Reactivation is a Daily Necessity for Cash Flow
By: Melinda Wilhelm, VP of Regional Manager Operations
Dental Office Managers often tell me that they don’t have time to follow-up with unscheduled patients, yet much emphasis is placed on attracting new patients. A patient that has already experienced your practice yet has not scheduled a follow-up appointment is much easier to attract back to the practice than someone who has never been in as a patient.
Contacting unscheduled patients to make appointments has shown to improve practice collection revenue by 20 to 30%.
Patients often equate lack of interest from the provider as lack of importance to the services they provide.
Reactivation is to be performed daily from unscheduled treatment lists, past due recall lists and other tickler file lists. A goal of 10 phone calls a day to contact the patient or to leave a message that says the following: “Hi, this is____from Dr.___dental office. We have missed you and I am calling to schedule a convenient time for you to return for your care. We are here Monday through Thursday from 8:00 to 5:00 or you can email us at ____ for an appointment request. We look forward to hearing from you soon. Our phone number is__________.”
Research has shown that people who are dissatisfied with the services of a dental practice seldom voice the reason. When a patient does not want to schedule in your practice or is now a patient in another practice it is important to ask why they left your practice.
The script would be as follows: “Hello, Mrs. Brown? This is Alice from Dr. Smile’s dental office and I am calling to invite you to schedule for your past due professional cleaning and examination. I have Wednesday, July 10th at 2:00 available, would that work for you?”
If the patient says that they are not interested or have chosen another dentist the following response is recommended. “I am sorry to hear that Mrs. Brown. We strive to improve our patient care. May I ask the reason that you are not returning to our practice, it will be kept confidential.”
Write the reason in the patient’s chart note area and record on a separate spreadsheet to quantify the reasons patients have left the practice to be used to improve practice systems prior to marketing.
The next response would be, “If I can correct this issue for you, would you return to our practice?
When dentists are asked what is desired most for their practices, the number one answer is more new patients. Advertising campaigns and marketing strategies can be expensive and unsuccessful if the expectations of the target market are not matched to the services of the dental practice. If the patient’s experience with the dental practice does not satisfy their customer service expectations, you will lose the patient.
A complete chart audit (paper charts) or computer generated reports to determine how many active patients you have and how many open treatment plans exist is recommended before embarking on a marketing strategy. The definition of an active patient is one who has had dental services in your practice (other than transient care) from today to one year backwards. For reactivation purposes it is recommended to contact patients 2 to 3 years back because many patients suffer from “wait till it breaks” syndrome or just don’t call if you don’t remind them to.
If the patient is in recall or scheduled for follow-up care then you know acceptance of your practice is current. If the audit reveals patients who have not returned for recall and or have unscheduled treatment, a plan to reactivate is necessary. If you are using patient management systems such as Demandforce or RevenueWell then you can use these programs to send out surveys and reminders to contact the practice for an appointment. If patients do not respond to automated prompting, pick up the phone and call them.
If the reasons patients leave your practice are not corrected there will be more of the same in the future. Save money and audit patient records before your new marketing strategy.
A recent story told to me was from a patient who had decided that his dentist of 12 years was overcharging and decided to visit another dentist down the street who had advertised a special deal. The new dentist was late in seating him and the business staff did not have his insurance information so were not able to give him an estimate. They said they would email the treatment plan to him. He decided to return to his former dentist because they were far more prepared. Money was no longer the obstacle. Good customer service and having the information patients need to make a decision equal good dental care. The two can not be separated as far as patients are concerned.
eAssist Helpful News and Billing Tips; Edition #114