We all know that the AAO recommends children be seen by an orthodontist at the age of 7. Some offices are big Interceptive Treatment practices, while others prefer to treat in one phase. No matter your treatment philosophy, we all see little ones. And this leads to the big question, what does your Observation/Growth and Guidance program look like? Do you have a dedicated Observation Coordinator, does your Treatment Coordinator see these patients, or does the clinic? Do you run recall reports every month? When the younger patients come in for their visits, how does your office engage them? Many offices have fun little activities, like spinning the prize wheel, getting a rewards card or a branded practice t-shirt. However, no matter the prizes, if your observation program is not worked consistently and effectively, you are wasting your money.
A solid OBS program should look something like this:
· Patients should be seen every 6 months. Patients are accustomed to visiting the dentist on this schedule for cleanings/exams, you too should be seeing your OBS patients twice a year.
· TC’s or a dedicated OBS Coordinator should be responsible for these patients, not the clinical assistants. While they are not in braces yet, they are still your new patients and a treatment fee will be presented soon enough. For this reason, a dedicated coordinator provides the finesse and attention for this transition.
· Give VALUE to these appointments. Educate your families as to why these appointments are important. Consistent appointments create a bond between you and these families. They see you as their orthodontist and are much less likely to shop around when the time comes for treatment.
· Schedule your recall appointments while your patient is in the office. Let them know that the office will remind them of the appointment ahead of time, but that this convenience will keep the patient on track and in line with when Doc wanted to see them again. It’s much easier to reschedule an appointment, than to struggle getting ahold of a patient who needs to schedule the visit 6 months from now.
· Your schedule should be templated for observation appointments. 15-30 minutes is sufficient.
· Do not send postcards. Not only is this time consuming and expensive, but patients are much more likely to respond to a text, email or phone call.
· Make the appointments fun and engaging! There is nothing like the joy of a child when they get a chance to look through the treasure chest, spin the wheel or use their reward cards on something fun!
Your observation program needs to be tended to with fine detail. Not only are these patients your practice advocates in the community, they are your future case starts. It is much easier to retain a patient than to attract one!