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Maximizing your reappointment, or patient recall system, can have a significant impact on practice productivity and revenue generation. Robert Lipschutz, D.M.D., provides an overview of integrating an effective patient recall system into your dental practice. Having an automated system in place, he says, will save time for your front-office staff, and provide patients with more useful reminders about upcoming appointments.
Getting a first-time customer to purchase a new car at a dealership is not as important as what follows. Getting that same customer to return regularly for maintenance and repairs, and then to make a second purchase down the road is what truly fuels the lifeblood of the dealership.
It’s not that different for dental practices. The key is integrating and then maximizing a re-appointment system into the dental practice.
Robert Lipschutz, D.M.D., a general and cosmetic dentist in New York City, and his staff are always looking ahead.
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“We make sure that (patients) make the appointment for their next cleaning before they leave the office,” Lipschutz says. “And not just the cleaning. If they need a filling, or a crown, or a root canal, you also want their recall visit scheduled as well.”
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Lipschutz and his staff always look at the next three-month periodontal maintenance visit, for patients with periodontal disease, and then the six-month recall visit, for routine check-up x-rays and cleaning, at the end of the patient’s current recall visit. And they use Zoc Doc as a way to remind patients of their upcoming appointments through text messaging and emails.
“Patients don’t like to be called at work,” Lipschutz says. “And the old system of having them fill out a postcard in the hygienist’s room is something from the Jurassic period.”
Lipschutz likes using Zoc Doc because it not only features the appointment reminder system, it also helps him reach potential new patients through the Internet. Patients are also able to confirm or even reschedule their own appointments because the system is synced to his dental practice software.
It also reduces the burden on his receptionist.
“He doesn’t have to call patients before noon every day to confirm them for the next day,” Lipschutz explains. “He can focus on other activities.”
Lipschutz acknowledges there are learning curves when working with any system, but what he likes about working with Zoc Doc is they take the time to “learn” how different dental offices function.
“Practices operate differently,” he says. “I like to have a half hour (with the patient) for myself and then an hour with the hygienist. So it’s important that systems are somewhat tailorable to different practices.”
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Having a re-appointment and reminder system in place also cuts down on patients not show up for their appointments, which can reduce the risk of the practice losing money from a no-show.
“If a patient doesn’t show up for an appointment, you’re going to pay at least $100 an hour for that time; for that empty chair,” Lipschutz says. “Having a good reminder and recall system helps patient flow, and keeps down cancellations and no-shows.”
Being based in Manhattan, Lipschutz says, also presents unique challenges.
“Everyone is very self-important,” he says. “No matter what level they’re at in their company, people will cancel at the last minute because they have a meeting, or they have to go on a business trip now. So even though we have a very good reminder and recall system, you can’t eliminate patient priorities.”
And still, having a recall system has proven effective for Lipschutz, and “would probably be even more effective” in other areas of the country.
Lipschutz attended the University of Pennsylvania for dental school, which he describes as having a very periodontal-focused curriculum. As such, his hygienists do full periodontal charting every time someone has a cleaning. That helps the practice chart whether the patient will be returning every six months or three months. It’s also the first step toward integrating a recall system into a practice.
“No matter what you’re doing on that patient the first visit, make sure you have a follow up visit scheduled before they walk out the door,” Lipschutz says. “Even if they come in for an emergency visit and you address the situation, palliatively or otherwise, you still want to have a follow-up appointment.”
That’s because, Lipschutz adds, for any type of comprehensive, long-term care, there has to be a continuation of care.
“You can’t see the patient every time they have an emergency every two or three years,” he says. “That’s not acceptable dentistry. That’s not ethical. So whatever system you’re using, make sure they have that next appointment scheduled before they leave the office.”