I have talked a lot over the years about the importance of patients being complete every time they leave your practice – complete with payment arrangements and complete for the next appointment. But what about when the patient is, for example, someone who travels a lot and simply can’t make even a tentative commitment for a hygiene appointment six months out? What about the patient who was ready to pay but forgot their wallet or checkbook and asks for a walk-out statement? What do you do to make sure these special cases don’t fall through the cracks?
Rather than stick a reminder on a Post-It note or to-do list, or enter it into the patient’s record for “next time,” I suggest you create an extra “phantom operatory” column in your schedule, where you enter, day by day, all the things that require follow-up.
The person who needs a phone call to remind them they haven’t booked their next appointment? Book an appointment in that column for making that call. In other words, make an appointment to appoint. The same goes for the person who forgot their wallet or the patient who is going to a specialist for further treatment and requires a follow-up – it goes into the extra column, appointed for attention at a specific time and date.
The benefits of this approach are obvious. Dental practices are busy places that live and die by the schedule. So if you want to make sure that something stays on your radar, the best thing to do is to put it in that schedule where it will show up on the daysheet and demand attention.
This is a good “dashboard indicator” approach to keeping on top of things. It’s also a good indicator in another way, because if it turns out that your extra column is getting clogged with follow-up reminders, that itself is a reminder that there have probably been some slip-ups in diligence along the way, and that it may be time to re-visit appointing protocols, for instance. The important thing is, that with this method, you always know at glance where you stand with outstanding patient issues.
(Click here for more practice management articles by Imtiaz Manji.)