Do you know that a practice has to spend up to five times the amount of money to attract a new patient than to retain an existing patient? So if your marketing is solely focused on attracting new patients, you are not utilizing your capital effectively while leaving money on the table by not retaining your existing patients.
Getting more business out of your existing patients is not only cheaper, but it is also easier—if you have the right tools and the right strategy. Tools are plenty, we provide one ourselves—tab32. What you need is a good patient recall strategy. And, how do you create a great recall strategy? That is what we discuss in this article.
Why is Patient Recall Important for your Practice?
You may not realize it, but every missed appointment affects your practice’s revenue by $125 on average, which adds up to multiple thousands of dollars per year.
Patient recall strategies are the heartbeat of your practice, and mastering the art is essential to growing your revenue and for your patient’s oral health. Here are the five best strategies you can use to maximize patient recall.
Make Them Like You
People like to do business with the people they like. The way you make a patient feel from the moment they walk into your practice will determine whether they will ever come to your practice for further treatment. Little things that you might not consider important, play a role in increasing your likability in your patient’s mind. Here are some tips to make your patients like you.
- A big warm smile with a greeting by your receptionist or office manager creates a lasting impression.
- Make your patient comfortable in the waiting area by asking if they’d like a glass of water, or a cup of tea or coffee.
- Provide your patients with some reading material while they’re waiting.
- During the treatment, make your patient’s comfort the top priority–make sure they are not in pain.
- Walk along with your patient to the front desk to book the next appointment according to your patient’s feasibility.
- A little gratitude towards the patient also goes a long way.
Pre-schedule Patient Appointments
Pre-scheduling the next dental visit of your patient is the easiest, but often neglected aspect seen in many dental practices.
Pre-scheduling helps your patient know well in advance of their next appointment for treatment or follow-up. As for your practice, you have a tentative future appointment booked.
For receiving the benefit of pre-scheduling, it can be a good idea for you to explain to your patient the oral and overall health positives they will receive in the long term by maintaining these bi-annual appointments. Also, explain what the patient should expect during these appointments. This helps in building trust within them thereby increasing the chances of your patient walking sticking to their appointment in the future.
Develop a Patient Reminder Strategy and System
Many dentists think that it is the duty of the patient to remember their next appointment. But that’s not true. Their busy schedules may prevent them from remembering their next appointment. Therefore, you should develop a solid reminder strategy to remind them of their pre-scheduled appointment.
The key to the success of this strategy is timing and consistency. It is estimated that only 20% of dental patients revert to the first recall message to confirm their next appointment. That is why it is important to touch base with your patients multiple times, and through multiple channels.
Most patients require 7 to 10 reminders before they will keep their next appointment. Your recall strategy should start approximately 4-6 weeks before the appointment date and continue for a couple of months in case the patient misses their appointment. Make sure that the last reminder is at least 24 hours before their scheduled appointment, which gives them enough time to adjust their next day’s schedule accordingly.
Remember, different patients will prefer different channels of communication, and often, different types of communication. Some patients will just need to be reminded of their next appointment, while you might have to communicate the importance of the treatment to others. Here are some simple reminder strategies that you can implement.
- Phone call reminders are good for elderly patients who aren’t up-to-date with technology. This can either be done by you, your staff or a hired patient coordinator.
- The open rate on SMS’s is higher than email. Use that to your advantage.
- Postcard reminders are great for patients, especially the elderly group. Make sure to call your patients after a week of posting a postcard as a reminder.
- Personalized emails celebrating milestones such as birthdays, anniversaries should be sent alongside appointment reminders.
- If you create any educational content (blog posts, webinars, video sessions), make sure to send it to your patients with their reminders.
- If a patient constantly misses their appointments, you can send them education material related to their treatment, which can increase the chances of them following up with their treatment.
As your practice grows, it will become difficult to manage patient recall manually. In these situations, automation helps. Investing in a good cloud dental software will help you in implementing and automating your recall strategy.
Automate Follow-ups with Patients Who Don’t Have an Appointment Scheduled
Ideally, you should encourage your patients to book their next appointment before they leave your clinic but not all patients do so. To avoid losing these patients forever, you need to have a different recall strategy in place as simple reminders aren’t helpful.
You should send them easy to use links to schedule their own appointments through your website or dental practice management software. Don’t forget to have a system in place to follow up with the patients who did not schedule their appointments even with direct scheduling links.
Your cloud dental software will be of great help in automating this strategy as well as it will give you a list of patients who did not schedule their appointments using the link. For such patients, it will be worthwhile to follow up with them on a personal level.
If you are a tab32 customer, you will have complete control over the recall strategy for each of your patient segments—patients with upcoming appointments, patients with no upcoming appointment, and patients who had an appointment but did not show up. To be more specific, you will be able to customize how, when, and how often should your patients be reminded about their treatments and upcoming appointments.
For example, patients who have an upcoming appointment can be reminded 7, 5, 3 or even a day before the actual date of appointment. Similarly, for patients who do not have an appointment will be reminded through automated messages about the same. For patients who have undergone incomplete treatment, you can send them emails and messages to book an appointment for completing their treatments.
Develop a Strategy for Activating Inactive Patients
Inactive patients are those who haven’t visited your practice for a significant amount of time. Usually, it is standard to mark patients as inactive if they haven’t responded to follow ups in over 3 months. Therefore, you should use a different recall strategy for these patients.
It is recommended that inactive patients should be contacted every 3 months. You can start with automated messaging via SMS or email, and also try personalized cards to get their attention. Phone calls can also work well, but use it only with your high-value patients to be efficient with your time.
In today’s world, people have a short-term memory. The saying goes well “out of sight is out of mind”, which means failing to be in touch with your existing patients increases the likability of they forgetting about you and not returning to your practice for further treatments or follow-up appointments. This is why it is essential you develop genuine and long-lasting communications with your existing patients. Make use of these strategies for patient recall until you find the ones that will reap benefits to your practice.