Reactivation strategy

April 1, 2012
Over the past year, we have noticed a steady decline in business. I am certain we have many patients who have not scheduled needed care ...

Dianne Glasscoe Watterson, MBA

Dear Dianne,

Over the past year, we have noticed a steady decline in business. I am certain we have many patients who have not scheduled needed care because of layoffs and work slowdowns. However, I’m also certain that some patients have fallen through the cracks and just need to be reactivated. Do you have a good reactivation protocol?

Dear Dr. Tim,

I believe most dental practices could do a better job of tracking those patients who become inactive over time. It’s not sexy or fun for offices still using paper charts and less-than-optimal computer systems to undertake mining of charts to identify inactive patients. The good news is that most modern practice-management software systems make it easy to identify individuals who have not been in the office for a prolonged period of time. With a few clicks of the mouse, a report of all patients who have not visited the practice in 12 months or more can be generated.

Now that we have a list of patients who need to be contacted, we need a reactivation protocol. Here is what I suggest.

(1) Place a phone call. If calls are made during regular working hours, expect to leave plenty of voicemail messages. Here is a sample script: “Hi, Mrs. Jones. This is Brenda at Progressive Dental Care. Somehow, we’ve missed seeing you for a good while. In fact, your last visit was (date). I don’t know if we failed to call you or if there’s some other problem, but we’d like to invite you back. Would you be so kind as to return this call and let me work out a good time for you to continue your dental care with us? Our number is XXX-XXX-XXXX (then repeat the number). I’ll look forward to hearing from you.” Then document the call in the computer (or in the paper chart), stating that a voicemail message was left.

(2) If you do not receive a return call after two weeks, send a postcard with this message:

Dear ___________,

We’ve missed seeing you! Your last visit in our office was ____________. Remember, your teeth are meant to last a lifetime, and small dental problems can become big problems if not discovered early. We are committed to providing you with the best oral care available.

Please call us at XXX-XXX-XXXX right away to reserve a time for your professional care. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Warm regards,
Laura Hamilton, Administrative Assistant

A little handwritten note on the card makes it more personal, such as “Call soon for the best appointment times.”

(3) If the phone call or postcard does not get positive results, send a letter on office letterhead stationery. Here’s a sample:

Dear ___________,

Recently, we have been in the process of auditing our patient records, and we see that you haven’t been in to see us since _________.

If you wish to remain in our active patient files, please call us to schedule a continuing-care appointment.

Remember, maintaining good dental health is a team effort, and we feel honored to be a part of your team! Our goal is to help you keep your teeth for a lifetime!

However, if we do not hear from you by (10 working days), we will assume you are seeking dental care elsewhere.

Laura Hamilton, Administrative Assistant

Keeping patients active in the practice requires continual diligence. This is one job that is often slid to the back burner by busy administrative assistants who struggle to keep up with the demands of a hectic front desk. If the business desk is understaffed or disorganized, the problem of patient inactivity is exacerbated. Best wishes on your reactivation efforts!


Dianne Glasscoe Watterson, MBA, is a consultant, speaker, and author. She helps good practices become better through practical on-site consulting. Her book, Manage Your Practice Well, is available for purchase at For consulting or speaking inquiries, contact Dianne at [email protected] or call her at (301) 874-5240.

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