Keeping on top of your continuing care system can help to maintain steady production for the entire office.
Recall appointments provide a steady stream of revenue in most dental practices. Not only are specific recall procedures performed during these appointments, but when these appointments are combined with a six-month examination with the doctor, that’s typically when other, necessary treatment is diagnosed.
Because the recall visit can be the source of a lot of the office’s production, it’s important to make sure patients are actually coming in for those visits. To keep both your hygiene and the doctor’s schedules full, here are some tips for maintaining a productive recall system:
Scheduling the Next Visit
Schedule the patient’s next continuing care appointment while you have them in the hygiene chair. I’ve found this to be most effective when it happens since the hygienist sets appointments complete in the operatory. It’s quick and easy to answer “Yes” when the message appears in Dentrix asking if you want to create a new continuing care appointment. By pre-scheduling as many patients as possible, you’ll have fewer patients fall through the cracks and become overdue for their hygiene visits.
Adjusting Continuing Care Intervals
If patients are on a more frequent recall interval for their prophy (for example, every three or four months) be sure to adjust that interval in Dentrix. This is also most often done by the hygienist, since they are typically the provider who determines how often the patient should be seen for a prophy. If the continuing care interval is set correctly, when the hygienist schedules the next appointment, Dentrix will jump to the appropriate month and date in the Appointment Book. Also, if patients don’t schedule their next appointments, they will show up on continuing care reports with accurate due dates.
Maintaining Continuing Care
If a practice doesn’t have a system for maintaining continuing care, it’s something that can easily get out of control and become overwhelming. I suggest you have a team member (a hygiene coordinator, a hygienist, or administrative team member) who is responsible for working on the continuing care list every week. Have them work on one continuing care view each week. How you set up your continuing care views will vary based on your practice.
For example, one week the hygiene coordinator could contact patients who are due this month for a prophy, but don’t have an appointment. Or if your office is booked out a month, one week the hygiene coordinator could contact patients who are due next month, but don’t have an appointment. By working one continuing care view a week, the task is being done regularly allowing time for the team member to perform other job duties.
If you are contacting patients by phone, be sure to log all communications in the Office Journal, so everyone in the office can see a record of the conversation with the patient. A great time-saver for your team, is to use Patient Engage, which will send re-care reminders automatically. This is also a convenience for patients because they can receive reminders by text and email. They can also book their own appointments, saving your team even more time.
Cleaning Up Continuing Care Lists
Sometimes when I’m working with an office, I see patients in Dentrix who were due for a prophy several years ago. Chances are that these patients aren’t coming back to the office, and they are cluttering the overdue continuing care list. Have a system for keeping your continuing care lists up to date. For example, contact past due patients three times to remind them they’re overdue for their prophy. If you don’t hear anything back from them, send them a letter, like the Inactive Continuing Care letter found under Letters & Custom Lists in the Dentrix Office Manager.
If you don’t hear anything back from them at that point, clear their continuing care. They can always return to your office in the future, but they won’t continue to clutter your overdue continuing care list.
Recall appointments are so important for practices, not only to maintain production for the hygiene department, but also to provide production for doctors who diagnose further treatment during those continuing care visits. Keeping on top of the continuing care system in your office can maintain steady production for the entire office.
For more information, read the following:
- Individualizing Continuing Care Intervals for Patients
- Accessing the Continuing Care List
- Continuing Care List View Options
- 5 Ways to Improve Your Recall Patient Satisfaction
- Clearing a Continuing Care Type from a Patient
By Charlotte Skaggs
Certified Dentrix Trainer and The Dentrix Office Manager columnist
Charlotte Skaggs is the founder of Vector Dental Consulting LLC, a practice management firm focused on taking offices to the next level. Charlotte co-owned and managed a successful dental practice with her husband for 17 years. She has a unique approach to consulting based on the perspective of a practice owner. Charlotte has been using Dentrix for over 20 years and is a certified Dentrix trainer. Contact Charlotte at email@example.com.