Why are dental hygiene recall systems a lot like Brussels sprouts? Because as much as you want to avoid them, you can’t deny that they keep you healthy and strong. I wish that was a joke, but that’s exactly what recall does for your practice – keeps it healthy and strong. So how effective is your recall system?
Some Recall Numbers
According to a study by Practice Analytics, most dental practices average recall rates of only 60% to 70% (practices should be consistently hitting the 80% mark), and have over 200 overdue patients in their overall recall cycle. I recently came across a large practice that had 2000 “active” patients who had not been to the practice for over a year!
Big deal, you say, how much revenue am I going to miss out on because of a few missed hygiene appointments? Well, practice benchmarks suggest that 20% of exams result in the need for restorative treatment at an average of $500 per patient. In fact, about half of the adult population in the US will need at least one crown in their lifetime, with an average price tag of $750. Clearly, neglecting to optimize your recall system impacts far more than the profitability of your hygiene department.
There Is Hope
The good news is, implementing protocols to improve a practice’s recall system has shown to increase recall rates by more than 25%, while increasing patient retention by up to 15%, and improving incremental revenue by $4k to $5k per month. Even if you’re not a “numbers” person, this should be enough to convince you that effective recall needs to be a priority in your practice.
Because every practice has unique dynamics, it would be incorrect to present one magical cookie-cutter solution and claim that it will turn every practice into a recall champion. Nevertheless, there are some basic, yet fundamental steps that must be taken in order to have a chance at success.
Accountability, Consistency, Automation
Recall involves several activities that need to be repeated and followed up on regularly. The activities themselves are pretty straightforward (keeping a recall schedule, pre-booking appointments, following up), but who in your office is in charge of recall? If you can’t answer this question on a dime, then you need to make a change. There should be one (and only one) person in your office who is fully accountable for the entire recall process. That doesn’t mean they have to do it all, but that they are responsible for ensuring that it all gets done.
A successful recall strategy also requires the understanding that recall is a marathon, not a mad dash to fill some open slots during a slow month. As a patient, I care about my next hygiene appointment about as much as the international ice fishing championship. So if no one’s going to make it a point to be on top of me until I schedule my next appointment, it may never happen. But polite consistency and persistence will pay off, and eventually I, along with all of your elusive plaque-loving patients, will come back.
In order to help your office staff handle the daily grind of the recall marathon, some tools have recently been developed that make recall easier and more effective. You can now automate the entire recall reminder process by sending out timely email, text and voice messages to remind patients about their upcoming recall date.
Instead of long list of recall phone calls, patients can be contacted in the way they prefer (60% prefer text messaging over any other method of communication), and can respond by making an actual appointment. This will ensure all recall patients are communicated, and your staff focuses their time only on those patients who haven’t already scheduled appointments. One such tool is Patient Communicator, a system that not only sends out these reminders, but enables patients to click on a link in the message and book an appointment online, 24/7.
So take the recall challenge. Put someone in charge, stay consistent, and make it more efficient with automated messaging. You can even try out Patient Communicator completely free for 30 days with absolutely no obligation. Keep it up and your practice will end up like my brother, who actually ate his Brussel sprouts: Healthy and strong.
Have you introduced an innovative strategy into your practice that has improved recall results?
Improving Patient Recall Increases Practice Profitability, Practice Analytics, 2014
Creating a recall system protocol, Richard Kaiserin, 2011
The Untapped Power of Your Recall System, Tawana Coleman Aesthetic Dentistry, 2015
Does Your Recall System Scream “Unprofessional”? Sally McKenzie, 2012
Patient Communicator is a state-of-the-art system especially designed for health care practitioners. A win-win system for both your patients and your practice, its sophisticated features make no-shows a thing of the past. At the same time, they make it easier for patients to book appointments online, and for providers to build stronger relationships with their patients, increase revenues, and grow their practice.