When doctors ask us about the first thing they should do to market their practice, our stock response is to look within their own four walls first. Granted, all practices need new patients to sustain themselves and grow, but if the goal is to increase production (and not just the patient base), then few marketing activities can beat the ROI of a well-designed recare program. If you’re like most offices, you’re probably sitting on tens of thousands of dollars of potential revenue from overdue hygiene appointments – or even more when you consider that most treatments are performed after a recent maintenance visit.
So, if a good recall program is on top of your marketing list, what are the top ways to increase its effectiveness? Here are five that have worked very well for our customers:
- Preschedule your recare appointments. This may just be the easiest way to improve your recall compliance, yet we’re constantly surprised by how many offices don’t do this. This practice may take a little time to implement (training your front desk staff is really the only hurdle to speak of), but it will make an immediate impact by a) getting the patient to at least tentatively commit to doing the right thing, and b) making it easier for you to manage patients who are coming due for a recall by placing them in plain sight on your appointment book. Preappointing hygiene visits means that you must have a good way to remind people about these upcoming appointments, but fortunately there are quite a few options out there that will help you automate this process.
- Develop a set recall communication schedule to proactively reach out to patients whom you haven’t preappointed. The key to success here is timing and consistency. People may need to experience your message five to seven times to actually act on it, so don’t be surprised if a single recall postcard you send out a month before the patient is due for a recall doesn’t do the trick. For example, RevenueWell’s recall program allows an office to set up five different attempts for contacting the patient: starting four to six weeks before the recall date and continuing for a month or two after they’re due. Communicating to the patient repeatedly and varying the message with every attempt drastically increases the success rate for bringing the patient back into the chair.
- Vary the message medium. In addition to trying different messages, it always helps to get in front of patients using more than one message type. If you have been mostly sending direct mail recall postcards, consider adding other mediums, like email and SMS, into your communication mix. Being able to speak with your patients on their own level can go a long way in getting the response you’re looking for. For example, patients who tell you they like your eReminders text message appointment confirmations are great candidates to receive recare notifications using SMS as well.
- Make it easy for patients to take action. Whatever the medium you choose, don’t forget to tell your patients exactly what you want them to do. If it’s a printed postcard you’re sending, then prominently include your contact information and a call to action like “Our schedule is filling up fast. Call to make your appointment today!” If you’re sending an email communication, then the best strategy is to let them request the appointment online, on the spot, by including a link to your website or your patient communication system.
- Automate the above as much as you can. One of the biggest hindrances to running a successful recare program is the time commitment that it requires from everyone at the office. Planning and implementing a recare communication schedule is one thing. Keeping up with all the emails, postcards and text messages every day is quite another. Fortunately, technology is quickly catching up with this problem. Marketing automation software, like the RevenueWell suite, is capable of taking all your inputs, like the timing of your messages, the medium you want to use, and the actual message you want to send and doing the actual communication for you based on your patient’s recall date. By automating the low-level activities like printing postcards or typing up emails, you’ll be able to free up more of your time to proactively explain the value of maintenance visits to your patients, or to personally follow up with others who fall through the cracks of your recare program.