There are many, many ways that patients become inactive in any dental practice … too many to list here. And, sometimes you’ll never know why! However, usually there IS a reason, so it’s important to stay in touch with every patient to understand on an individual basis on what’s going on with him or her.
What can you do to reduce the possibility of a patient becoming inactive? Too many practices focus on “getting new patients” rather than retaining patients.
See how these suggestions might fit into your practice:
- Pre-schedule patients for their next dental checkup.
- Make sure no patient leaves the practice after an appointment with unanswered questions about treatment. If necessary, get the doctor back into the room to make sure the questions are answered. There is no time like the present to make sure you’ve done everything possible to help that patient.
- Make sure every patient has written treatment plan and treatment estimate, if treatment is needed.
- Make every effort to schedule treatment before the patient leaves the office.
- If a patient is unable to schedule treatment (either dental treatment or a dental checkup), tell the patient you will contact them in two weeks – then make a written note so that you do it.
- Make sure you have correct address, email address, and phone numbers every time a patient comes to your office.
- Develop a protocol of who is in charge of contacting patients and for what reasons.
- If a dental checkup is not pre-scheduled, it is the hygienist’s responsibility to contact that patient a month in advance of when they are “due”. If not scheduled then, contact again in two weeks.
- If dental treatment is needed and was diagnosed during a dental checkup, it is the hygienist’s responsibility to contact that patient in two weeks by phone if the patient has not scheduled. If the patient does not schedule, a letter signed by the doctor should go to that patient two weeks later expressing concern about unfinished treatment. If the patient has not scheduled during the next two weeks, one final call should be made expressing concern. After that, leave the patient alone, but make every effort to see that they are scheduled for their next dental checkup.
- If dental treatment is diagnosed while the patient is being seen in a doctor’s treatment room, then that assistant is responsible for following up with the patient as in “b.” above.
- For patients who have not been seen in a year, follow the “inactive patient reactivation” protocol. Do this on a monthly basis so names do not pile up. The longer a patient is out of touch with your practice, the less likelihood they will return.
Develop your own protocols based on your particular practice and follow them, modifying them as time moves along so that you are responsive to the changing economy, dental industry, and more.