The Naked Dentist: Data reveal recall gaps

2015 03 10 14 43 22 538 Marshall Curtis 200

Recall, continuing care, recare -- the name doesn't matter, but, whatever you call it, know that this is the lifeblood of a dental practice.

As the Naked Dentist, I will remove all the "clothing," those items that cover up the flaws hidden within a practice. But not only will I uncover these flaws, I will offer solutions -- what can be done to improve the practice so that it looks good throughout, not just on the surface. Each month my team and I will analyze a new practice -- undress the practice, if you will. We will point out the positives and those things that -- simply put -- just don't look good. A fitness plan will be put in place to address identified issues, and an automated monitoring system will be leveraged to watch and measure the progress.

Curtis Marshall is the vice president of marketing at Dental Intel.Curtis Marshall is the vice president of marketing at Dental Intel.


There are many definitions of recall. In this column, I am going to refer to recall as any patient without a future appointment. One of the fastest ways to improve performance and profitability in a dental practice is by having an efficient, effective recall system.

Hundreds of great patients regularly fall through the cracks, while at the same time the practice is spending good money on attracting new patients. Does your practice fall into this category?

Every practice I talk with believes most of its patients are scheduled; however, numbers don't lie, and it's likely that less than 50% of your patients have a scheduled visit to come back into your practice.

Dr. Kansas

Last year, I decided to test this with my friend in Kansas. We will call him Dr. Kansas. After my hygiene visit, the hygienist did a great job attempting to reschedule my next cleaning. I politely refused to schedule, and requested to be called 30 days before I was due to schedule. Well, to make a long story short, I have not been back to Dr. Kansas' office for more than 15 months -- not one phone call, not one postcard, nothing. Now, you might be saying, "This would never happen in our practice," but I guarantee you it's happening in all practices.

“Numbers don't lie, and it's likely that less than 50% of your patients have scheduled a visit to come back into your practice.”

In fact, with my analytic tool I have pulled the statistics for 500 practices. We are seeing that 50% of all practices only have 46% of their active patients scheduled. The top 10% only have 71% of their patients scheduled. That means for 50% of the practices out there, if they have 1,000 active patients, they only have 460 of those patients scheduled to come back into their office.

In almost every instance, the dentists say, "This can't be right -- there's no way." After drilling down into the dashboard, reviewing the patients, and seeing that they are in fact unscheduled, the light bulb turns on. Their next statement or comment is "We have to fix this."

Preappointment percentage

The preappointment percentage is the percentage of your active patients (patients seen within the last 18 months) who currently have a scheduled appointment.

Why is this important? When focused on keeping your preappointment percentage above 65%, this reduce your patient attrition, and, additionally, it will save you thousands of dollars each year on recall attempts. A lot of time, money, and effort is placed on generating new patients, but it's equally important to ensure that your existing patients always have a scheduled appointment. The only way to quickly get this number, without pulling multiple reports and then doing a calculation, is with our company, but I could be wrong.

Preappointment percentages for 2014 and 2015

We started to track his preappointment percentage in the middle of April 2015 (see chart). As you can see, his future visits during all of 2014 and for the first three months of 2015 remained flat.

Preappointment percentage

What made these even harder for Dr. Kansas to accept was knowing that his practice sees, on average, 120 new patients each month. While that's a great number, how can someone who is bringing in so many new patients and that has an incredible hygiene practice not be increasing in future visits? Let's just say that when performance is measured, performance improves, and when performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.

Next time I will give you three metrics to measure that will quickly increase your preappointment percentage. Strip down your practice and discover where you are at to improve! Become better tomorrow than you were today.

Let's get naked.

Curtis Marshall serves as the vice president of marketing at Dental Intel. If you would like your practice to be in the next Naked Dentist column and have your practice undressed, contact him at [email protected] or 801-380-7070.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Page 1 of 524
Next Page