Dental Consultant Advice: Patient Retention
The first step. If the patient cannot schedule, for example, because the patient needs to review finances with their spouse, whoever did the consult needs to get the patient’s agreement to follow up with a call the next day if at all possible. Get a specific time and the phone number the patient can be reached at.
In the situation where the patient needs to talk to a spouse but, after doing so, the patient still does not schedule, suggest to the patient that the spouse come in so that the treatment plan can be explained and why the sooner the patient does the treatment, the better. Caring, honest urgency needs to be communicated.
FURTHER FOLLOW UP
The second step. Create an alert in your practice management system (PMS) to follow up again by phone ten days after the patient was presented treatment. Google “Dentrix alert call patient” or “Open Dental alert call patient” (or whichever PMS you use) for instructions and tips on setting up alerts. Example from Dentrix: Making Your Patient Alerts More Effective.
The third step. If the patient still has not scheduled set up alerts to follow up with at least three phone calls over a period of six months from when patient was presented treatment or use a service such as RevenueWell to continue the follow up.
After six months, if the patient still has not scheduled, they go onto your reactivation protocol which should be done every 3-4 months.
- Askthe patient if you can be of assistance. For example, you can offer financing options whether in house or through a dental finance company.
- Many patients are just afraid of doing treatment. If so, the best thing you can do for them is to offset that fear with what can happen if they do not move forward as the condition will not improve on its’ own.
- When speaking with patients always be specific as to which tooth (teeth) you are referring to as that focuses the patient’s attention on the problem.
- If you know from their history what time they prefer to come in, offer to schedule them at a time that is convenient for them.
- You can also send them an email to remind them by SHOWING them the cavity, etc.
- Always use the name of the doctor who did the exam when communicating with patients i.e.“Dr. Smith wanted me to call….”.
Patients with a history of cancels or no shows should not be prescheduled. Instead let such patients know you understand many patients have unpredictable schedules so as a service to them you will call or text in four months to schedule. Set an alert or put the patient on your short call list.
Schedule all other patients and inform that they will be receiving:
- a) A reminder postcard four weeks prior to their appointment.
- b) A text to confirm two weeks prior.
- c) A call two days before to reconfirm.
Make sure patients understand, due to everyone’s busy schedules, you confirm as above as a service to patients but, you may have to give up their slot if you do not get a “hard confirm” from them at two weeks or two days as your hygienist’s time is too valuable to be idle for an hour. If patient’s ask you to modify how you confirm them, that’s OK but, make sure you note and create an alert(s) in your PMS. For example some patients may want a phone call or email at two weeks; not a text.
Note: You want to be effective but, do not be too rote. For example, you would never inform long term, reliable patients that their slot might be given up if they’ve never missed an appointment. Use judgement when communicating with patients.
If the patient can't schedule ask, let them know you will call or text them in four months to schedule. Set up an alert. If you don’t get the patient scheduled when you reach out in four months, set up an alert for three months out and if needed at two months out and one month out.
Call patients the day they are overdue. Always use the name of the patient’s hygienist. “Heather wanted me to call….”.
If you cannot get hold of the patient, set alerts and follow up with at least three phone calls over a period of six months or use a service such as RevenueWell to continue the follow up.
After six months, unscheduled re-care patients go onto your reactivation protocol which should be done every 3-4 months.
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There is the good, the bad and the ugly of dental practice management, but many dentists will still tell you the probability is your dental consulting will work if you and your consultant are on the same page. It stands to reason that if a dental consultant had little value, worth or benefit that consultant could not stand up to harsh economic realities for long. A veteran dental consultant is also a "personal coach" who shold bring management wisdom based on "in the trenches" experience along with systems and protocols to that have been successfully implemented in other practices. Top dental consultants talk and network with each other. They pay attention to what systems work and don't across many dental practices.
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What gets monitored, gets managed. It is as simple as that. 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 for re-care or need reactivation. Other staff can and should help in coordination with the accountable employee.
What most practice owners are lack in knowledge is not how to book an appointment, but rather how to be an effective leader. 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.
Questions To 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.
Top Dental Practice Mangement Consultant
My name is Kevin Tighe. Consultant. Coach. Mentor.
My mission is to advise, recommend and help implement proven systems to grow your practice .
Before joining the Cambridge team I was in charge of setting up workshops for large nonprofits throughout the United States and Canada. During that time, I was fortunate to receive mentoring from several world-class business consultants, including a dental practice management guru, which led to a position at Cambridge as their seminar organizer. In time, I began crisscrossing the country delivering seminars myself for the better part of a decade. Subsequently, I moved up to senior consultant and eventually partner and now sole owner.
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