Growing Your Practice

3 Tools to Prevent “Sucktember”

Updated 8/29/2023

September has been dubbed Sucktember for a reason. With kids returning to school and extracurricular activities in full swing, parents and students are often reluctant to add anything more to their schedules. In this post, we’ll review 3 kinds of tools you can start using TODAY to bring in new patients and get existing patients pre-scheduled for needed care to help boost your bottom line in the fall.

1. Use Appointment Lists & Reports to get patients pre-scheduled for fall

The Birthday List

Start with the Birthday List! Since students can remain on their parent’s insurance until age 26, you’ll be looking at students aged 6-25. Older students may be heading back to college and not at home in the fall, so you’ll want to prioritize their scheduling. 

Go to Reports, Standard, and under the Lists category on the right, select the Birthdays list. You can edit the date range to show all patients with birthdays from January 1 to September 30, and click Report, then look for patients between 6 – 25 years old.
TECH TIP: Export the list to Excel to sort by age.

fall - birthday list

Recall List

Recall/recare is the heart of your practice revenue cycle. Take a close look at your recall list, and reach out to patients who are due but not yet scheduled. You can click on the Age column to sort by age and look first at patients who are between 17 and 25 years of age to get them scheduled first. These students will likely be doing their own scheduling, so you’ll want to reach out to them directly. Next, contact parents of children aged 6-16. If you usually remind them every 30 or 45 days after their first reminder, send subsequent reminders a bit earlier. Use text or phone reminders during the late summer months to fill slots in the fall.

Planned Tracker

If you’re not using Planned Appointments, you’re in for a treat! Once treatment planned procedures are categorized, it’s a cinch to create Planned Appointments. Then, all your front office staff needs to do is schedule them – no guesswork or changes for miscommunication!

Once you’ve created Planned Appointments, use the Planned Tracker to see patients with planned treatment that has not been scheduled yet.

Unscheduled List

Review the Unscheduled List for patients who recently missed an appointment – be sure to check the box to include broken appointments, then refresh the list to get a comprehensive view of patients who need to be re-scheduled. Right-click on any patient in the list and send them straight to the pinboard for scheduling!

Treatment Finder Report

Run the Treatment Finder Report to see a list of patients with treatment planned procedures who have insurance benefits remaining, and contact them to get treatment scheduled. Go to Lists, Standard, then under Lists on the right, open the Treatment Finder Report. There is no age filter in this report, so you’ll want to cross-reference it against your Birthdays List. Let your 25-year old patients know they’ll want to take care of any needed care now while they still have coverage under their parents.

The great thing about using this list is you can let parents and older patients know they have sufficient insurance benefits to cover the recommended care.

fall - treatment finder report

Other Ideas:

  • Check your local school district’s schedule for the 2022-2023 school year. Teacher in-service days, conference days, and other school breaks are great opportunities to get students scheduled without interfering with their school schedule. This is even more important for middle and high school students.
  • College students living at home will have more scheduling flexibility in the fall, but if students only spend periodic weekends at home, adding weekend hours may really help those students keep their smiles healthy and bright. If you’re adding new weekend hours, follow up with all of your active patients to let them know you’re expanding your availability to serve them better.

2. Use Advertising Postcards

Mail to prospective patients in your area by using a list generated based on your preferred demographics, or use your own list to keep the communication going with your existing patients.

Go to Tools > Advertising > Postcards. Sign up to use Advertising Postcards and customize pre-made templates with some of the key points below to get the news out about your practice and bring new patients in the door. Research shows the most successful new patient postcard campaigns have these components:

  • A larger postcard – try either the 6×8.5 or 6×11 size to really get noticed
  • A photo of the dentist or your practice staff
  • An Offer – these are some typical ones:
    • New Patient Special including 2 or more discounted services
    • Discounted prices between $49–$99 are the most common
    • A FREE/complimentary service or item
    • In-office or take-home teeth whitening

See this video for tips on direct mail marketing with postcards, and get your promo code for $10 off your first order of $100 or more.

We’ve added some new postcard templates for the new school year – “New Year, New You!” They’re ready to be customized and can be sent to a list of prospects based on the demographic information you select when ordering.

Here’s our Advertising Postcards webinar – it will show you step-by-step how to set up and use this feature 🙂

marketing tools in Open Dental See more on marketing your practice here.

3. Automate appointment follow-up to minimize broken appointments

Once the Appointment is Made

  • Take the hassle out of staying on top of upcoming appointments by using automated eReminders so patients get a heads up – ideally, to their mobile devices using Integrated Texting – think “Anytime, anywhere!”
  • Use eConfirmations so patients can quickly confirm their appointment, and their appointment status is updated in your schedule. When using eConfirmations, be sure to also use Automated Thank-Yous. This will send a thank you message to patients when they schedule their appointment and give them the option to quickly add the appointment to their device’s calendar.
  • Make sure you have their cell phone number in their Account and ask if they would prefer to receive Recall and Appointment Reminders this way.
  • Imprint their next appointment by repeating it on their way out: “Have a great rest of your summer – we’ll look forward to seeing you on September 7th!”

Let’s make September a month you look forward to! If you need help with this or anything else in Open Dental, our Support Team is here for you.

2 replies »

  1. I would like to send text’s to all patients that are due when I have openings. Send to all patients at one time.

    • Mass texting is not illegal but is heavily regulated. It is not a feature available in Open Dental.

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