How to Reactivate Your Overdue Dental Patients

You know how it goes: you see a patient several times, and provide dental treatment that meets their goals. You recommend they book a follow up appointment with your receptionist on their way out. They never do – and they have never returned. What happened?

They might have moved away, had a negative experience that you don’t know about, or tried another clinic on a friend’s recommendation – or none of the above; you will never know unless you start paying attention to your inactive patient database and taking positive action to reactivate overdue patients. Here’s how to proceed.

  1. Identify inactive patients as those you haven’t seen for at least 18 months. If you have DentoNovo dental practice management software, it will be easy to review your patients’ past appointment dates to determine how long it’s been. If you have a large practice, cap your search at approximately five years for expediency’s sake when making the database that will form the basis of your reactivation program.
  2. Identify a compelling reason to contact inactive patients. Phoning people just as a ‘courtesy call’ is awkward because it provides an easy out for patients who can simply tell you everything is fine and hang up the phone. Creating a compelling reason for your call that also acts as an incentive for clients to return, is a better idea; it will boost staff confidence when making the calls, and also shows your professionalism and caring. Everyone likes something for free, so try offering a free hygiene check or a free exam to check if anything has shifted.
  3. Be prepared to meet objections. Your former patient may say that their insurance plan has changed and they can no longer afford coverage. Explain that you would still like to treat them and offer your best terms for payment plans – because people need dental care whether they want to spend money on it or not. There are always options, and by carefully explaining them, you will hopefully get past patients to recognize the necessity and the value of your ongoing service.
  4. Don’t chide. Patients may feel guilty about never booking a recall and worried about the state of their mouth; they fear being guilted or chided for avoiding their appointments for so long. Others are embarrassed that they have been ‘cheating on you’ with another dentist who perhaps enticed them with slick ads or lower fees for services. Some of these clients will come back if they know that you aren’t angry or upset with them for their choices. Simply let them know that you’re there whenever it is convenient for them to return.
  5. Script it out. Make sure you are covering all the bases in your call by writing out key points: describe the incentive, get their updated contact information, explain what oral health issues could occur if a long time elapses without a checkup, block out appointment times that are available, and your staff will feel more confident about making callbacks.
  6. Use all available channels. Because a certain percentage of the population changes their number and/or their address each year, it may be difficult to track down former patients; but if they haven’t asked you for a copy of their chart, chances are they haven’t yet found a new dentist, so there is still hope. Use the internet to track people down when you can’t reach them by phone or mail. If there is no response, remove them from your database.
  7. Have a plan to treat patients like gold when they return. You almost lost them once; don’t let it happen again! It’s easy to get caught up in the clinical aspect of what you do, but don’t forget to show that you understand and care about how patients feel.

Getting new patients is tough, but the fact is, you probably have a lot of patients already; the question is how to keep them coming back. What’s your time-tested way of winning patients back? Let us know!

 

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