Improving Patient Recall Increases Dental Practice Profitability

dental practice

Having an effective recall system in place is one of the primary concerns of running a dental practice today. Offices can employ a variety of recall systems, and most existing practice management software handles recall differently. However, any recall system works only as well as the people responsible for its management.

Most dental practices average between 60 to 70 percent hygiene recall rates, which is typically lower than most dentists assume because they don’t have a sufficient way to track their practice’s true recall numbers. When used by hygienists and staff, Practice Analytics’ dental practice management software creates a 15 to a 30-point improvement in recall rates by utilizing improved patient tracking and appointment systems.

Of course, improving patient recall takes more than just having an efficient system that allows for improved scheduling, it requires staff to work at pre-appointing a patient’s next hygiene appointment.  Practice Analytics tracks patients who fall out of their regular hygiene schedule for each hygienist.  Tying patients to providers helps create a sense of ownership and patient accountability for the hygienist.

Patient Messaging and Recall Systems Improve Retention

An active pre-appointing system offers increased production and creates a better recall system that will help improve the efficiency of any dental practice. Practices that make a commitment to correctly pre-appointing patients and actively tracking those patients see benefits in production and chair utilization.

Practice data shows a 10 to 15 percent increase in patient retention tied directly to improvements in a practice’s recall program. By ensuring that 25 to 30 more patients per month stay on their appointment schedules, a practice could enjoy a $4,000 to $5,000 improvement in incremental production (based on average hygiene productivity of $175 per patient).

Retaining an additional 25 to 30 patients a month in the hygiene recall program also has a direct impact on a practice’s restorative production. Practice benchmarks suggest that 20 percent of exams result in the need for restorative treatment averaging $500 per patient. Restorative production from improved recall would then potentially create an incremental increase of $2,000 to $3,000 in production per month.

When Pre-Appointment Fails

When pre-appointment fails to schedule a patient’s next appointment, a series of inefficient and time-wasting events are set into motion in an attempt to recapture the missed recall opportunity.

After six months, a staff member gets the daunting task of running down these missing patients in order to schedule their next appointment. While necessary, most office managers have little love for this task, as it offers little reward for a lot of effort. Before a patient call can even be made, research must be completed to determine if an existing balance is due, what type of appointment the patient’s insurance allows, does the patient needs x-rays, when was the last hygiene appointment and how long should this next appointment last? Then the staff members need to call all phone numbers listed on file and leave a message at each one.

In most cases, only one in 20 calls actually connect with the patient and result in a scheduled appointment. An effective recall system requires staff to actually get into touch with patients, not simply hope that a message is eventually returned. Unfortunately, statistics show that the best times for actually reaching a patient on the phone are between the hours of 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., well after the close of business for most practices. This just highlights how much more efficient pre-appointments are to the recall process and the value of using reappointment software when scheduling patients.

Recall and patient retention rates rank as some of the most vital systems a practice can integrate into its operation. The key to running a successful recall program is to make the running of the program a routine task. It’s incredibly easy for patients to fall through scheduling cracks and for the resulting revenue of those patient visits to be lost. While most patients don’t bother to keep up with when to schedule their next continuing care appointment, almost all treatment results from recall appointments. This is why it’s crucial to ensure a solid recall system is in place.