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Dental Consultants Top Confirmation System
Your confirmation system should be tailored to each type of patient and have a personal touch.
Auto-Pilot: Do not put confirmation on auto-pilot. Services such as Lighthouse are useful when used smartly but, when you put confirmation on auto-pilot, front desk can sometimes abandon responsibility for the schedule because, “Lighthouse is handling it”.
Customize: Find out from patients if they prefer to be contacted by text, phone call or email. Ideally what time of the day they prefer to be called is noted in the patient’s chart. These days, except for older patients, most prefer texts.
Education: For all the wonderful technology at our disposal a vital step in keeping no shows and cancels low is educating patients while they are in the practice on the likely negative effects, if they do not move forward, on their oral and overall health
Accountability: Assign confirmation to one employee for accountability. That employee should have excellent communication skills. The employee must have their ear "tuned" to lack of commitment phrases.
The schedule for confirmation is 4-4-2 as follows:
- Four weeks out: A courtesy reminder, typically by postcard or text or email.
- Two weeks out: A text, email or phone call that ideally results in a confirmation.
- Two days out: Confirmation call, even if confirmed earlier.
Note: It’s OK to outsource postcards or texts to a company such as Lighthouse. The confirmation call should be done in-house.
“Hi, this is Suzy from Smith Family Dental. This is a message for Jane. I’m calling to confirm your appointment this Friday, June 1st at 10am. If you have any questions or concerns, please call our office at 555-1212. Again, Calling to confirm your appointment this Friday, June 1st at 10am.“
The “Friday, June 1st at 10am” should be repeated twice. The use of the word “your” is also important.
Since the confirmation call is 48 hours out, if you receive no confirmation, then knowledge of patients comes into play. For reliable patients, that’s all you need to do.
For many, another call 24 hours out is appropriate. If still no confirmation, again, for many, another call the morning of the appointment is appropriate.
Ideally, your FD is familiar enough with patients so that they know which ones they’ll need to do additional calls to. At 48 hours, during the Morning Huddle, the whole team brainstorms as to what to do. Error on the side of too many calls but, more than three calls (48 hours, 24 hours, day of appointment). Ideally, the scheduling behavior of a patient of record is noted in their chart so, there should not need to be too much guess work involved. For unconfirmed new patients, staff may have knowledge about the new patient if the new patient is a referral.
TYPES OF PATIENTS
If you do not get a "hard" confirm on certain types of patients or situations two days out, you can consider double booking. An analysis of your cancels and no shows over the past 90 days can reveal which types of patients or situations need a hard confirm no matter what. Recent examples from a client:
- Missed two or more appointments within the last two years.
- Patients in their twenties.
- 5:00pm appointments and after.
OPERATIVE, NPs, NO SHOWS, CHRONIC BROKEN APPOINTMENTS & HABITUAL LATENESS
Operative: Start confirming at 48 hours out unless booked well in advance in which case it's 4-4-2.
NPs: A call from the dentist welcoming the new patient to the practice can cut down on NP cancels/no shows.
No shows: If the patient no shows, call or text them right away. If you do not reach the patient let them know you will try back in about a week. Repeat a week later if needed. After that, patients of record, will be part of your reactivation protocol as they have unscheduled treatment. Ideally the reactivation protocol is done every 3-4 months.
Chronic broken appointment: Patients with three broken appointments or are not sorry after the second one should be dismissed or only allow them on your short call list. If on your short call list, you will likely deal with the same issues again.
Habitual lateness: Any patient that has been habitually late should be scheduled 15 minutes early.
Kevin Tighe, Cambridge Dental Consultants, Senior Consultant, got bitten hard by the business and marketing bug during long summer days working at his dad's Madison Avenue ad agency. After joining Cambridge as a seminarist in the mid-1990s, Kevin went on to become Cambridge’s senior consultant and eventually CEO. Cambridge Dental Consultants is a full-service dental practice management company offering customized dental office manuals. Frustrated? High overhead? Schedule a chat with Kevin at .
What Does A Dental Consultant Do?
Many dentists will tell you dental consulting works. If dental practice management firms had no worth or benefit they could not stand up to harsh economic realities for long. What a veteran dental consultant brings to the table are systems and protocols successfully implemented in other practices that have been improved and tweaked over many years. Top dental consultants talk and network with each other. They pay attention to what works and what doesn't work across all dental practices.
Marketing & New Patients
Practice management consultants generally have little marketing training or background.
Note: Cambridge'a consultants are Certified SEO and Ad Words Specialists
Dental Office Systems
Key systems dental consultants implement:
- New Patient Phone Call
- Insurance Processing
- New Patient Experience and Patient Education
- Financial Arrangements
- Unscheduled Treatment Followup
- Stat Monitoring
- Daily and Weekly Checklists
- General Policy Manual
You will not get much ROI from your dental consulting if your staff do not have your back. You do not beed a team of cheer leaders jumping up and down with enthusiasm, but you do need staff who are smart and take some pride and ownership in what they do. If there is more than the usual drama in your practice that needs to be sorted out before you will get any real results.
What gets monitored gets done.
The "big" obvious numbers are important to monitor, but when you look at them they are typically already "in the books". You want your team to concentrate and be accountable daily on the "small" stats that bring about the "big" stats. How many practice owners know how many calls were made to unscheduled patients each day or overdue re-care or inactive patients? Many dentists vastly underestimate how much daily "outflow" is needed to keep a schedule full. How may dentists know what % of slots were open in their hygiene schedule each day? How many know how many NP calls there were yesterday, who scheduled and if they end up showing up? More importantly how many staff know considering it's their job to do?
The only way to monitor what gets done is with daily stats especially for your weak areas. For example, one employee should be specifically responsible for calls to patients who are unscheduled, overdue re-care or need reactivation. Other staff can and should help in coordination with the accountable employee, but that employee accountable reports daily on a spreadsheet like this: 1. # of calls or personal texts sent 2. # of contact
3. # of appointments with name and date 4. # of arrivals
It is the employee who is either making themselves valuable to you or not. If they are doing so, dismissing them will never enter your mind. On the other hand, if they are not making themselves valuable, you will be doing them and yourself a favor by giving them the opportunity to find a practice or other employment that is a better fit for them.
What most practice owners are missing is not how to book an appointment but how to be effective leaders. The best systems in the world are useless if the staff do not comply. Good leaders know how to get staff to willingly follow through and comply. Agreement among all team members is key. Your written office policies should contain those agreements and should answer most questions staff come up with. Doing so will save you much time and simplify the management of your practice. Staff non compliance is a sure sign of poor leadership. The primary reason practices underperform is staff non compliance. Key traits of leaders. All it takes is discipline:
- Always keep a cool head especially when "under fire"
- Realize that all mistakes are an opportunity for you and your staff to learn.
- Set a good example.
- Always be learning.
- Take care of yourself.
- Fight the impulse to address multiple issue at the same time. Frantic activity creates spotty results.
Questions You Should Ask
- Do you and/or your staff have to travel or does the consultant come to you?
- Is the program mostly one on one consulting versus seminars or courses with multiple clients in attendance? There are advantages to both.
- If the dental consulting is one on one who will actually deliver the consulting? I recommend knowing who your specific dental consultant will be prior to signing on the dotted line.
- Is program based on a specific dental practice management system? You want to avoid cookie-cutter programs. Ensure the program will be tailor-made to fit your practice's specific needs.
- The cost (including travel expenses and downtime) is certainly not the only factor, everything else being equal, it is still a major factor to consider. It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little.
If you do a little homework it should be fairly easy to pick a reputable consultant that is a good fit for you and your practice.