Reactivations: Practice Management’s Most Neglected Tool

Basically, your practice is a two cylinder engine: it runs on new business and repeat business. You should be consistently advertising and, as a result, getting new patients. Much of the time, this is all you need to do along with a strong recall system. However, if your scheduling book is not full enough, an immediate way of filling it is an effective reactivation campaign of calling past patients and getting them in for an appointment.

Almost every new denturist client we work with (about 150 in Canada to-date), one of the first things we do to increase production and income on an immediate basis is to start them on a reactivation program while we get them going on an advertising campaign.

Reactivation is like a tap

Regular advertising methods can take weeks before you start to see the result. The beauty of reactivations is that by making these calls, you can fill the book quickly. You can also stop doing reactivations when the book is full enough. Like a tap, you can turn the flow on and off at will.

If your scheduling book is already full and you have enough money coming in to keep you busy and happy, don’t bother reading further!

Activate yourself first

First you must decide to do a reactivation campaign. Sitting and thinking about it means less than perfect service to your patients, and it means less net income to you. These are two good reasons to push forward through any lethargy and get going.

Where to start

Most practices have anywhere from five to 35 (or more) years’ worth of patient files. These files are gold to you. If they have been to see you before and they liked the service, it has invariably been found to be easier to close them for more service than it is to close a new patient.

Start with patients who have not been back to see you for five or more years. A patient that you haven’t seen for that length of time will surely need new dentures or relines. A denture made of high quality material may last more than five years but in that same period, there have often been significant changes in the patient’s mouth due to medication changes, bone resorption, etc. And don’t forget, if you haven’t seen them in over five years, chances are that no one has peeked in their mouth for that same period. So, calling them in for an appointment is just caring about your patient and taking good care of them.

Round up time!

Your office will have files of some type for your patients, whether paper files or computer files, organized or not, and stored somewhere, someplace. We have known of files being stashed in unlikely places such as garages, basements, attics, washrooms, labs, etc. Dig them all out and dust them off. Often when practices go through the computerization process, not all the older files were entered. So dig those old ones out too.

Now go through the files and locate the ones for patients you have not seen for more than five years, whether it was for a repair, a reline or a denture. List out the name, address and phone number and date of last service and what the service was. The only ones that you should not put on the list are those you specifically never want to see again, or who have asked never to be called again.

Fee or free?

You must decide what, if anything, you are going to charge. On a reactivation, there is no problem with making it free of charge since the purpose is to get the patient back into the practice and give them the care they deserve to have — i.e., sell them a reline or a new denture. It is fine, however, to charge a recall fee under your fee guide.

Who should do the reactivation calls?

Usually, it is your receptionist who makes the calls. However, if you don’t have a receptionist to do this, you can make the calls yourself.

Know your client or customer

Before contacting a patient you should have their file in front of you and should have reviewed it so that you have some familiarity with it and can talk intelligently with the patient.

Client reactivation patter

1. You are calling from ___________(the practice name) and you are on a project to ensure that all the patient information is current and correct. Ask if they would mind giving you a couple of minutes of their time to help you do this.

2. Verify the patient’s address is the same as on file.

3. Ask the patient if they are experiencing any sort of difficulty or problem with their dentures and give them some examples i.e. gums sore, jaw sore, etc. (Note that often a patient who has a loose denture will not even realize it. The change in fit is a slow, gradual one. A few clients have told us that even when a patient sneezes and loses a denture, the patient will still tell them “they fit as snugly as the day they were put in.” Patient perception can be quite odd.)

4. Now you must educate the patient on why an appointment is valuable and don’t address it solely from the issue of whether the denture is loose:

? If they are not experiencing any problems, this is a good thing and the patient should be told so. Then tell the patient that: “we want to help you keep it that way, and the best way to accomplish this is to have regular check-ups.” Any problems can be caught early, both with regards to their oral health and the integrity of their denture.

? Be sure to mention that the denturist checks for oral cancer and additional specific pathologies. You can also mention any specific things that the denturist has detected with patients that he has seen.

? Let the patient know that medication changes and the aging process can make significant changes in their mouth. These all need to be checked to be sure that their dentures fit well and continue to do so.

? Tell the patient that _____________ (possible appointment time) is available for them to come in and ask if that would be good for them. If they say no, then ask when would be a good time and work it out.

? If the patient, refuses to book an appointment, then ask if it would be all right to send them out a brochure outlining the benefits of regular check-ups. Your association may already have appropriate brochures for recall, recare appointments. (For instance, the Denturist Association of Ontario has put out a beautiful series of brochures covering all possible patient topics.)

? Always assume that the patient will come in for a recall until they tell you differently and always keep your approach positive.

Setting targets

The way to get your receptionist (or yourself) doing the reactivations effectively is to set a quota of three booked appointments each day (as an example). Not “three calls out.” You want the result, not the “effort”. Providing a bonus for every one that shows up for their appointment can make the game more interesting.

What is the purpose?

Keep in mind that you are doing this for the patient’s benefit. If you always put ideal service first, the income will follow. Use your reactivations tap to regulate the flow.

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