In a recent blog post: Click here, I defined the 20 Metrics we track on a monthly basis at LifeSmiles Dental Care. We’ve had many questions and comments about these metrics, so I’ll provide more details here and in upcoming posts. Let’s start with % of unfilled hygiene appointments.
Many years ago, Dr. Omer Reed taught me that a strong hygiene department often equates to a strong practice. I have experienced this to be true! More patients in hygiene mean more opportunities to diagnose care or move patients toward treatment acceptance. Of course, regular hygiene visits also help patients have better oral health since we can be proactive with minor treatment recommendations before they become major issues. Strong hygiene department = strong practice = healthier patients. All good!
The way we compute our % of unfilled hygiene appointments is to count all the filled hygiene appointments for the month then divide this number by the total number of available hygiene appointments for the month. Our goal is 8% or fewer unfilled hygiene appointments. In the past we have struggled with an unacceptable % of unfilled hygiene appointments. However, we responded and modified our hygiene recare system and are now seeing excellent results. Last month, our % of unfilled hygiene appointments was 3%! Here’s what we have done.
Before getting into tactical solutions to filling hygiene, it’s important to address a fundamental issue. At the core level, people cancel or no-show for their hygiene appointments because they don’t value them. Any solutions geared toward helping you increase your filled hygiene % must begin with building value; namely, helping your patients understand that regular hygiene visits are an important part of their overall health. Let me encourage you and your team to spend some time and discuss how you can build value (I feel another blog post coming on here, stay tuned!).
Now, lets’ address tactical solutions to keeping your hygiene appointments filled. Consider these solutions:
- Assign one team member to be your Hygiene Scheduling Coordinator
This team member may have other responsibilities, but by making this person your ‘Hygiene Scheduling Champion’ you will be creating the accountability necessary for success.
- Don’t pre-appoint all hygiene patients
I know, sounds like heresy doesn’t it? However, after owning a practice I discovered that pre-appointing all (or even most) patients was a concept that sounded good in theory, but fails in real life! Some people are just not organized enough to keep a hygiene appointment three, four or six months in the future. We now make an effort to pre-appoint as many patients as possible, but we don’t force it. We then manage the approx. 20-30% of our patients who do not pre-appoint with an effective recare system. These 20-30% of our patients can be successfully managed when presented appointments a week or two in advance.
- Use a service to email and text confirmations
We use Patient Activator by 1-800-DENTIST in my practice with excellent results! This app allows us to spend less time confirming and allows us to focus on confirming those patients that require more attention. Which leads me to the next point.
- Set up a system to confirm ‘at risk’ patients
By ‘at risk’ I am referring to patients who are at risk of not showing up. You know who they are. You always have. We have a buttoned down system for these patients. We print out the hygiene schedule every Monday morning for the following week (7-10 days in advance). We highlight any patient who we deem at risk of not showing up. Karle (our Hygiene Scheduling Champion) starts confirming these people now (again, 7-10 days in advance!). If the patient confirms, then Karle makes another reminder call the day before their appt. These patients need the reminder. If the patient cancels or reschedules, then Karle has enough advance notice to fill those appointments.
Let me encourage you to start tracking your % of unfilled hygiene appointments. 8% or fewer is the goal. The data never lies! You will quickly see how you are doing against this benchmark. Consider the tactical solutions offered in this blog post to keep your hygiene schedule filled, but also work tirelessly on helping your patients understand the benefits of keeping regularly scheduled hygiene appointments. Here’s to your success. Keep Smiling!