Recently, I was in an office doing some training on the Practice Advisor Report and we were talking about the “Active Patient” count and how Dentrix comes up with that number. I informed them that, with the Practice Advisor Report, you determine the definition of an “active patient” using the amount of time it has been since the patient was in last for an appointment. This led to a new discussion of what was their protocol for patients who haven’t been in for 18, 24, or even 60 months? We ran a search of patients with a last visit date of more than five years ago and the list had more than 700 patients on it. They were shocked!
So … do you have a protocol in place? Most offices don’t, yet knowing which patients are active or inactive can make a huge difference in your practice’s planning for increased productivity in 2013.
I think one of the most powerful features in Dentrix is the Continuing Care system. If you manage it correctly, no one will fall through the cracks. But, at some point, we need to let the patient go. I know it’s hard, but it must be done. Here’s what I suggest and you can tweak it as you want.
First, create a letter to send these patients and let them know you are concerned about their oral health and you want to make sure their dental needs are being met. The letter I use has three choices for the patient:
“I need to come in and here is my new phone number”
“I have changed dentists, so please send my X-rays to my new dentist”
“Please remove me from your active list”
The patient checks the appropriate box and sends the letter back to us in a provided self-addressed stamped envelope. If you want a copy of my sample letter with the merge fields already included, e-mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send it in a Microsoft Word format.
After you have created your letter, you will need to add it into the templates in the Letters section on the Office Manager. Go to the Office Manager > Letters > Inactive Patients, then click “new” or edit one of the existing letters. If you need specific instructions on how to add a letter into the templates, e-mail me at the address above and I will send you a step-by-step info sheet.
Once your letter is ready, you can create the merge and send your letter. Now, if you have never sent out a letter merge like this, it could be quite a project so make sure you budget for letterhead, envelopes, labor, and postage.Trust me … the rewards are worth the time and effort. To merge the patients into the letter, go to the Office Manager > Letters > Inactive Patients > choose your letter and click edit, then next to the Last Visit Date select a date range of 01/01/1900 thru 2 years prior to today, then click OK. Next, click Create Merge and make sure you select Create Data File and Merge Letters and Add to Office Journal. Microsoft Word will then generate the letters. Now you can view and print. Here’s an important reminder … when you exit, DO NOT SAVE.
My suggestion is to run this letter merge every three months . . . but you aren’t done with this project yet. Sending the letter is just the first part. The patients who do not respond to your letter should be inactivated at this point. On your second inactive patient letter merge (and subsequent merges after that), you will then run a list of patients with a last visit date from your previous letter run (so your list will include patients two years and three months from today).To get this list, go back to the Office Manger > Letters > Inactive Patients > repeat the same steps … except after you select Create Merge, you want to open Data File Only, then click View List. This will give you a list of patients who have not come in since you sent them the letter. If they are not scheduled, I would inactivate their account.
Once you include this routine in your regular systems, it will become easier and take less time as the list of patients gets shorter and shorter. This system has been very successful in shaking up those patients who have ignored the phone calls, e-mails, and postcards. It can be a huge boost to your schedule as, once you have a more accurate “Active Patient” count, you can then project increasing or decreasing office hours or adding or subtracting hygiene days.