I would first try to analyze why patients seem to be falling through the cracks. This will give you a concrete goal to pursue—without it you may be aiming blindly with efforts that prove ineffective. Is there good communication happening in the practice—between the front office and the dental hygiene department, as well as communication to the patient? Often this is the source of the problem, and unless it is addressed, you will continue to experience the same.
Good communication involves a systems approach that prevents any potential uncertainty. Propose a brainstorm session for your next team meeting with all departments present to share the various situations faced by each individual where patients “rode off into the sunset” or fell through the cracks. This exercise illuminates problems that previously hadn’t been considered. The input you gather should provide a list of scenarios that can be targeted to eliminate weak links in the chain of patient management.
In a paperless office, information put in at a terminal, while streamlined for the practice, is not necessarily going to translate to ease for patients, so make sure to include hard-copy routing slips that patients can have in hand and take with them to the front office and out the door. These take-home slips should reinforce the treatment that took place with a checklist of services provided, and also include specific goals for the patient to pursue in their oral self-care regimens.
Another method that prompts instant recognition is to have patients address an appointment reminder card to themselves before leaving. Seeing their own handwriting on a card while sorting through a stack of mail will trigger their memory—especially if there is a written note of encouragement from the dental hygienist stressing the importance of the follow-up treatment planned. These do take time, but deliver a high-value return on the effort while also reinforcing the relationship between the clinician and patient as one of care and concern.
I hope this will get you on track to provide optimum continuing care!