There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ideas out there for filling the holes in your dental practice schedule. Here are just a few:
- Call 24 (36, 48, 72, etc.) hours in advance to confirm appointments
- Charge a fee for no-showing
- Free massages
- Fresh-baked bread
- Texting unscheduled patients
- Gift cards for keeping appointments
- Schedule today, enter to win a free (Sonicare, microwave, t-shirt, etc.)
- Lifetime whitening
- A new Tesla!
Okay, maybe that last one is a bit much, but you get the idea. Practice owners and office managers are ALWAYS dealing with this challenge — every single day. We recently asked an office manager what a perfect day would look like in the practice. Guess what she said? “Every patient would show up on time. Every available appointment would be filled. My team and I wouldn’t have to scramble to fill cancelled or no-show appointments. Each patient would say ‘yes’ to the treatment presented to them. They would all reschedule before they walk out the door…and, they would all pay their balance before they leave the practice.”
Sounds too good to be true, right? Maybe not.
When asked how they measure success, many practice owners, office managers, and other team members responsible for filling the schedule have given the same response: No holes in the schedule. This is good. This is a worthy goal. Certainly, having every available spot on the schedule filled with a patient receiving treatment is something to aspire to.
But there’s an incredible untapped opportunity here that you might be overlooking.
For several years now, Dental Intelligence has regularly received calls from customers asking us for help with some variation of the following:
- “We’re trying to find all of our patients that are covered by XYZ Insurance. Can you help us?”
- “Is there any way to ONLY see the patients we’ve presented crowns to in the last three months?”
- “We want to print out a report showing us every patient we’ve presented over $500 in treatment to in the last six months who still have insurance dollars available. Is that possible?”
These are fantastic questions. Really — this is powerful. Think for a minute about what these practices are asking for. They don’t just want to fill those holes in the schedule (again, not a bad thing to want to do). They want to find the right kind of patients. Is there such a thing? Are some patients “better” than other patients? (Hint: Yes!) And if so, how do we find them? Is it possible to enter a few keywords into your practice management software (i.e. Eaglesoft, Open Dental, Dentrix, etc.) and instantly find exactly what kind of patient(s) you are looking for? (Sadly, no.)
This type of advanced filtering requires powerful software, and a solution dedicated to helping you improve patient care, team collaboration, and practice profitability. It requires a growth mindset shared by a practice team trying to grow. Dental Intelligence Patient Finder is the solution built for this very type of problem. Thousands of practices are now using the Patient Finder to find the patients and treatment cases that are most significant for their patients and practice.
It All Starts With Your Huddle
Every morning, your practice team should be gathering for a few minutes to review three items:
- What happened yesterday
- What’s happening today
- What’s happening tomorrow
This is also the best opportunity to celebrate successes and to collaborate as a team on ways to improve. Not surprisingly, it is also an optimal moment for you to discover those holes in the schedule and to talk together about how best to fill them. This is where the Patient Finder shines.
Before the huddle begins, an office manager or someone she assigns can build a custom search based on the priorities important to the practice owner and team. Let’s say, for example, that the dentist really likes doing crowns. In just minutes, the assigned team member can locate all of the crowns presented but not accepted (further filtering those with any additional criteria, if desired) and print out that list. Then, during the huddle, these names can be discussed and assigned to someone for a follow-up call.
What can happen when you use your huddle to focus on finding the right opportunities? Here are two recent examples:
Dr. Chad Perry’s team was consistently reappointing only 50-60% of their hygiene patients for their appointment. Dr. Perry was surprised to see this number was so low, and he set out to change it. Each morning during their huddle, his team would discuss hygiene re-appointment and look for opportunities to get unscheduled patients back on the schedule.
After only one week of doing this, their hygiene reappointment percentage jumped from 60% to 97%! Since then, they have averaged 80% hygiene reappointment, something they had only dreamed of before. If you scratch beneath the surface here, you’ll discover several keys that made this incredible improvement possible:
- The practice owner paid attention to an area of concern that was important to him.
- His team used their huddle to look at specific numbers and talked about them daily.
- They then used data (i.e. Patient Finder) to find opportunities to reschedule patients without a current hygiene appointment.
- They didn’t stop once they saw improvement – they kept focusing on this metric, every day.
- They celebrated!
Another example happened in one of CarolinasDentist’s six offices in North Carolina. During their morning huddle, they noticed several openings that had occurred that morning from patient cancellations the night before. Rather than simply printing out a list of all patients with unscheduled treatment, they instead identified treatment that had been presented but not accepted by patients coming in that day.
Here’s how Gabrielle, team leader at CarolinasDentist, described what happened:
Our huddle yesterday was a home run! We had a hygienist who was doing a right side SRP, and by using the Dental Intelligence mobile app, she was able to easily see the patient also needed a filling on the right side. We were able to speak to the patient as soon as they walked into their appointment and add that production to the schedule!! The best part is how appreciative the patient was for only needing to get numb one time!
There is remarkable power unleashed when an entire team focuses on a single objective. Instead of just meeting together each morning to talk about the schedule, consider super-charging this time to identify ways to schedule and/or reschedule the patients most important to your practice.
We were recently visiting a dental practice in the Seattle area for some training and had the following conversation with Dr. Kari Mann, the practice owner:
Dental Intelligence: So, what is your favorite procedure?
Dr. Mann: I really enjoy doing crowns.
Dental Intelligence: Great! How many crowns are you doing per week on average?
Dr. Mann: Maybe 6 or 7?
Dental Intelligence: How many are you diagnosing each week?
Dr. Mann: Not sure. Maybe twice that number or more?
Dental Intelligence: How many patients have you diagnosed since the beginning of this year that haven’t yet received the crown you presented?
Dr. Mann: I’m not sure, but I’d love to know what that number is.
Dental Intelligence: Let’s go check your Patient Finder and see.
Dr. Mann had around 1,600 active patients. We filtered to show all the patients that had ever had crowns presented but not completed and found that she had presented crowns to 126 of those patients. We then asked the office manager how she would handle such a large list. She wasn’t sure, which was understandable. So, we then filtered to exclude the lowest paying insurance, which only eliminated 14 patients. The list was still too large. So, we then tried filtering to only include patients that still had insurance dollars AND didn’t owe a balance. The list got smaller. Our last suggestion was to filter by their favorite insurance companies. 28 names remained. Within a day of printing out this list, eight of those patients had a scheduled appointment to receive the crown they had been diagnosed with but hadn’t accepted when originally presented.
Having a powerful filtering system like Patient Finder allows a practice to quickly identify the most meaningful patients for their practice. This is significant. Not all practices are the same, of course, and not all dentists want to provide the same types of dental care. Using something like Patient Finder enables each practice to find the type of dentistry and patient that matters most to the provider, using search criteria that they define.
Another example of this happened recently as we used Patient Finder to help a practice reschedule over $106,000 in just four weeks of phone calls from someone on our team, working part-time. You read that right. In four weeks, an average of $25,000 was added back to the schedule as we used Patient Finder to identify and contact patients with presented treatment but without a currently scheduled appointment. That’s the potential power of using this remarkable solution.
Treating the Right Patients
Dentists have many reasons for why they chose to practice dentistry. In a recent ADA survey, a large sample of dentists were asked about some of the factors that influenced their overall job satisfaction. These influencers were then grouped into several categories, including income and benefits, hours and scheduling, work-life balance, and clinical autonomy, among others. Influencers that had a significant impact on job satisfaction under the heading of “Clinical Autonomy” included the following:
- “Level of control in your work environment,” and
- “I am able to practice dentistry the way I want to.”
These are the guiding principles behind the development of Patient Finder.
According to Dental Intelligence founder and former CEO Weston Lunsford, “Our motivation for creating Patient Finder was simple. We had countless requests from dentists and practice team leaders to help them identify specific types and groups of patients needing treatment who were ‘invisible’ to them, meaning they were difficult or impossible to find within their practice management software. We designed Patient Finder to allow dental practices to quickly and efficiently build custom patient lists using multiple criteria important to them. Patient Finder empowers dentists to do more and better dentistry.”
At this moment, which of all your current active patients are most in need of treatment? Although unique to each practice, you would likely respond that patients who currently have some decay, cracked or broken teeth, etc. are the ones you’re most concerned about. If this is true, what is your current method for identifying and scheduling them for treatment? If you’re anything like most of the wonderful dentists we work with, your answer might be something like “We print out the lists of all these patients and try to make contact with them.” That’s great news!
Does this approach allow you to customize your list by criteria important to you and to these patients? Does your printed-list (or equivalent) system enable you to prioritize which patients should be contacted, and in which order, based on the type of dentistry you most want to provide? Also, how long does it take for you to generate such a list, and how inclusive is the data you are drawing from?
Here’s the great news: You are already working hard, every day, to try and get as many of these patients as possible back onto the schedule. Doesn’t it make sense to use a tool that can significantly reduce the amount of time you spend doing so? And wouldn’t you also want to ensure that you are capturing every possible search criterion when identifying the patients most in need of care?
Patient Finder is changing the way that thousands of practices practice dentistry. Before now, it was literally impossible to do an efficient AND comprehensive search of your practice management software for the patients and procedures you were interested in. But now, you can absolutely do so, quickly and easily.
We encourage dental practices to expand their vision of what is possible in their ongoing efforts to fill their schedule. With the “big data” tools and insights now at your fingertips, merely printing out a list of all unscheduled patients and slowly working your way through such a list is no longer adequate. With the help of Patient Finder, you can know more about and provide better care to every single one of your patients. Where should you begin?
Dental Intelligence recommends the following “best-practices” for moving this idea from “we should do this” to “we’re doing this” – all you need to get started is a pen or pencil and a pad of paper:
- Determine a procedure or procedures you most like to do.
- List search criteria that will help you refine your list, such as a specific time-frame, a high and low amount (i.e. more than $500, less than $1,000), ADA code or codes, insurance providers, etc. Remember, this is your Include or exclude whatever you want. Be prepared to have some fun as you watch your lists come to life.
- Enter these criteria into your Patient Finder and watch the magic happen.
- Once you have a manageable list, assign a team member to members to make those calls and schedule some of that unscheduled production back onto the schedule.
- Review, revise, repeat…
- Most importantly, celebrate! Reward your team! Throw a party!
Patient Finder was built to change lives – yours and your patients. If you haven’t put it to work yet, we invite you to do so. It may not make your smile any whiter, but it will certainly make it bigger.