Use advanced patient contacting to get ahead

February 18, 2016|Kendall Butler

When traveling from practice to practice, I rarely see a recall system I am impressed with. Even when offices are using text messaging and email contacting, that area is still underserved, considering its importance to the vitality and overall health of a practice.

Generally, I hear the same thing: “We send a postcard to all unscheduled recalls four (or six) weeks prior to when they are due for an appointment.” Admittedly, six weeks is the better choice as it allows more time for the patient to reach out, but what happens if those patients do not respond? The answers vary. Sometimes it is utter silence, but generally I hear something to the effect of, “Once a year when the doctor goes on vacation, one of us will make some calls.” I was the “one of us” for too many years to admit, and I must say that I would rather have scrubbed the Op floors with a toothbrush than take on that job! Patient calls rarely happen and certainly not to the extent that dentists believe they do.

In our industry, we go after new patients like a drowning man seeks a life preserver, yet once we have them, we pay little attention. Vast sums of money are spent marketing to entice those new diamonds to the practice: advertising by radio, newspaper, internet and even television. Direct mailing can cost at least $20,000—and usually more in populated areas—and firms are asking for a commitment of more than one running! All this money and effort, when if we had simply reached out to existing patients by mail once a quarter or made a few calls one or two evenings a month, we could have seen a marked improvement.

Consider the many ways we can contact and touch base with patients in this day and age. Each exposure allows us the opportunity to book an appointment. If not that, it tells the patient that they are important and that we are thinking of them. How can that ever be a bad thing? (I suppose I should preface that with, please do not mail a practice newsletter every month! There are better and more creative ways to contact patients.)

Consider announcing a new service you are offering or a new piece of equipment you are excited about. We assume patients know all the services we offer and have seen the state-of-the-art equipment we have. Patients are always impressed with technology in this era of ever expanding possibilities. I still hear patients impressed with intra-oral cameras and they have been around for 15 years or more! Every time I hear that, it reminds me just how underused cameras are.

Contact your patients more than once a year with a postcard or a call and you need never worry about driving massive percentages of the population to your door as new patients to survive. They will just be there because of the extraordinary relationships you have created simply by staying in touch.

For ideas on how to connect with your patients effectively, contact Kendall Butler or any member of the Dental Advisory Group at Schenck at 800-236-2246.


Kendall Butler is a dental practice efficiency specialist with more than 25 years of experience in health care. She works with doctors, practice managers, hygiene teams and support staff to identify ways to enhance practice efficiency and profitability.