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 they became inactive! As more and more people are not receiving regular dental care, it’s more important than ever to retain connection and relationship with every single patient. Usually there IS a reason that a patient becomes inactive, so 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, and it is given to the patient before they leave your office.
- Make every effort to schedule treatment before the patient leaves the office. Money can be a major hurdle for patients to get the care they need, so have some options available for the patient – without being “the bank”.
- 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 to 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.
- Always know the next step for each patient, whether is a dental “checkup” or other treatment, as well as what is the next appropriate ay to contact them if they are not scheduled.
A. 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. Some offices utilize a hygiene coordinator, so it may be that person in your office who has that responsibility.
– If dental treatment is needed and was diagnosed during a dental checkup, it is the hygienist’s responsibility (or hygiene/treatment coordinator) to contact that patient in two weeks by phone if the patient has not scheduled by then. 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. Further contacts often come across as “cold-calling” or just caring about filling a schedule.
-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 above.
B. For patients who have not been seen in a year, follow a “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. Patients rarely return after one year’s absence unless they develop pain or perceive they have a problem. Efforts to reactivate patients to your practice rarely will have good results.
There are several software programs and services that integrate with practice management software, and these can help you practice stay in touch with your patients. Be careful about too many text messages and emails, as that can be a serious turn-off for the patient. There’s nothing like the human touch, as it is essential to a strong relationship with your practice, so a thoughtful phone call can be very helpful to understanding questions, concerns, obstacles, and more.