The Impact of Hygiene Reactivation

smiling women brushing her teeth

Practice Analytics sees patient retention over a two year period ranging from 70 to 80 percent, aligning with other industry standards.  Due to the decline of new patients, dental practices can no longer afford to lose patients like they may have been in the past. It is impossible to maintain a 100 percent patient retention rate since people move away or pass away, practices lose the majority of their patients due to not trying hard enough to retain them. Due to the recent “Great Recession,” many patients stopped scheduling dental appointments due to the potential financial strain they would place on already overextended budgets. Even patients with dental insurance still need to cover copays for most treatments, leading many to postpone dental services until absolutely necessary.

In many practices, patients who have failed to visit within the last 18 months are considered inactive. Unfortunately, many practices consider these patients lost without ever trying to implement a reactivation protocol designed to bring them back.

Reactivation analysis shows that approximately 35 to 40 percent of patients that have not visited a dental office in the last 9 to 24 months are likely to make and keep a dental hygiene appointment when they are contacted directly. If a practice contacts 50 patients formerly considered inactive and schedules 15 to 20 hygiene appointments at an average hygiene productivity of $150, their hygiene reactivation efforts could produce an improvement in production of $3,000.

Once patients have reentered the Production Cycle, the next step typically following a hygiene appointment, especially for patients who have not received regular dental care, is restorative work. Restorative rates run on average at 20 percent. With an average restorative productivity of $500 per patient, the impact offered by improved reactivation on restorative work amounts to another $1,000 to $2,000 in increased production.

Improving Hygiene Reactivation

No one in a dental office still using paper charts or basic patient tracking software considers undertaking an effort to mine charts or hard to read reports to identify inactive patients fun. Busy front office staff already have their hands full dealing with calls, other staff members and patient interactions. It is highly unlikely staff will find the time needed to develop an efficient reactivation system under these conditions. Fortunately, Practice Analytics’ practice management software makes it easy to identify inactive patients with just a few clicks of the mouse.

In real-time, Practice Analytics identifies patients in need of reactivation. An office’s reactivation protocol can go into effect immediately. The most effective reactivation protocols feature several tiers when attempting to reconnect with inactive patients that include:

Start with a phone call. When calls are made during typical work hours, front office staff can expect to leave plenty of voice mails. To ensure consistency, a script should be written that touches on a few key points. The patient should be warmly greeted by name and told how long it has been since his or her last dental appointment. The staff member should then offer a choice of available dates or to find another time that better fits into the patient’s schedule. Patients should then be instructed to schedule their next appointment by calling the office. It’s important to slowly provide the number for the office and repeat it so the patient has plenty of time to write it down. The script should be read with sincerity to avoid sounding monotonous or unenthusiastic to increase patient engagement.

An example of this type of script would be:

Greetings, Ms. Smith, I hope you are well. I’m calling from Local Dental Practice and Dr. Johnson is concerned how far overdue you are for a hygiene appointment and oral cancer prevention screening. It’s has been over 14 months since we’ve last seen you. We have an available appointment for you on the 10th at 11 a.m. or on the 18th at 2 p.m. Which is more convenient for you? Please give us a call at ###-###-#### to let us know or we can find another time that fits your schedule. Again, that’s ###-###-####. Thanks and we look forward to seeing you soon.

If you don’t receive a response after two weeks, send a postcard. As with the phone call reminder, the postcard should feature a warm greeting, while also reminding the patient how long it has been since his last appointment. Make sure to include a contact number or website address where the patient can schedule an appointment on the postcard.

Finally, if the postcard and phone call fail to connect, send a letter on office stationery. Even though the information in the letter mirrors what was included in the phone call and postcard, the formal quality of a personalized letter on office stationery can help to add an additional level of importance to the patient. Also provide a deadline in the letter where if the patient doesn’t make contact, she’ll be considered to have sought dental care elsewhere. This type of deadline doesn’t terminate the patient relationship, but does seek to add immediacy to the patient reactivation.

Having 90 to 95 percent of available patients activated and scheduled would mean a dramatic improvement for any practice’s production and revenue. Reactivating patients is an important first step towards that goal, and practices that invest the time and effort to implement an effective hygiene reactivation protocol are the most successful at maximizing that potential production.