Monitor the hygiene numbers

Monitoring customer/client numbers puts you in charge of the schedule and establishes business controls that build your practice

Annette Ashley Linder, BS, RDH

Many practices struggle with a hygiene schedule that is out of control. There are either too many patients and no place for them in the appointment book or not enough patients to fill the schedule. The hygiene schedule is erratic and sometimes productive. All too often, though, it is not productive.

Patient retention is the foundation for every healthy practice. In dentistry, it is about repeat customers. Monitoring customer /client numbers puts you in charge of the schedule and establishes business controls that build your practice.

In last month's article, I outlined an easy formula to determine recall requirements. A practice with 1,500 core patients, 250 new patients per year, and a 20-percent periodontal component requires 3,200 annual patients in hygiene-recall. To discover where you are in the mix, run an analysis of the total hygiene patients your practice saw in the prior year.

When I run these numbers in offices, the result is typically 1,400 to 1,600 patients per year. If your practice sees 1,500 hygiene patients, the recall effectiveness is 46.8 percent (1,500∏3,200) This means that half of the practice's patients are overdue for recall, their records sitting in the central file and lost in the system. Ironically, these usually are good patients who have been in the practice for some time. They know and trust you, accept treatment recommendations, and are waiting to hear from you! I know this because I make overdue telephone calls when I am consulting in practices. When managed properly, these patients re-activate. (I will discuss how to accomplish this in a future article).

Review the recall reliability benchmark every quarter, and include it in the annual planning meeting to determine if goals are being met.

Once the pulse of the recall and hygiene is established, these suggestions will help with strategic planning. Is the practice growing or shrinking? Do I want to grow the practice and what needs to happen for this to occur? Do I need additional staffing with an associate and/or another hygienist? Can my current facility and staff manage this volume? Do I need to consider assisted hygiene, with one hygienist, an assistant, and two treatment rooms?

On the other hand, do the numbers reflect a shrinkage in the practice numbers and am I OK with that choice? Perhaps the practice volume is bigger than the (return on investment (ROI). In other words, am I spinning my wheels with a huge volume of patients and not taking home a profitable net?

These are important questions! The answers can only be determined after all of the information has been gathered and analyzed.

One person in the office needs to be designated as the hygiene scheduling coordinator. The duties would include daily responsibility for assuring that the hygiene schedule is filled and productive, management of the recall system, to include appointment-confirmation calls and mailings; management of the out-of-care patient list (overdue recall), and establishment and utilization of a patient-priority list to fill last-minute cancellations. The hygiene coordinator also should be responsible for recordkeeping, tracking, and reporting on the success of the hygiene schedule, production, and recall rate at the monthly staff meeting. A consistent review of the data is one of the best ways to assure that your recall system does not fail.

Annette Ashley Linder, BS, RDH, is a recognized leader in the field and an award-winning speaker and consultant. Since 1989, she has presented more than 250 seminars and consulted in dental practices throughout the world. She is a featured speaker at dental meetings and provides in--office consulting services with her team of business and clinical consultants. She may be reached at her Web site at AnnetteLinder.com, via email at annettelinder@msn.com, or by phone at (804) 745-6015.

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