Last updated on February 8th, 2023 at 12:46 pm

What’s the difference between active charts and total charts? And as a practice owner, which way should you be viewing it?

As an executive at MGE I’m out lecturing to dentists just about every week.  For that matter, over the past 10 years I’ve lectured to and met with several thousand dentists. And during any given practice assessment, one of the questions I’ll normally ask is: “How many charts do you have?”

For the most part, I get a similar answer to this question from any doctor I meet with: “Do you mean active…or total charts?”

I’ll usually follow up with: “Well, how many charts do you have from the past five years?” Normally, they just don’t know. They know their active charts (which are usually defined as patients within the past two years) and/or how many unique visits they’ve had in the last 12-18 months.

Normally, at this point, I challenge them – and with this article, I challenge you, to start looking at your charts in a different light.

(Related: Patient Reactivation: How to Successfully Get Overdue Patients Back on the Hygiene Schedule)

If you would like to plan for the practice, make it grow, move hygiene in the right direction, etc., you need to know what your maximum potential is, i.e. – what should the office be able to do? And in order to do that, you can’t just look at the active patient count and ignore all the other patients that you’re losing every year.

Dental practice management tips - MGE management experts blogActive charts may be an interesting figure for practice brokers, but as the owner or manager looking to grow your business, you also need to look at your total count, your patient attrition rate, and how to improve patient retention.

I normally tell a doctor to go back over the last three or five years and start calculating how many patients have been seen in the practice within that time period. I tell them to look back 3-5 years because we need a broader scope – one year is too short of a time period.

This calculation is going to include everybody who made an appointment, whether it was an emergency or hygiene. To calculate total charts, you can simply go to your software and download your entire database – it’s usually called a patient master list. Don’t limit your software by active versus inactive. Just get the total number of charts. It’ll most likely download it to your computer as an excel spreadsheet. I would create a spreadsheet for patients that have been in the last 2 years, 3 years and 5 years.

(Related: 3 Ways to Increase the Value Per New Patient in Your Practice)

Once you have this information, you’ll be able to start to see and track trends. You may find that over the course of three years you’ve seen 3000 patients, but your “active” patient count is only 1200. Well…what happened to those other 1800 patients?!

Why are you losing so many patients? Are there some internal processes that need to be fixed?

And is anyone reaching out to these patients to get them back in for hygiene or a checkup? Are you marketing to them?

I have a saying: the best source of “new” patients is existing patients that haven’t been in for a while.

Just because a patient hasn’t been in for a few years, that doesn’t mean you can’t get them back!

(Related: 5 Simple Ways to Boost Hygiene Production)

It’s much easier, and less expensive in terms of market costs, to get an inactive patient back into the practice than a brand-new patient.

They already know you, and if it’s been a few years, there’s a good chance that many of these patients will need some work done.

At MGE, one of the things we teach are systems for reactivating patients to get them back in the chair and retain them on a regular hygiene schedule. When you do this effectively, it’s an incredible source of consistent production. And with some MGE clients, you’ll notice an interesting thing: their production and collections increase far outpaces their new patient increase. This is because they are reactivating patients and being more efficient with case acceptance.

(Note: we teach many of these systems on our online training platform at www.DDSsuccess.com. These courses train you and your entire team directly on highly effective systems for reactivating and retaining patients, growing your hygiene department, scheduling productively, and much, much more. Click here to do a free demo.)

So, look at your total chart numbers, and start getting an idea of what you could be doing. Once you know your total chart count over the last 3-5 years and have an effective plan in place for reactivating and retaining them – now you can start doing some future planning. We can see your maximum potential, how quickly your hygiene department should be growing, whether or not you’ll need to hire additional providers and/or support staff, etc.

If you’d like help with this, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Schedule a free consultation here today.


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