Follow-up. We know how critical the correct follow-up can be in a dental practice. It can make or break treatment case acceptance. It can make or break a new patient scheduling. It can make or break the positive reviews you want your patients to go out and spread to the world. Lets face it…. It can make or break you.
To ensure that nothing falls in between the cracks, great systems need to be in place for follow-up. Along with the systems, we need to know who is doing what, and by when.
You come in to the office on Monday morning, after being closed on Friday with no phone coverage, to an answering machine full of cancellations, messages and reschedule requests. Although it may seem a bit archaic, phone logs are really a must in every practice. Record who called, when, what they needed and if follow up/appointment scheduled is complete. This log can also be used as another avenue for short calls.
Think about it. Lets say a patient leaves a message that tells you they are cancelling their appointment and they will call back to reschedule. Or that they are sick and can’t make it and they will call back. Is there a note made? Is there a tickler system for follow up so this patient doesn’t get lost? Writing it down on this log can seriously help with follow up. I know I never let a patient get away with telling me they will call me back to reschedule – I mark the note box on the appointment scheduler two weeks out to give them a call.
How about the patients who have just been presented a treatment plan, but offer up the age old “Um, I need to go home and talk to my husband/wife and I’ll let you know”. NOT. I mark the note box on the appointment scheduler for 5 business days out, then give them a call. I begin these calls with introducing myself and say I am following up from their visit with us a few days ago and am wondering what other questions they might have for me? If they say NONE – I say “Wonderful! How well does next Tuesday at 8 am work with your schedule to begin your care?” This will be the make or break part – You’ll find out if they are ready, if finances are an obstacle or if they are fearful – and opens up a great window of opportunity for you to help the patient overcome their obstacles and get the care they need.
Post op calls. Anyone who receives anesthesia or intense care – a new patient who was fearful – a child’s first visit who was traumatized – anyone who left your practice that day who didn’t leave skipping might warrant a post op call. A call from the dr. is always best, but even if the dr is not available, the hygienist, assistant, and/or front desk person making the call is better than noone! I have even seen where they hygienist makes the post op calls for all scaling/root planings that they have seen that day. A kind, caring, warm, compassionate phone call asking how well the patient is getting along after their visit today goes a very long way! (PS – I always recorded the patients response to this call in their chart as well)
Have a patient who is a chronic no-show/late cancel? These patient accounts should be flagged and follow-up done to ensure they are going to keep their reserved time. (Finding these appointments before hand is crucial – this is where book review comes in!!) Follow-up when you see it guarantees you will meet it!
Simple requests from patients can get lost in the every day madness that consumes a dental practice. It is so important to write these requests down on the phone call log and mark the tickler system. Be sure to follow through with each request in a timely manner, ensuring we are not only meeting the patients needs, but exceeding their expectations by delivering the highest quality of patient care, response time and building reliability status.
Delivering the WOW factor in something that seems so simple as follow up will increase your patient trust, loyalty and referrals.
Initiate a follow up protocol for your practice. Who is going to do what, by when and how?
I look at it this way. If your team members are asking each other about patients all the time “Hey when was so&so in, did they call back?” “Did Mrs. Smith schedule for her appt yet?” etc – you get the picture – something is missing. Or if patients are calling and saying “Yeah I have been waiting for a phone call to let me know how much my insurance will pay” Having a patient phone back to follow up on their own request hurts.
There should be appropriate notes made in every single patient chart so someone walking in off the street could give you their current history – including what their next appointments are, why they haven’t scheduled and when is someone going to follow up with them. See – follow-up and notes go hand in hand!
Follow-up friends. You’ll be so glad you did – and it will make a positive impact on production/scheduling and collections. Promise.