Uncertainty is all around us, and it appears to be here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. So, when the world was shutting down, causing practices to furlough staff and reduce operational costs to conserve cash, we at RecallMax™ took a different approach to weathering the storm.
We believe the recovery of missed COVID-19 appointments, along with the quick restoration of recall procedures, is a critical factor in the overall recovery of dental offices. We have pivoted our efforts over the last 60 days to support practices, groups, and DSOs towards a single focus – maximizing the scheduling of patients once bans are lifted.
Even before COVID-19, overdue hygiene and recall appointments sitting in practice charts were significant. Industry analytics confirm that at any given time, solo practices have thousands of patients that are due and late for appointments, multi practitioner or small group practices have tens of thousands and mid-market to large groups, and DSOs have hundreds of thousands of patients who can return for regular hygiene appointments, on any given day!
Compounded by the fact that practices have been closed for a month or two and perhaps another month to go, the number of patients who have missed or canceled appointments and become more overdue has grown significantly.
More now than ever, there needs to be an emphasis placed on a recovery plan. Over the past 60 days, RecallMax™ has proceeded with product enhancements to help practices and groups recovery swiftly from the damage caused by this unforeseeable event. And although tools like our “Virtual Waiting Room” and “COVID-19 Missed Appointment Lists” are critical pieces to recovery, we realized that product enhancement wasn’t the only solution.
In response to a growing concern that practices would need additional resources and support, our team carefully created a “3 Step Recovery Action Plan” accompanied by instructional resources. These will give practices and groups a step-by-step plan for recovery paired with a best-in-class recall management and patient communication platform.
To assist with COVID-19 recovery, we’ve made feature enhancements in three areas:
- We’ve made enhancements to capture missed COVID-19 hygiene and restorative appointments, making it easier for offices to identify and reschedule these patients once bans are lifted.
- RecallMax™ will provide automated lists of missed COVID-19 appointments along with personalized email and text messaging options practices can use to re-schedule these patients.
- We’ve made several modifications to enhance COVID-19 related messaging to patients. Once bans are lifted, patients will need to be reassured related to their safety and care, and provided with essential post-COVID-19 appointment information.
- We’ve made it easy to modify automated messages to update patients regarding post-COVID-19 health and procedure information.
- We are providing practices with instant access to automated call scripts and other COVID-19 communication guidelines. These will assist staff to properly inform patients when scheduling or confirming appointments and address COVID-19 related questions and concerns.
- In addition, our announcement feature can be used to keep patients engaged during shutdowns and provide essential health and appointment information once bans are lifted. With our “Enterprise Announcement Feature” – a single source announcement can be created and sent across networks of group or DSO practices with ease.
- Our final enhancement addresses an area that we thought could become a problem once bans are lifted. Practices may find themselves in a position where they have trouble rescheduling patients that have missed hygiene and recall appointments due to upcoming pre-appointed patients filling their schedules.
- This, combined with cutbacks in schedules that could occur due to the implementation of health guidelines, could result in backlogs of patients needing appointments, which would be challenging to stay on top of.
- In response, we have enhanced our short notice list features to capture and automatically notify missed COVID-19 appointment patients of openings. This will help practices to quickly fill schedules and find appointments for patients that may have difficulty getting back in.
Our recovery action plan consists of three steps that starts with our view of what practices “can be doing,” while service bans are still in place. These are followed by guidelines and recommendations practices can follow once bans are lifted to maximize the scheduling of patients.
Step 1 – is about staying connected to your patients while bans are in place, which is an essential part of an overall recovery. This involves:
- Letting patients know you are available to them:
- Responding to patient questions and concerns
- Keeping patients informed and updated as their service provider
- Practices can do this through practice-wide announcements, newsletters, social media channels, and websites.
- In addition to keeping patients engaged, this serves to reassure patients in uncertain times and builds trust in your expertise and commitment as their care provider.
Step 2 – is about preparing your practice and your patients to recommence with treatment once bans are lifted. Several components:
- Once bans are lifted – practices will need to sort out their post-COVID-19 clinic, scheduling, and appointment protocols based upon the health guidelines defined by dental governing bodies and health authorities. This will impact treatment delivery and schedules in very specific ways, so it’s important to get these clearly defined in advance.
- Once protocols are defined, we recommend practices define their scheduling and confirmation communication guidelines in advance and that teams prepare themselves to properly schedule and confirm patients through the use of carefully crafted call scripts. The clearer and more confident team members are in informing patients regarding safety measures and appointment procedures, the more reassured patients will become.
- Once that is all sorted out, the next step in the process is to announce your return. In addition to welcoming your patients back, you want to reassure your patients related to their safety and care and provide them with essential health and appointment procedure information.
- You also want to ensure that pertinent appointment information is added to automated confirmation or reminder messages sent to patients before re-activating them.
Step 3 – The final step is about getting your patients scheduled as quickly as possible and minimizing the possibility of patients falling victim to attrition. You can do this by focusing on specific scheduling priorities. We recommend that practices focus on the following priorities;
- First – confirm upcoming appointments that are still existing in schedules – every effort should be made to maintain these appointments, so you are not creating more disruption to your schedule and patient recall cycles.
- Next – focus on the rescheduling of missed COVID-19 hygiene and restorative appointments. These patients are more likely to reschedule, and it’s important to get in touch with these patients ASAP. Be sure to use short notice lists to capture patients you may have difficulty finding appointments for.
- Then – focus on reactivating the follow-up and scheduling of overdue and unscheduled hygiene and recall patients. Overdue patients are a proven source of filling hygiene schedules and, with the proper attention, can accelerate the recovery of any practice.
We believe these scheduling priorities can make a significant difference for dental practices in recovering from the crisis and picking up momentum post-COVID-19.
One of the most critical things practices can do to recover from the crisis is to engage your patient base. While automation plays its role and RecallMax™ has tools to leverage, no practice, group, or DSO can underestimate the value of direct patient engagement and a solid action plan!
Written by Josh Muir, Director DSO and Special Markets, RecallMax™
Email Josh at: [email protected]
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