Good to Great – the automation story

Lottie Abbotts explains why automation has become one of the most influential building blocks in dental practice growth.

When it first became evident that practice management systems could be used to drive business performance, it signalled a paradigm shift for the profession. Since then, robust recall and reminder processes have been identified as key drivers for ensuring patients return for routine appointments when they are scheduled to do so.

But more than this, automation is now generally accepted as having a huge impact on the business performance of thousands of practices. Recall rates on their own are a great indication of practice efficiency, but when integrated with multiple layers of automation, the combination can have a radical impact on revenue and profitability.


The recall success of an average practice in the UK lies in the region of 58% meaning that almost half of patients recalled every month fail to answer the recall. Of course, the practice isn’t losing all these patients, but it is failing to exploit its maximum potential.

Now compare the above with a top performing practice that has a recall success rate of over 85%. These practices are driving their business performance in the easiest way possible – by automating communication with existing patients. This improves chairtime utilisation, reduces white space, and impacts on revenue and profits. In fact, Software of Excellence data reveals that when recall effectiveness reaches 85% – the increase in revenue can be as much as 16.5%.

Automation is key to achieving these results, but it is not the only factor; frequency and method also play a part. Sending multiple recalls via multiple channels at strategically timed intervals is proven to be the most successful way to manage a practice recall system.

By adding an appropriate response mechanism, such as online booking, practices can take even more stress away from reception and drastically improve other areas of practice performance.

Online booking

Funnelling those patients who want to respond immediately to a recall to an automated online booking system leaves the reception team free to spend time on patient care. Including a link to your online booking portal in the recall communication ensures that patients are only one click away from booking their appointment. This is great news for them, as they can book at any time and is also great news for your reception team, who no longer have to spend time finding suitable slots for individual patients.

When the patient receives confirmation that their appointment has been booked and the appointment is automatically logged in Exact’s appointment book, the automated process is complete. From beginning to end the whole process is completed without the need for human intervention.

Short-notice lists

Short-notice lists are a valuable tool for practice managers looking to reduce white space. Managing a process of automated short-notice lists provides an efficient way of managing those inevitable occasions when a patient cancels at short notice. In this instance, Exact automatically sends a text message to the first person on the short-notice list who meets the criteria for the failed appointment. Should this patient be unable to attend, the software systematically works its way down the list until the space is filled. Filling short-notice cancellations is a key way for a practice to reduce white space by ensuring all chairtime space is filled.

The adoption of a fully automated and integrated approach involving recalls, online booking and short-notice lists, is one of the main benefits of a ‘joined-up’ approach to practice management. Patients are able to communicate quickly and efficiently with the practice at a time that suits them, and the needs of those who can attend an appointment at short notice are fully met. Time saved at reception by reducing repetitive admin tasks is significant. Profits and efficiency are increased by maintaining patient numbers and filling white space in the diary. In summary, automation enables practices to focus firmly on patient care and improve their key performance indicators quickly, having maximum impact with minimum disruption.

To follow practices that have already started their journey from Good to Great, or to begin your own journey with Software of Excellence, visit the website or go to


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