Are your patients treating dental hygiene appointments as if they don't matter? Whether due to busy schedules, simple forgetfulness, or financial and insurance concerns, it's becoming more common for patients to stretch out the time between their dental hygiene visits. Patients who need to come in more frequently than once every six months, for example, may be reluctant to maintain that dental hygiene schedule if their insurance only pays for two hygiene visits per year. In fact, in a study last year, just 17 percent of dentists reported that most of their active patients get hygiene treatments every six months.
How can you improve dental hygiene recall in your practice? These 5 pointers will help.
1. Educate your patients about the importance of dental hygiene. Explain that regular hygiene appointments are critical to maintaining dental health. Make sure patients understand all the elements involved in a dental hygiene appointment — it's not just "teeth cleaning."
2. Explain the long-term financial benefits of maintaining a regular dental hygiene schedule. If you have patients for whom money is a concern, it can help to remind them that paying for regular cleanings can save money in the long run by preventing more costly procedures such as fillings, crowns or root canals.
3. Encourage patients to make their next hygiene appointment as soon the current appointment is over. If you let the patient walk out with a promise to call and set up an appointment "later," you increase the chances that this will never happen. Instead, develop scripts for your front desk staff to use that will convince patients to make their appointment now.
4. Send appointment reminders and confirm appointments in advance. When patients make dental hygiene appointments months in advance, it's essential to give them plenty of notice as the appointment approaches. With Lighthouse 360, your patients get automatic reminders about their upcoming appointments. You can remind patients via email, text message, or automated phone calls — whichever method they prefer. Confirmation replies go directly to your practice’s PMS, so your front desk staff doesn't have to manually update the schedule.
5. Stay on top of confirmations. Sometimes, patients don't reply to hygiene appointment reminders, even when you've contacted them several times. Lighthouse 360 provides a follow-up list of patients who haven't responded, so your front desk employees can text or call those patients right from the list to get an answer. You'll also be notified if a patient doesn't receive one of your messages, and can see a history of all communications with your patients, including texts and emails.
6. Use social media and email marketing to drive home the importance of regular dental hygiene appointments. Share statistics, articles or videos about the value of professional dental hygiene with your practice’s social media followers. (Create your own content, or link to useful content from other sources.) You can also include this type of information in email newsletters that you send to your patients. Lighthouse 360 makes it easy to share content on social media and design attractive email newsletters to target to specific patient groups.