Now that we’re entering the final stages of COVID and our country’s beginning to open up again after quarantine, it’s time for you to figure out just how to make up for months of missed patients. You can’t rely solely on telling your patients everything you’re doing post-quarantine, either. Making them feel safe during your reopening can get them to agree to come in, but that doesn’t solve every issue. I’ve spoken with a lot of dentists over the past few weeks, and they tend to be in one of two situations. Either their schedules are completely booked with everyone rushing back for their long-due visits, OR they’re struggling to get patients through the front door.
No matter what their schedules look like, however, these dentists have the same problem: their office isn’t booking the number of appointments they need to catch up on their lost patient revenue. Where your office is at right now—the amount of manpower, the number of patients you can see in a day, even your hours of operation—is not enough anymore. The way you ran your ship might have worked before the pandemic, even without CDC recommended restrictions, but now your schedule can’t keep up with the level of output you need. To compensate for those months you were closed or operating only at 10% capacity, things need to change. And the first step is looking at how you run your office.
How many patients can you see in a single day when you’ve fully booked your schedule? 10, 20, or maybe even a few dozen? You need to get that number up as soon as you can both by looking at your schedule itself and your staff operation. One thing you can do is expand your schedule to allow patients to come in when it’s not during their work hours. Try either opening your office earlier in the morning or stay later in the evening when they’re just getting off the clock. Maybe even do both!
For those of you that only work on weekdays, think about opening up on Saturdays and even Sundays to reel in those patients whose own schedules make it hard for them to come in even in your extended hours. This change doesn’t have to include full treatment availability requiring all hands on deck either. Many of your patients are overdue for their 6-month dental cleaning. Solely offering hygiene appointments on the weekends can make a huge difference and start making a dent in that building backlog.
Another way to make it easier for your overdue patients to fit into your schedule is setting up assisted hygiene in your office. Instead of having a single hygienist work alone to treat each patient one by one, you can bring in an assistant to speed up the process a little. Together, the two can efficiently work out of two chairs at once, going back and forth to finish up both appointments faster. This can shrink your usual 45- to 50-minute appointments down to just 30 minutes. And by cleaning their teeth at the same time, you can see nearly twice as many patients in a single day.
Now that you’ve opened up a lot of time and slots in your schedule to see your overdue patients, you still need to make sure that you have people coming in to fill in those new holes. Availabilities are awesome, but they won’t do you much good if you don’t use them to their full potential. This is where your patient outreach comes in, and I don’t just mean putting in a good word over the phone about what your office is doing post-COVID. You need to make sure people pick up the phone in the first place.
We live in an age of rapid advancement in technology. It’s time to put all of your available avenues to good use for your office. Simple things like predictive dialing, mass broadcast text messages, and email blasts make it easy for you to directly reach patients and get them booked for their next appointment. Don’t hesitate to use all three together rather than choosing and sticking to just one. Different people have different preferred modes of contact, and utilizing multiple channels better ensures that at least one of them will make their mark.
It’s also crucial that you don’t stop contacting your patients until they finally pick up. I know that it might feel a bit weird or pushy at first, but you’ll be approaching hundreds or maybe even thousands of patients a day rather than the usual 40 or 50 your staff might be used to. Reaching out to them only a single time, especially when they might be at work, have their phones off, or just unavailable at the time, means that hundreds and thousands of potential patients will continue to slip through the cracks. Keep calling, emailing, and texting them these reminders to make sure that as many of them as possible can answer and get marked down in your schedule.
If you need any help getting these systems set up or you’re unsure how to use them to their maximum potential, you can reach out to my office and me. We’ve been working with over 50 dental offices across the country for weeks testing and ensuring these methods work effectively. We can even supply you with the people you need to get your patient outreach working at full capacity. There’s nothing like a 24/7 response team to tighten the gaps in your operation and to make sure no patient falls through the cracks in these strange and stressful times. Together, we can make sure your office reopens out of quarantine stronger than ever before.