In working with hundreds of dental practices over the years, I’ve discovered a common theme – each practice seems to have a group of patients that prove to be elusive when it comes to scheduling their outstanding treatment or overdue recall. The simple solution is to get each patient to book their next appointment upon leaving the office and then contact them prior to the appointment to confirm. But what about patients who refuse to book right away or book and then cancel their appointment later without rescheduling?
To solve this dilemma, ensuring that you retain these patients and deliver the treatment they require, let’s look at two practice management tools that you can leverage – dental software and automated patient communication.
One essential tool is your dental practice management software that, ideally, has a system to automatically:
- Assign contact dates for follow up with patients, based on their specific appointment interval, after they are billed a recall or scaling code
- Create predetermination contact dates for patients after a predetermination is sent
- Create a contact date for patients who cancel or miss an appointment
- Assign appointment contact dates for unscheduled treatment plans for each required appointment and allow manual adjustment/entry of contact dates
- Delete the appropriate contact(s) when the patient schedules to avoid booking duplicate appointments
Picture a virtual Rolodex with all of those contacts organized – patients requiring appointments for different reasons at specific times and intervals. Next, visualize a system that logically organizes those contacts and retrieves targeted groups based on specific selection criteria such as:
- Due date range
- Procedures required
- Outstanding predeterminations
- Cancellations and missed appointments
The following image shows such a system and how it manages a group of identified patients.
In the above example, ABELDent’s Contact Manager:
- Shows the list of patients that meet the selection criteria along with each contact’s date
- Displays the appointment profile for the selected patient
- Shows a financial summary and note profile – these boxes can be expanded for more detail
- Lists all contacts for the chosen patient and family members
- Displays future appointments booked to avoid duplication
- Keeps a record of previous patient contact for reference
- Immediately links to the appointment scheduler – once the appointment is booked, the contact is removed
There are even more benefits to using a tool such as the one above since it will allow you to:
- Book all family members that are due with one phone call
- View all relevant information from one screen before calling
- Update patient files based on their feedback
- Track phone call results for future reference
- Use one click for schedule access to book the appointment
- Send email/texts to patients not available by phone
Another increasingly popular tool to assist with boosting appointment booking and is automated patient communication.
With a keystroke, the software application sends individual “request for confirmation” and/or an “outstanding treatment notice” messages to the selected group of patients using each individual’s preferred communication method (text or email). Message recipients can then respond using their smart phone, notebook or computer and, in many cases, automatically update their e-calendars.
In fully-integrated systems, patient responses automatically update the appropriate data fields within the practice management software, for example, scheduled appointments would show as confirmed.
There is a tremendous time and cost savings opportunity when managing appointments using this technology and there is strong evidence of improved booking and appointment retention rates.
In summary, technology tools can greatly assist a dental practice with identifying and booking outstanding treatment and help the dental team fulfill production and profit goals. When staff can easily find patients that have outstanding treatment and use automated tools to remind those patients of the importance of their recommended treatment, it shows that you value their dental health and increases case acceptance.