03 Jan Managing Recalls and Reminders with Pearl Dental Software
Flexible features to fill your appointment book
A big problem for practice managers is managing work volumes to ensure that appointment books are always full, but never over-flowing. But patients are people. They all seem to want appointments at the same time. They forget to make appointments, or when they made them for.
To help, Pearl has highly flexible reporting features for Recalls and Reminders. This article looks at how you can use these to keep your surgeries busy, to help hit your UDA and revenue targets, and to optimise your patient care.
Why use the Recall function
The Recall function allows you to proactively contact patients who are (for example) due a check-up but who haven’t yet made an appointment.
For example, you could select all patients who last had a check-up in March but who haven’t booked a check-up by October. Selecting their preferred contact method, you can SMS, email or write to them recommending that they should book a check-up. You could even follow-up those who still don’t book with a letter reminding them of the importance of oral health as part of their general health and well-being, and that their check-up is now overdue.
You might alternatively use the same function to search for patients that have had an extensive treatment requiring a review. Again, select the appropriate contact method and maybe even suggest a date for a review appointment.
For private patients, you can use the Recall function to drive appointments with the hygienist, or else to recall patients for cosmetic procedures that might require regular repeat procedures.
Your investment would be a few hours work by reception or practice management staff each month (for example, on the first day of the month), plus the cost of sending SMS messages and letters. However, you would need only a 3 or 4 per cent response rate of NHS patients to cover your costs.
Why use the Reminders function
A missed appointment is a double or triple cost. You lose the revenue from the patient to FTA, you lose the opportunity to fill that slot with another patient, and you probably have to find another slot for that patient. Then there’s the extra work for reception staff to rearrange appointments, etc.
Many practices see FTA rates of more than 12%, and some as high as 25%. Referral centres also tend to see FTA rates of around 25%. Reducing these figures, therefore, makes sense for utilisation, patient care and good financial management.
According to a BDA survey of General Practice dentists; “The results confirmed high failure to attend rates, particularly in predominantly NHS practices. The practices had an average of 1,061 missed appointments each over the 12 month period. This equates to an average of 81 hours of lost time per full-time-equivalent dentist for practices with 50 per cent or more income from the NHS, and 69 hours per dentist in practices with lower NHS commitments.”
There’s no limit on the number or time of reminders that you send. You could send them a month, a week or a day before the appointment: maybe even in combination if your FTA figures are high. However, most practices send one reminder to each patient, about a week in advance.
Again, running a quick report with clever filtering allows you to send automated messages to every patient booked into that day’s appointment diary.
By sending reminders you will minimise your FTA rates and therefore increase your utilisation rates. It will also help you ensure you meet NHS targets AND help optimise your UDA claim rates. Likewise, private patients will appreciate a reminder and be far more likely to attend their appointment.
Helping manage your finances
Because dentists working for the NHS are only paid for completed treatments it is essential that all patients should attend every stage of complex work. If a patient stops attending part-way through a procedure, even if it’s final stage, the dentist can only claim the UDAs for a check-up. So it’s important for the practice to ensure treatments are paid-for in full.
It’s also important for the well-being of patients since an incomplete treatment might lead to further problems in the future.
So using the Recall function to drive patient bookings and the Reminder function to minimise FTAs will also help ensure the financial efficiency of your practice, and the care of your patients.
How does it work?
Very simply! We’ve built a button into the main diary view that allows you to instantly create a report of outstanding recalls. You can then filter this for the individual performers / fee-earners, the month the patient is due for an appointment, the reason for the recall, and whether the patient has already been sent a recall.
Our recall report also helps your practice management team to identify patients requiring a regular check-up. It shows those who have not already booked an appointment so they can be contacted.
The report helps the practice management team to very simply see who can be emailed, sent a letter, sent an SMS text, or ‘phoned to book an appointment.
If you are already a Pearl Dental Software user you can find detailed help with using the Recall Function here.
Can you remind me of that please?
Next to the recall button, you’ll also find a reminder button. This allows the practice management team to build a list of patients with upcoming appointments. From this, they can send reminders, again filtering from a similar range of options.
By using this list regularly you can use it to help patients keep track of appointments, and to minimise your FTAs.
For example, you might select patients with appointments tomorrow and remind them with an SMS text or ‘phone call.
Alternatively, you might work a little longer in advance (or both) to minimise the number of patients rearranging check-ups.
If you are already a Pearl Dental Software user you can find detailed help with using the Reminders Function here.
Simplicity comes from sensible workflows
We’ve built the Pearl Dental Software practice management system through years of experience in the dental software marketplace. We’ve also listened to hundreds of dentists, practice managers and nurses talk about how they work on a daily basis. This has helped us develop workflows that follow the patient through the practice. The patient journey is smooth and logical, and everyone in the practice benefits equally from the system.