What is the real cost of recall lag?

How neglected patient recalls impact your practice

When your patient leaves their appointment, how do you ensure they’ll book their 6-month check-up?

When a patient misses their scheduled appointment, or doesn’t book a check-up within six months, they add to an accumulating lag of dental treatments that could – and should – have been provided by your practice.

In an ideal world, your patient recall lag is zero.

What does this mean?

Having no recall lag means that every patient responds to their six-month recall, and attends their scheduled follow-up appointment without delay.

But the reality of recall lag is that it can take months for patients to respond to these patient recalls – or they don’t receive them on time because your admin staff are too busy with other tasks! 

Because of this, patients might not even book their check-up until months after their scheduled recall.

Our research has shown that, as front desk staff struggle to complete increasing recall tasks, this accumulated recall lag has a drastic impact on your monthly revenue.

Statistically, every month of recall lag is a 13% drop in patient recall revenue.

Patient recall effectiveness drives your revenue

Of the practices we surveyed, a large number weren’t even monitoring the success rate of their patient recalls.  

Many dentists neglect the business analytics side of practice management, because they see prioritising patient health outcomes as a separate and more valuable objective.

However, addressing your practice’s performance as a business is fundamental to improving oral health outcomes for your patients.

Ensure consistently improved oral health with an effective patient recall strategy

By striving for zero recall lag, your practice achieves both business and health-oriented objectives:

  • More appointments: effective recalls increase the number of bookings, which ultimately drives monthly practice revenue.
  • Maintained dental health: when patients attend their follow-ups, on time, they are receiving better oral health outcomes than if they were neglected by your recall system.

7 steps to minimise recall lag

The strategies we offer dentists are backed by our extensive research into dental practices all over the world.

We assessed the processes used by the top 5% of practices surveyed globally, and combined these strategies to create a ‘best practice’ approach to patient recalls.

1. Routinely check your patient’s contact details

People often change their phone number, email, and their address, but rarely contact you to update these details.

Every time a patient contacts your practice, they should be asked to confirm their contact details.

This prevents recall lag from calling patients with outdated information.

Ensure your staff ask patients to provide more than one contact method, such as an email address and a phone number, but also specify how they prefer to be contacted.

2. Schedule recall dates for each patient

Each patient should have a set recall date.

This means that whenever a patient’s recall is completed, another recall should be scheduled for a later date. This will also stagger your recalls, so your admin team isn’t juggling ‘batches’ of appointment reminders alongside customer service tasks.

With this simple procedure in place, patients won’t get lost in the system – and you increase the chance of contacting them at the right time!

3. Pre-book your patients

The best time to book a patient is when they’re leaving their appointment. Ensure your front desk team are always scheduling a follow-up with your patient after their appointment.

4. Have a structured patient recall process

Bring your team together and create an integrated recall process for every staff member to follow. Embedding this in your practice management ensures consistency, and your whole team will understand the importance of recalls!

5. Use multiple communication methods

This is crucial to increasing recall effectiveness. Our research has shown that patients are far more likely to respond to three types of appointment reminder – such as a letter, a text message or email, and a phone call.

6. Make it easy for patients to respond and book

This means allowing patients to respond to your recalls via text message and email. Online booking is also a huge indicator of recall effectiveness, as patients are increasingly seeking dental services online.

By making it as convenient as possible to get in touch, your practice will receive more positive responses to patient recalls!

7. Don’t give up!

Consistency is key. Keep calling patients at regular intervals – they will get back to you!

Ready to achieve outstanding results as a business? Talk to us today.

Last Updated on 7 January 2021

Set your dental practice up for success