So you’re working on educating your patients on the benefits of visiting you regularly. And you’ve encouraged and educated them to book their next appointment before they leave your practice.
How best to recall the patients who remain resistant to this process?
This was a subject which cropped up at our recent gathering of Practice Managers and therefore one which is clearly worth covering further here.
So here are my top five points for you to consider and resolve:
1. Who should recall patients?
Above all, make this someone who appreciates to the value of recalls to your dental business. Someone who will therefore commit to systematically completing your letter / email / phone / text recalls. Someone who is willing to diligently test and measure changes to the recall system to maximise your recall results.
If your recall system includes making calls, you need someone with the phone skills and confidence necessary. Someone who naturally bonds with patients and enjoys speaking to them. Give this person the guidance you want to, in the form of the bare bones of a ‘script’ to follow to make sure they can cover all the points you want to get across. Then let them make it their own so it becomes natural to them. This is your best chance of making the process effective.
2. How should you recall patients?
The discussion with the practice managers we got together showed that there is no holy grail to be found here. It is simply about testing and measuring what works best for your patient base in terms of the use of emails, phone calls, letters and even texts.
You can of course discuss the issue with patients and ask them how they would like to be recalled.
It can be argued that texts are not the best tool for recalls due to the difficulty in getting across the value and benefits of attending regularly. However, a text with a call back link can prove fruitful in getting patients to respond immediately on receipt of their text.
A few practices I have come across don’t wait to make their calls on a monthly basis. Instead they run an ongoing ‘follow up list’. This involves gaining permission to make a call to any patient leaving the practice without booking in, say, 7 or 10 days. This is quite an upfront approach but does ‘keep the ball in your court’.
3. When should you recall patients?
Allow me to make one point here.
If you continue to recall your patients at the end of the month before they are due, and do so by letter, email or text which relies on them contacting you back, you may end up booking them into the following month.
For instance, imagine you conduct your recalls for November at the end of October. Your patient may in fact take a few weeks to call you back, say mid November. Depending on how busy your diary is, you could end up making their appointment in December.
This ‘slippage’ sees patients gradually moving back in your appointment book and therefore attending less often over a period of time.
So you need to strike a balance: recall your patients early enough to give the best chance of being able to fit them in the month they are due, and not so early they disregard your communication.
4. How often should you recall patients?
It’s important you don’t let patients fall down the ‘recall hole’. I urge you to try more than once to recall them if the first contact doesn’t do the trick.
It’s also important you don’t keep investing time on patients who won’t recall and know when to stop.
So put in place a three-point contact system to get them in the month they are due. And then conduct a periodic ‘housekeeping’ exercise to ‘mop up’ the really resistant patients, letting them know you will presume they are with another practice if you don’t hear from them.
5. What recall measurements should you monitor?
They gauge the appetite and willingness of your patients to keep visiting you, so your exam recall rate and hygiene recall rates are two of the most important measures for your dental business.
But once you get a positive percentage of your patients booking in advance, they don’t give you the whole picture.
So make sure you also keep track of the underlying figures which make up your recall rate. Is the amount of patients you are having to recall going down? You can compare like-for-like periods. For instance, if the average for your patients is a six monthly check up, compare figures for the same group of patients each six months.
If you have specific questions or comments about the patient recall process, be sure to leave them in the box below. I’ll reply as soon as possible.
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