An Easy Way to Make Your Practice Stand Out
Competition is stiff out there. With more corporate dental offices opening every day and an influx of dentists to more desirable locations, making sure your practice sustains patient numbers and grows each month is a formidable task.
Keeping up with new technology is important, as is utilizing online media, ads and postcards to promote the practice. Continuing education for the team, webinars, dental articles and courses can help keep the team sharp. Regular staff meetings and morning huddles can keep the focus on what is important to patients and the office. While all of these items are significant, we often neglect one of the easiest ways to make our office really stand out. Follow-Through.
The reason the concept of follow-through is so important is because it has become so rare! Here’s an example: A friend tells me about her experience with a local dentist and imaging facility. She had an appointment with the doctor to examine a painful implant area. By phone, the staff at the doctor’s office set up an appointment to examine the implant, and told her that prior to being seen she would need to obtain a radiograph at a different facility. The doctor’s staff person said she would fax an order for the x-ray that day, and my friend could stop by the imaging center anytime.
After a wait of two days my friend went to the center, and the order was not there. When she asked the staff at the imaging center if they could call the doctor’s office to get the order, the staff told her that was not their policy. They could not “solicit” orders from dentists. No amount of explanation would change their minds. When my friend used her own cell phone to call the doctor, all lines were busy. She left a message, but after half an hour with still no return call, my friend went home.
The next day she called the dentist and spoke with the same staff person. They told her they had faxed the order (no mention of why an email could not be used) and said they would refax the order. To make a long and predictable story short, after two more failed attempts, the imaging facility never did get the order. My friend went to the doctor’s office and physically took the order to the center and got the radiograph. Luckily the center agreed to give my friend the x-ray to take with her when she left.
This is the sort of story that drives patients crazy, and it happens much too frequently. My friend told me she would like to simply go to a different dentist, one that treated her time respectfully. But she said, “Even if I went somewhere else it would be the same. No one cares or has any follow-through. I would leave in a minute if I could find an office that took their patients’ needs seriously!”
If this is the attitude of our patients - that all offices are the same so it doesn’t matter where they go - then why should they come to you? Make follow-through a priority in your practice and watch your word-of-mouth referrals grow. Be sure you do these things:
• Make sure any out-of-facility orders, such as the one previously discussed, are set up and ready to go when the patient has been told they will be accomplished. If there is a problem, a staff person should make sure the problem is corrected the same day and the patient receives a confirmation call and apology.
• If patients are scheduled for the delivery of ortho appliances, crowns/bridges, or removables, make sure these are in the office the day before the patient’s appointment. Having a patient arrive expecting a crown cementation for a crown that is not there is not acceptable.
• If a patient has been sent to a specialist, have a staff person follow up on the outcome of that appointment. Don’t wait until the patient’s next recall to ask what happened! The office should know what happened and be prepared to discuss the outcome with the patient.
• If a patient had a sample sent to the lab for biopsy, have a staff person follow up on the result of the biopsy and be sure that a written report has been received prior to the patient’s next appointment.
• If the dentist or hygienist is running behind, have a front desk person call the next patient to let them know and offer them a chance to reschedule if they prefer. If the patient has already arrived and is waiting more than 15 minutes, give them the same option. Patients understand that an office can run late, but they become irritated if they are ignored. Respect your patient’s time!
• If a patient has had local anesthesia or any restorative treatment, a staff person or the dentist should call them in the evening to see how they are doing. Patients will remember this kindness.
Notices on the computer schedule can often be used to remind staff to take care of these important follow-throughs. Human courtesy can accomplish the others. Since most offices are quite lax in many areas of patient service, your office will stand out and your patients will refer their family and friends.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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