A recall or recare system notifies patients of the timing of routine dental care. Some practitioners have adopted the term recare rather than recall, sensing that it has a more caring approach. Whether recall or recare is used as the term in the office, this system is an integral part of every modern dental practice and is essential to both the patient and the dentist. A recall/recare system is the lifeline of the practice. It helps achieve one of the primary objectives of dentistry—helping patients maintain good oral health for a lifetime. The routine recall appointment generally is assigned to the dental hygienist, but each dental professional in the practice must assume a role in maintaining a successful recall system.
The success of a recall or recare system depends on three factors: (1) dental health education, (2) motivation, and (3) consistent follow-up. The administrative assistant must help patients develop a sense of responsibility toward their own dental health, even though such a behavioral change is not made quickly. In addition, the patient must be aware of how the practice’s recall or recare system operates. As Winston Churchill put it, “People love to learn but hate to be taught.”
Education begins when the patient first visits the office. This approach can be delivered in a lifetime and annual format. The dentist or hygienist needs to determine the patient’s health goals before beginning treatment. Asking a patient if he or she would like to discuss developing a lifetime approach for their dental health and appearance is vital to determining long-range plans for the patient’s dental care. This discussion should take place at the beginning of the appointment when the patient has more energy and is more willing to take the time. By talking about a lifetime strategy toward good dental health and appearance, patients think about lifetime plans rather than simply “fixing a problem” found at a routine prophylaxis. Thus the dentist and hygienist are able to include the routine recall/recare appointment as part of total lifetime care. In fact some dentists have adopted the approach of including the first recall/recare appointment after extensive dental care as part of the total fee. This lets the patient know how important it is to return to the office for a complete prophylaxis, occlusal adjustment, or other routine care.
Before beginning treatment, the dentist and/or hygienist need to introduce the importance of the annual recall/recare plan. For some patients this may mean returning to the office two or three times for care. This also can rid the patient of thinking solely in a “6-month” mentality and elevates this appointment to higher therapeutic ground. Remember that a successful recall or recare system requires that the administrative assistant use communication skills before clinical skills.
Motivation of patients, which is critical to the effectiveness of the recall/recare system, is the responsibility of the entire dental staff. Once a patient has been educated and motivated to accept a recall/recare system, the administrative assistant is responsible for maintaining the system efficiently. The importance of this step cannot be overemphasized. If an assistant ignores the system even for 1 month, the effect on the patient flow becomes noticeable within a short time, and patients begin to feel ignored.
KEEPING PATIENTS INFORMED
Patients in the dental practice must understand the importance of recall or recare regardless of the reason for the recall appointment. In addition to the initial introduction of the recall or recare program, much can be done through patient education to promote the recall or recare system. Some practical and easy ways to keep patients informed about the dental procedures the office offers and the way the recall or recare system works include the following:
TYPES OF RECALL OR RECARE SYSTEMS
Any of several types of recall or recare systems can be used. Most dentists find that no one system />