There are literally dozens of reasons patients are unable to schedule an appointment for their treatment the same day that they were diagnosed, but they definitely understand that they need the work done.
So how do you follow up with them to ensure they get their work done? Here are 3 steps to ensure all dentistry that is diagnosed gets on your schedule:
When a patient says they can’t schedule now, make an agreement with them when YOU will contact them. Offer no more than one week from today. If they need longer, they will tell you, but get a date that they will commit to.
For offices that are computer savvy, create a reminder in your computer on the schedule, that you need to follow up with this patient on the agreed upon date. Most practice management systems have a “note” section on the schedule or an extra column in the day that you can add these notes to. Be sure to look at this EVERY day and contact the patients on the day you agreed to.
If you don’t feel comfortable using the computer system, create a 3-ring binder with 1-31 divider tabs. You can use either a copy of their treatment plan or their route slip, and file this document on the day that you agreed you would follow up with them. For example, if today is February 1st, and we agreed that I would follow up in one week, I would file the treatment plan on the 8th. Then, each day, at the morning huddle, pull out any plans that need to be followed up on.
If you don’t reach the patient and need to leave a message, do so, and say that you are following up as agreed upon, ask them to call you back and then refile the document one more week in advance.
When calling patients, do your research first. Review the dentistry that has been recognized and be sure that you know WHY the work is to be done. This is key in your conversation with them. Simply saying “Dr. Wonderful recommending you have a crown done on tooth #3” is much less impactful than “remember when Dr. Wonderful found that crack on the front of the last tooth on your upper right, that one that was bothering you? You need to get that scheduled before it starts to hurt you even more.” Make this call personal to their situation and show the urgency for getting this scheduled now versus later.
Make only 2 or 3 outbound calls to patients, then you have to let it go. Any more contact after that becomes inappropriate. You may choose to send a letter to these patients stating that you have tried to contact them without success, and ask that they call the office when they are ready to get the work done. Another great idea is to send a copy of a photo of the tooth in question along with this letter.
There is a wonderful article written by Linda Drevenstedt, RDH, MS and Jennifer McDonald in Dental economics about key phone and interpersonal skills for treatment coordinators. The article offers more sample scripts for making powerful phone calls.
It is understandable that not everyone can make appointments immediately while they are in your office, life is complicated! But having a systematic approach to following up on all treatment recommended in your office will ensure that your patients are receiving the recommended work they need.