According to ABC News article “Americans: Overworked, Overstressed” people are working longer hours, have less vacation time, have later retirement, and you might as well add in job insecurity to the mix. Those lucky enough to still have a job can expect to be asked to do more to make up for the “streamlined” workforce.
According to Pew Research Center, dual income households have risen from 25% in 1960 to 60% in 2015. This has lead to even busier lives. Instead of coming home to find the refrigerator and cupboards stocked, dinner ready, and the table set most parents rush home to either do homework with their kids, chauffer their kids to sporting events or after school activity and possibly a combination of all of these.
It is easy to see how families may not view going to the dentist as one of their top priorities or they may be just too busy to remember to schedule their appointments. In knowing this, it is not a surprise that each year, hundreds of millions of dental insurance benefits go unused and necessary treatment remains uncompleted. This is why several reminders are very important!
Fall is a GREAT time to effectively begin contacting your patients and remind them about their dental benefits, flexible spending or health savings account (HSA). Also placing an emphasis on how patients can maximize their dental benefit may motivate the patient to call sooner rather than later. Strategic Practice Solutions utilizes a systematic approach to this process. It takes more than just one point of contact to inspire busy patients to call and schedule an appointment; in addition, the more strategic the approach the more favorable the outcome.
First step in the process is to identify patients in your database who have unused insurance benefits, HSA or flex spending accounts and send out the first of two year-end letters (see Letter #1 below) before October 5th. The following search criteria can be used to populate the mailing list.
- “Active” patient status
- Patients who have their last visit in the past 24 months
NOTE: You may choose different criteria based on the practice’s needs. You might not want to reach back 24 months, or you might want to reach back farther than that.
Second step in the process, is to wait a minimum of one week after the year-end letters are mailed out and begin making phone calls, send out personally addressed emails or utilize an automatic call system such as Elexity. As many of the patients identified as having unused insurance benefits should be contacted. I would suggest starting with patients who’s last visit date is more current and then working your way back.
Try the sample email or voice mail message below
“Hi Mr./Mrs. [patient name] this is [your name] from [practice’s name]. Just checking to make sure you received our letter regarding your yearend benefits.
Unfortunately, you will lose those benefits if you do not use them by the end of the year. Please call [phone number] and ask for [name of coordinator] to schedule your appointment.”
Optional: As a special incentive for scheduling your appointment, we are offering a free home whitening kit if your treatment is completed by December 31, [current year].
Third step in the process, by November 5th send out the 2nd year-end letter. The content of the letter needs to be worded differently than the first but still showing some sort of connection. We have found that letters personally sent to the patient from their dentist has more of a positive impact then generic letters. Regenerate the search fields of the original mailing list in step 1 to identify patients who have still not contacted the practice regarding their unused dental benefits and mail out the second letter (see Letter #2 below).
Strategic Practice Solutions bases a lot of of communication training on the firm belief that patients need to be spoken to in an authentic, personable, and professional manner that builds trust and rapport they have with their dental provider(s) and team. The year-end letters are no different in concept. We recommend the following to ensure the letters you send have a great chance of being read by the recipient.
- Create the letter in word format and utilize the mail merge feature to create letters addressed to each patient individually
- Utilize stationary paper and envelopes that have a similar appearance to an invitation
- Place actual stamps rather than a electronic stamp on the outside of the envelope
- An envelope with handwritten name and address is more likely opened than one with an address label. Another option would be to computer generate the recipient’s name and address onto the envelope
- A s a suggestion, you may want to add some evening and/or weekend hours
in the event the practice has very little open time to accommodate patient’s busy lives
Dear [patient name],
[Name of dental provider] reviewed your file, and noticed you are due for one more preventative visit before the end of this year.
We recognize how busy families are today and I am writing this letter to remind you and urge you to call [phone number] now, to ensure we can offer you an appointment around your schedule. Late evening and early morning appointments are booking fast.
At [name of the practice] we are committed to the prevention of dental disease, our patients’ general and oral health. We understand how important routine exams and cleanings impact our patients’ well-being.
If you have dental insurance and are uncertain about the status of your dental benefits, we will be happy to contact your carrier on your behalf. As you may be aware, if you don’t utilize your benefits by December 31, 2015 you may lose them.
We hope you find this reminder helpful.
[name of dentist ] D.D.S.
Dear [patient name],
It is so hard to believe how fast fall is passing by. The air is getting a little crisper and cooler. The leaves are turning colors and the Holidays are around the corner. 2015 will be over before you know it!
As you have come to know me, I am an advocate of both general and oral health. Helping my patients to achieve the optimal level of dental care has been my life goal. I noticed that you have some dental needs still requiring treatment. I would like to take care of those for you before they become part of a much greater problem.
Please contact [name ], our patient advocate at [phone number] and she would be more than happy to explain your $ [amount of benefit remaining] estimated unused dental benefits for 2015. We can also assist you in scheduling any appointments, and address questions you might have.
[name of dentist ] D.D.S.