Fall has arrived, and along with it, the scheduling lull that we have been forecasting and acting upon over the past few months. While many offices have worked hard and closed the post-Covid scheduling gap, this challenge is still a top priority for a lot of practices around the country.
As we are now fully realizing the cyclical effects of the Covid closures, we must be mindful and look forward, recognizing that a lack of stable, consistent action today will lead to this scheduling lull cycling yet again six months down the line. We have watched as our most successful practices have avoided the scheduling gap, and we want to share those tips with you.
Breaking The Cycle
Over the past months, we’ve focused on concrete countermeasures and scheduling policies for reopening. While these strategies are still valid and can help you continue to fill your schedule, now is the time to shift back to some basics. What many teams are realizing is how important it is to have a consistent, strong hygiene recare and reactivation system in place. In the past, this system might have been used only as a short call list for intermittent schedule openings. This sort of inconsistency will not break the cycle that we now find ourselves in. Now is the time to change this!
Below are the ACT Dental Coaching team’s top tips to get this critical system up and running in your office today.
Utilization of your practice management or date tracking software is vital in establishing a reliable recare system. Assign a priority owner to work on the following lists/reports throughout the month, as they are the cornerstone of this system. Creating a simple checklist showing how to access these reports is the first step to get things rolling. Remember that reaching out to only those patients who are currently due in the office is not enough; you must also reactivate patients who have fallen through the cracks. We suggest working through one list each week of the month.
- Current Recall patients and due in the following month
- 30 days past due recall patients
- 60 days past due recall patients
- 90 days past due recall patients
As you make these contacts, have a simple list of items to be checked before contacting each patient. Here are some suggestions:
- Does this patient already have an appointment scheduled for something? If it’s a recall appointment, is the timeframe current/correct? If it’s a restorative patient, let’s try to see them for hygiene that same day.
- What do the current contact and chart notes say?
- What information can I learn about the last communication with this patient?
- Does this patient have family members who could also be scheduled?
- Do they owe us money?
As the priority owner begins to work through the lists, make thorough notes to document progress, and share it with the team. Begin by reporting daily at the huddle, and as you get comfortable with the system, you may switch to reporting weekly at a team meeting. Remember, what gets tracked improves; what gets tracked and reported upon improves exponentially! Here are some suggestions:
- Total number of names on the current report
- Total number of calls made
- Total number of patients reached/left a message, etc.
- Total number of patients scheduled
- Total number of names removed or inactivated for x,y,z, reasons
While one individual should be the primary owner of this critical priority, this is all hands on deck. At the huddle, make sure the owner calls out who on the team stepped up to help to invite more teamwork.
Get your finalized system written up and documented after the process has been in action for a few weeks.
Don’t Forget To Re-Appoint!
Another essential step in preventing a possible wave of openings six months down the road is making every attempt to schedule patients for their next appointment before leaving your office. Keeping patients on the schedule is always easier than tracking them down to get them back in the schedule. Set a goal to pre-appoint each patient before they walk out your door, and always make this a priority!
Communication and Value Matters
A key point to remember is that your recare system’s effectiveness relies not only on scheduling and follow up, yet also on the value, and at this critical time, the safety that you both communicate and build into the care that you provide for your patients. Be prepared to answer any questions patients have about not only their oral health and your treatment recommendations but also about the additional steps you are taking to ensure everyone’s safety at this time.
We are in the thick of it now, and this is not the time to give up or throw in the towel. If you don’t continue to do the hard work of making this scheduling lull a priority in the office, the cycle of covid openings will resurface another six months down the road in April, May, and June of 2021. Changing what happened in the past is not an option, yet the past need not continue to dictate your future success! Get this critical system up and running today, and see those schedule lulls disappear.