30 Aug Getting kids into the Dental Practice during the Holidays
Ideas for getting kids into the chair
As we enter the last week of the school holidays we thought we’d look at some ideas on how to plan and promote check-ups for school-age patients.
When the school summer holidays start, most people would assume that parents would be booking their children in for check-ups. The perfect timing would be at the start of the holiday so that treatments are completed before the return to school.
It makes sense to others to book children in for check-ups at the end of the school holidays as part of the ‘back to school’ routine.
After all, with six weeks out of school, the summer holidays are the perfect time to ‘get the dentist out of the way’ without interruption to the school routine.
What actually happens is the children most in need of dental care are the ones least likely to visit during school holidays. Children that have regular check-ups still have the habit of regular check-ups – those without the habit still need to establish it.
Unless they are teachers, working parents don’t have a six-week holiday to match that of their children. Any time off that they do get in summer is often spent on a Spanish beach or visiting relatives.
Stay at home parents can experience an ongoing struggle to keep children occupied. And for some – especially large families – making a visit to the dentist part of a back-to-school routine is just ‘too much’.
Add to that the excitement of a holiday abroad, a last-minute booking or staying a few more days at the home of your favourite relative, and appointments get missed. In fact, many practices find that FTAs for children go UP during the summer holidays, not down as you might expect.
So, what can you do to fill your surgery during the summer holidays?
The first thing is obvious – send reminders to all your existing school-age clients due for a check-up during or around the school holidays. Send the reminders early, backed with a second reminder closer to the holidays. This gives parents the flexibility needed to organise their diaries and book appointments convenient for them.
Another idea helps solve the issue of working parents. If your practice opens on Saturday, hold a block of appointments for children’s check-ups. You can do this all year round. If Saturdays are usually for private patients or some other group, maybe do this once a month.
Either way, email (or mail) the parents of your school-age children and let them know to create a demand. Waiting room posters with a ‘children’s check-ups for busy parents’ message also make sure people know what’s going on and drive further demand.
Get out into the community
Reaching out to new patients is a bit more difficult. If you enjoy a high-street location you might try promoting your children’s services with posters in your windows.
Or you could create an event in your surgery – possibly enlisting the help of a partner company or supplier (e.g., Oral-B or Colgate). But if you do this, try to engage the local press or radio station. Let them know what you’re doing, explain why it’s important (so they can write a public interest story) and invite them to bring a photographer to the event.
A bit late for school holidays?
You might ask why we are telling you this so late into the school holidays. Well, like the parents of your young patients, we had too many other things to get done.
The same thing might even apply to your practice, especially if you’ve had staff away on their own summer holidays. So why not try a ‘new term’ promotion instead?
Create and promote offers on children’s tooth care products and set-aside some evening appointments for children of working parents.
Engaging the unengaged is both the most important and the most difficult thing to do. Sometimes you need to venture out into the big bad world and go looking.
Local authority provided dental check-ups are a thing of the past in many counties. So why not train one of your nurses in Oral Health Education? He/she could then reach out to local schools and nurseries to arrange visits to talk about teeth.
Arm them with ‘goody bags’ of sample toothpaste, toothbrushes, disclosing tablets and sugar-free sweets. Include games and easy-read information for the child. Add in simple ways for parents to book an appointment and contact details for your surgery.
FTAs and teenagers
To encourage attendance and reduce FTAs amongst older children and teenagers, consider creating a ‘Loyalty Card’ scheme. However, if possible, partner with shops (teen-fashion, computer games, etc) or a leisure centre located near you.
Offer discount vouchers in return for check-ups and appointments attended. For example, two attendances might earn a £5 voucher, or four might earn a free session at a bowling alley.
Getting the practice ready
You might also need to enthuse your team for the prospect of a waiting room full of children. There is no point in attracting children and teenagers into the practice if you’re not prepared for them. Make sure you get properly organised to make their visit stress-free and fun.
To manage a campaign efficiently and successfully you need a practice management system (such as Pearl), with excellent appointment booking facilities, recall and reminder functions.