Hygiene production drives practice production, and the fuller your hygiene schedule is, the more opportunities you have to present treatment for other services. By using the tool below, assess the productivity of your practice and whether you can be doing more to enhance hygiene production.
To grow your practice, the first step is to increase the number of hygiene patients. That sounds simple enough, but in the post-recession economy, many once-loyal patients are rethinking the need for twice-yearly hygiene appointments.
The reasons for this change are largely financial. Fewer patients have dental insurance, and those who do are dealing with higher co-pays and out-of-pocket costs. As a result, many patients are either reducing their hygiene appointments to once per year or are dropping them altogether until they have a dental problem.
What can you do in the face of this behavioral shift? Here are three strategies to increase your hygiene production:
1. Demonstrate the Value of Hygiene Appointments
Too often, patients and dental professionals refer to hygiene appointments as “cleanings.” Focusing on this one aspect (prophy), albeit important, minimizes what actually occurs during the hygiene appointment, which spans from providing a medical history update to conducting x-rays, periodontal assessments, oral cancer screenings, flossing and polishing, doctoral exams, etc.
This hygiene appointment is an opportunity for the entire team to educate patients on the many services they receive during the hygiene appointment. In addition, as more research links poor oral health to other systemic conditions, eg diabetes and cardiovascular disease, regular hygiene appointments are increasingly important to your patient’s lifelong health. The more value you assign to hygiene appointments, the more value patients will assign to them.
2. No One Leaves without an Appointment
This should be the mentality of the front desk and hygiene teams: All hygiene patients should be scheduled for their next hygiene appointment before they leave the office. Train your team with powerful scripting, so they can do a better job of educating patients about the importance of regular hygiene appointments and motivating them to schedule while they’re at the office. With the growing use of smart phones, people have their calendars available at their fingertips, making it easier to schedule an agreeable date for their next hygiene appointment.
3. Improve Your Confirmation System
Confirm hygiene appointments through multiple channels, including emails, texts (with permission), and calls to mobile phones and landlines. Many practices use an automated confirmation service, which can be an effective way to reach patients and reduce labor costs. For a portion of your patient population, postcards might be the right communication method. Keep in mind that there may not be a “one size fits all” solution for confirming appointments. What works for millennials may not work for baby boomers and vice versa. The best approach is to ask patients how they prefer to be contacted, and to set up the system accordingly.
By emphasizing the importance of hygiene appointments and their role in preventing systemic disease, patients will be more likely to keep their appointments and return for others. This preventive service is essential to maintaining their oral health and will allow them to save money on future treatments before their ailments worsen. Furthermore, when your staff persuades patients to schedule their next appointment before they leave the office, you can better gauge your future hygiene and practice production, while validating the importance of your patients’ oral health.