a patient once he or she comes back to my practice, based on a multitude of factors, it has helped me fill my chairs with patients who need high-value procedures. Also, because Activator has consistently reactivated non-responsive patients who had not visited me for 1-2 years, these patients often turned out to require even more procedures than their prior records indicated, further increasing production. As a result, my practice is much more efficient now because it’s fuller and with more high-value patients.

Personalization matters 

By applying 21st century technology to patient treatment communications, Activator has directly increased my practice’s efficiency. It also has increased my patients’ loyalty and satisfaction, as many have told me they feel important and well cared for because of the personalized letters I sent them through Activator. With a consistent ROI of 450% to 700%, Activator has made a significant positive impact for me, and enabled me to take home 12% more than before.