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Patient Engagement Gaps: Unlock the Hidden Powers of Automation

October 11, 2022
by Kevin McFadyen Director of Marketing, RecallMax™


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By now, most, if not all practices, utilize automation as part of their workflow. However, can automation seek out revenue opportunities beyond what you expect from automated messages? RecallMax™ has identified three gaps in patient engagement that come from not using automation to the fullest extent.

Gap 1: Limitations with automated messages

Given the recent changes from the pandemic, every practice has had to deal with shutdowns, restrictions, and adjustments to patient needs. As your patients warm up to the idea of returning to your practice, business may seem to be back to normal when in truth, it’s creating a false sense of normalcy. An internal study was conducted using 2,500 dental practices over the last two years to measure the impact this pandemic had on their patient engagement. From this study, RecallMax™ discovered an alarming increase in unscheduled patients, missed and canceled appointments, and due/late patients. To put this into perspective:

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Unscheduled Patients

Pre-Covid: 52% (1,888,004)
Post-Covid: 58% (2,588,658)
Difference: +700,654

Missed & Cancelled

Pre-Covid: 7% (283,809)
Post-Covid: 18% (828,689)
Difference: +544,880

Due/Late Patients

Pre-Covid: 33% (1,205,497)
Post-Covid: 38% (1,713,078)
Difference: +507,578

While most of these increases are out of our control as a practice, getting patients back to the office is a different story. Automation can be, and is, a vital resource to any practice but when we rely too much on the convenience of automated messages, we shorten our reach to get patients back. If you can use automation for patient outreach and process improvement, that’s where real gains are found. Knowing the power and limitations of automation is the key to improving workflow, driving revenue, and filling short notice cancellations quicker. Unfortunately, practice management (PM) systems do not offer efficient resources to tackle the solution.

Gap 2: Not Empowering Your Front Office with Automation

As mentioned, the pandemic has brought a number of challenges to the office. In addition to these challenges, a wave of workers have either quit, changed career paths, or are recovering from illness. This leaves your office in a bind, scrambling for ways to automate workflow to make up the difference. Growing your practice is hard enough – couple that with understaffing issues and you have a recipe for burnout. Nobody wants to be overworked, which is why most businesses seek out “set it and forget it” strategies, which prevents them from using the full power of automation.

RecallMax™ analyzed 30 million automated messages to measure their effectiveness. From this analysis we discovered that 60 percent of patients confirmed their existing appointment while only 10 percent scheduled a new appointment. As you can see, automation is great at confirming patients’ appointments, but most practices overlook the opportunity sitting in front of them for their front office to go after that other 90 percent of unscheduled patients.

This is where the front office can use automation to their advantage. The front desk suffers from a number of manual and time-consuming tasks due to the limitations of your PM and employee experience level. The more steps we can reduce while improving efficiency is the end goal. To do this, we need automation to assist staff in every scheduling opportunity, reducing confusion and offsetting messaging limitations.

All practice growth begins at the front desk and having a comprehensive approach when it comes to using automation allows you to super serve your patients. Scheduling opportunities, and the dental health of your patients, shouldn’t solely rely on your patients volunteering themselves to you via text or email.

Gap 3: If You Can’t Measure It – You Can’t Manage It

Have you ever tried running while looking behind you? It’s possible but knowing where you’re going requires you to face forward, so why look behind you? Now imagine running a practice with historical data (i.e. looking behind you). It’s possible, but why would you do it?

Office managers and owners are in the routine of generating reports from their PM once the month ends. The problem? These are KPI’s that can no longer be impacted – you’re looking at the previous month. Running while looking behind you.

In order to grow you need to track your performance. In order to track your performance, you need automated tools that work within your PM. Ideally, a tool that monitors individual and collective output. It’s vital to know what to measure since you see, and talk, to countless patients on any given day leaving you with minimal time to accomplish other things. Without tools to visualize your output, it’s near impossible to know if what you’re doing is making any real impact over time. Your reporting should be updated daily, so you can make changes and coach your team throughout the month to succeed.

H. James Harrington, author of Business Process Improvement, said, “If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” With over 45 years of experience helping businesses improve their processes, we can note the importance of measuring our work.

To quote Uncle Ben from Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Using action-based analytics is a great power, but never forget that we are human. Utilize team results to steer and encourage your individual users, instead of counting numbers.

It’s important that practices understand these patient engagement gaps and incorporate the tools and processes that will help close them. RecallMax™ is a fully integrated patient engagement app that works alongside your current PM system. It scans your PM, presents endless scheduling opportunities for your staff while reducing the work that goes into patient outreach. Their reporting suite ties the actions of your front desk to the analytics provided to owners and managers – helping to significantly close the gaps.


About the Author

Kevin is the Director of Marketing at RecallMax™. He has over 10 years’ experience in the marketing field, with the last 5 being in dental. He has helped practices recognize gaps in their patient communication and show them tools that fill those gaps and bring more revenues back into the practice. A graduate of Brigham Young University, he earned a bachelors in Communications and Business Management.


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