One of the surest ways to increase patient traffic and practice income is to improve your chart auditing system. A chart audit is a systematic review of patient records to identify those who have not kept up with appointments. Ongoing chart audits combined with proactive phone calls to reactivate idle patients offers one of the most efficient, valuable tools for increasing cash flow.
“Not a chart audit!” you might say. Many practices find it burdensome to complete regular chart audits as they’re a time consuming endeavor that entails patient record reviews, phone calls and scheduling. Yet former patients who are not being tapped for needed dental treatment represent lost income, and contacting these patients to schedule an appointment is nothing less than responsible follow-up care.
Steps for Conducting a Chart Audit
Following are the basic steps for creating an effective chart audit system:
1) Chart Audit Report. Start with a Chart Audit Report to avoid the post-it notes, computer reports and files that tend to stack up around the office. List patients on the report who have missed appointments and are overdue for needed treatment. The form should include:
- Patient name
- Date of last appointment
- Summary of work performed
- Date(s) contacted for reactivation
- Contact outcome/response
- Scheduled appointment date
2) Twice Yearly Auditing. Audit patient files for one letter of the alphabet each week. This will allow you to review all active charts twice during the year.
3) Follow-up Calls. Make daily telephone calls to patients on the report and track your results.
- Make a goal of scheduling a specific number of appointments each week.
- Refine your telephone scripts to ensure that everyone on your team is approaching patients in a friendly and persuasive manner.
- Use the Chart Audit Report to track treatment and ensure contacted patients are following up with their scheduled appointments. If they are not, you can consider re-approaching them, or dismissing them from your patient base if they appear to be unreliable.
- Work to fill unscheduled time units in the hygiene schedule to ensure a steady rate of production.
4) Once a patient is active again or has been dismissed from your practice, remove him or her from the Chart Audit Report.
5) Monitor and report on the chart audit and patient recall system monthly during staff meetings.
Who Should Be Responsible?
Since chart auditing is an important cash flow function, you want to assign the responsibility to someone with accountability to ensure that it’s completed regularly and properly. Consider appointing a Chart Audit Coordinator with the authority to set aside time for record auditing and tap others in the practice for assistance as needed.
Some larger practices have found that a team approach to conducting chart audits combined with a rewarding incentive program produces better results and increases staff morale. This approach gets everyone in the practice involved in the auditing and patient recall process and turns a tedious task into a fun challenge.
Here’s how it works:
- Divide employees including office staff and assistants into two-person teams, ensuring team members share similar responsibilities and schedules.
- Train the teams on how to review charts, make patient calls, send follow-up letters as needed, and document results.
- Each month assign a section of patient files to each team. The teams are to follow this group until all patients are contacted and reactivated or dismissed.
- At monthly staff meetings, give first and second prizes – such as gift cards to local vendors like Costco or a spa outlet – to the teams that contact and/or reactivate the most patients.
Renewing contact with patients who have already visited your practice is one of the most cost efficient ways to increase your practice cash flow. So if you have let your auditing program lag during busy times, revitalize your chart audit system today and start enjoying additional profits!