Successful Ways to Contact Lapsed Patients

When you review your outstanding patient list do you see name after name of patients and wonder why they aren’t in the schedule and why they never respond to the messages that you have been left for them?

You first need to appreciate that industry norm for hygiene retention is 80%. This would mean that if you have 1200 patients in your practice, you will see 100 patients every month for hygiene and recall exams (this doesn’t include patients in for scaling only appointments). In reality, you will likely only see 80 of those patients each month for hygiene exams and recall appointments. This is not making excuses; this is being realistic about your metrics.

Although, in many offices you will find that the 80% retention rate for hygiene appointments is far less. Your team members may have made numerous attempts at contacting patients, yet they don’t seem to have any response.

Here are some ways that you can switch up the approach to change the results of patient contact:

  1. The administrator making the call may need a change of mindset, if they are feeling frustrated with their results and that they just keep hearing the same excuses then that frustration will come across in their communication with patients. If the administrator feels bored with making these contacts, then their boredom will shine through in their voice. Having an objective person listen to voice tone (maybe even recording it) and provide feedback may help make a difference.
  • You may want to look at the frequency of how often your patients are being contacted. If they have never scheduled their appointment, then you will want to connect with them two to three weeks before they are due and then every three weeks after that point. All attempts at contacting the patients should be marked in the software as well as the method being used to contact the patient. If your patient has cancelled an upcoming appointment, then depending on the reason for their cancellation you will want to connect with them approximately two weeks after their cancellation. Ensure that the reason that they cancelled has been entered into the notes as well so that the reason can be referred to the next time that the patient is contacted. This will show the patients that you were listening to them.
  • Look at the methods you are using for connecting with patients. Sending emails and texts are very convenient for the team and will work well with some patients. For many patients though an electronic message can very easily be ignored or even deleted so it becomes a passive method of contacting patients. The best method is to mix up all contact methods with the patients. Use rotating contacting methods between email, phone, and texts. Also mix up the times of day that you connect with patients. If you know someone’s schedule, try contacting them when you would most likely get a response by whatever method you are using.
  • This may be a bit of an uncomfortable solution for some people yet role- play among team members is very successful when experimenting with verbiage for connecting with the patients. If you use a script then the patient can likely repeat the message back to you if they have heard the same message over and over again. Give your team some freedom to change up the message as well as giving them some parameters around the verbiage that is appropriate for your practice. Practicing as a group can sometimes come up with some good solutions that weren’t considered previously.
  • Let the patient know that you have tried contacting them several times in a polite way.   “Hi Adrian, this is Sarah calling from your dental office, your last hygiene appointment was more than six months ago, I am sure you didn’t realize it has been that long. We have had trouble reaching you, can you please let us know what the best method and time of day is that we can connect with you.” You don’t need to state the obvious that you want them to book, you have said that in previous messages.

Keeping your lapsed patients in your schedule will decrease open time and solve other problems as well. A crack in one system will lead to cracks in other systems. If you are interested in more details about these solutions feel free to connect with me.

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