Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management.
In fact, focusing on recall is one of the most effective ways to increase practice revenues and improve patient retention -- which should hover between 85% and 95%.
Not the case in your practice? You're not alone. I recently conducted a survey that looked at dental practices in business for an average of 22 years. It revealed a patient retention ratio of 31%. That means if you have 1,000 patients on file, only 300 of those patients are actually active.
Ready to revamp your recall system but not sure how? Here's four tips to help you get started.
1. Consider hiring a patient coordinator
Many dentists think it's enough to ask their hygienist or office manager to call past-due patients when they have time, but that is simply not enough. You need a person who's dedicated to making these phone calls and getting recall patients on the schedule. That's why I recommend hiring a patient coordinator and tasking this employee with revitalizing your recall system.
I know what you're thinking. "That sounds great, Sally, but how am I supposed to afford another employee?" I understand your concern, but bringing on a patient coordinator isn't as expensive as you think.
A good patient coordinator should be able to handle a patient base of 500 to 1,000 in about 15 hours a week. Believe me, once your new patient coordinator starts turning inactive patients into active patients who accept treatment and who refer, you'll wish you had made this investment sooner.
2. Proper training
Your work isn't done once you hire a patient coordinator. If you want this new team member to be effective, you must provide the proper training and the tools needed to succeed.
“You, and your team members, should look at every patient interaction as an opportunity to educate.”
I suggest developing a script the patient coordinator can turn to when making these daily calls, as well as giving this team member access to the most up-to-date patient information. You should also provide your patient coordinator with a clear, detailed job description that outlines your expectations and performance measurements.
Make it clear the patient coordinator will be held accountable for the recall system. Include how many past-due phone calls you expect the patient coordinator to make each day and how many appointments you expect to see on the schedule as a result of these calls.
Finally, make sure your patient coordinator is comfortable working with your practice management software to send email and text message reminders, as this is how many patients prefer to be contacted.
3. Touch base with your hygienist
Before you tell patients "everything looks great," as you talk with them chairside, consult with your hygienist to make sure that's actually the case. From there, discuss any trouble spots the hygienist found, then let patients know you'd like to re-evaluate these areas during their next visit. This will show them how important it is to schedule and keep that appointment.
4. Spend time educating your patients
If patients don't see the value of dentistry, they won't schedule recall visits. Take the time to educate your patients about the value of the services you provide and you'll soon see production numbers and patient retention rise.
You, and your team members, should look at every patient interaction as an opportunity to educate. This will help patients understand why it's so important to maintain their oral health and will also help them develop a connection with your practice. They'll see you care about their well-being and want to help them make informed decisions about their oral healthcare. When patients feel that connection, they're not only more likely to become loyal members of your patient base, they're also more likely to refer.
A strong recall system is vital to your practice's success. Remember, it costs five times as much to get one new patient as it does to keep the ones you already have -- which is why you can't ignore recall any longer. Invest in your recall system and you'll notice some big changes in your practice, including a larger patient base, growing production numbers, and a healthier 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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