Hygiene Recall is a waste of time unless your current system is minimally 80% effective in having patients return to your office at least twice annually to maintain their dental health. If you are not getting this level of compliance, it is probably time for a change.

However, before we share with you our suggestions and recommendations to assist you in developing and implementing a powerful system, which ensures patient compliance and acceptance with a virtual 100% rate of pre-appointment, we need to address some basics. In our seven years of coaching and consulting dentists, we are consistently annoyed that such a vital aspect of successful practice and patient care is so frequently viewed as frustrating by the staff, not valued by the doctor, and poorly complied to by the patients. What we often discover is that there are several key misunderstandings on the subject of hygiene recall. Once these are handled, however, the willingness to give hygiene recall its rightful importance as a foundational must for quality patient care and practice growth, can be achieved.

To begin with, the word “recall” is a misnomer. Recall implies loss. It actually means to summon back, cause to return, or cause to exist again. In essence, “we blew it, he’s gone, and now we somehow have to convince him to come back.” This, is at best a scathing indictment of bad service and poor patient education. We prefer using the term “recare” which implies successful results. In other words, “we did it right, he’s happy, and he’ll be back on his own because we have good control and he truly understands the value of maintaining the health of his teeth and gums.” We have found that using the term “recare” helps increase the value of hygiene in the mind of the staff and the doctor, and consequently the patient as well. Calling essential maintenance care “recall” lessens its value and relative importance, especially to the patient, and promotes the “it’s just a cleaning” mentality.

The second key area of misunderstanding regarding hygiene recare is actually marketing or, more related to specifically, how you choose to position yourself in the market based upon your practice philosophy. We often lecture on a triangle that has quality, service, and price as its three points. You must decide which two of these points (more on this in a moment) you are going to choose to develop in your practice and have at the forefront of your marketing and promotion. Your choice will also dictate how you will handle your recare system. Why not offer all three? Well you can if you want to go broke. Let us digress to explain and then bring it full circle.

It is a common theme in dentistry, and in most other business for that matter, to try to be all things to all people in order to capture as much of the market as possible – in this case, new patients. It is agreed that what patients want is high quality and great service, at low prices. However, there is no way to offer this combination without driving your overhead through the roof, and sending your profitability out the window. So trying to be all three will not work, but which two should you choose? The following are examples of three different, successful corporate models. Each is tremendously, yet respectively each has chosen profitable to niche themselves differently to market and sell their product.

First off, there is McDonald’s. McDonald’s offers quick, efficient service (your food in seven minutes or less) at low prices (i.e. The Dollar Meal). However, the quality is not exactly filet mignon to say the least, nor could it be. No one is going to pay six bucks for a McDonald’s hamburger. That is fine with McDonald’s because they have mastered the other two points of the triangle and that is what attracts their customers to them.

Next there is the example of B.J.’s wholesale club or its equivalents, Costco and Sam’s Club. The mass appeal of these companies is name brand quality products in bulk quantities at low prices. They sacrifice the service point of the triangle in exchange for owning the other two categories of quality and price. Customers who shop at B.J.’s, Costco, or Sam’s, do not expect a glitzy department store environment with helpful sales people and fast service. The niche they own is quality and price, so they can get away with a warehouse environment, with very little customer support staff, long lines, and self-serve empty cardboard boxes for shopping bags.

Finally, there is the quality and service model of excellence that is the Ritz- Carlton Hotel. Customers are treated like royalty in a pristine environment of luxury and superior service that is the industry standard. No one who stays at the Ritz-Carlton, however, expects a $79 a night AAA discount and a free continental buffet-style breakfast. It is simply a given based on their niche of quality and service that the prices must be high since the Ritz-Carlton has mastered these two points of the triangle so well there is never any question as to what they charge for their services.

So how does this relate to your practice and hygiene recare system given the Q, S, P triangle? You must decide to gear your practice development strategy and philosophy towards two points of the triangle and own them in the minds of your existing patients and potential new patients as well. Will you be the McDonald’s, Costco, or Ritz Carlton of dental practices? In other words, do you want to be a clinic, family, or high-end cosmetic and restorative practice? All three can work, and we have seen each type done to perfection, but whatever model you choose will dictate how you will pursue hygiene recare.

The majority of our clients aspire to the Ritz-Carlton mode, and hire us to assist is creating this experience for their patients and staff. Therefore, the hygiene recare system we institute focuses on serving patient needs and wants beyond expectation by taking the time up front to do thorough education on dental health and the policies of the practice. The Ritz-Carlton practice places value on hygiene recare because it recognizes hygiene as not only a component of providing the essential highest quality dentistry, but also a critical marketing and sales element of practice development. This leads us to a third key area of misunderstanding regarding hygiene recare, which relates to the three basic ways to grow and expand a practice.

Quite simply, there are only three ways to build a practice and two of them are intimately connected to hygiene. The first way is new patients, which all doctors are fixated on as a primary, and, as a result, invest the majority of their resources in developing. However, marketing for new patients, though important, is the most costly and the most difficult because it seeks to attract and enroll patients into your office who are “cold” – there is no relationship or trust built through our ad or marketing piece. Much money must be spent, particularly if you are looking to attract a specific type of patient to your practice, in order to bring in a sufficient number of new patients.