8.17.07 - Issue # 284 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
McKenzie Management
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Where Have All My Patients Gone?

Dr. James Wilcox– Case Study #111

 “My practice has stagnated over the past couple of years.  The town where I live is growing and more and more dentists are moving in.  It doesn’t seem like I am as busy as I used to be.  What is happening?”

Dr. Wilcox’s practice facts:

  • 15-year old established family practice that sees about 15 new patients a month.  Five years ago the practice was averaging 20 new patients a month.
  • The practice has supported 4 days of hygiene for the past 5 years.
  • The practice has maintained the same staff for almost 7 years.

 “I used to be so busy that I considered stopping the influx of new patients.  I couldn’t keep up the pace and my patients were waiting weeks to get in.  Now I am only scheduled out a week or two in advance and there are days that I am not busy at all.”

Observations:

  • The “receptionist” was too quick to tell patients that they didn’t accept any PPOs.
  • The office was “out of date” in terms of décor.
  • The staff, including the hygienist, referred to the hygiene appointments as “just cleanings”.
  • There were no “recall protocols” for the receptionist to follow in order to maintain a healthy recall program.
  • Dr. Wilcox told his patients during their 6-month exam that “everything looks good”.
  • No one in the office asks for referrals from their existing patients, nor is there a sign that invites new patients to the practice. 
  • The “New Patient Experience” was non-existent

These observations are very common in practices that have been around for 10-15 years. It’s like all of you have been “around the block” and keep going around the same block instead of moving to a new one.  It is evident you keep doing everything the way you used to do them!

For example, here a few questions asked of Dr. Wilcox:

  • Why don’t you call your patients after difficult procedures?
  • Why don’t you hand-write a thank you note to a new patient?
  • Why don’t you participate in more local community projects to get public visibility?

His response to all the above questions was the same.  “I used to.  I just don’t get around to it anymore.”  Dr. Wilcox wins the “round tuit” award for the month.  How can you afford NOT to get around to it?  Coasting on your past success in hopes that the same success will continue without applying any effort is irresponsible. It doesn’t work in this economy with new dentists coming to your area and who have learned and been “raised” on how to market to their patients.

Recommendations:

  1. Start implementing more internal marketing techniques, such as hand written thank you notes, celebrating patients’ birthdays with a small gift when they arrive, participate in community activities as a team for exposure, etc.  Many of these ideas “used to be done” before the good life set in.
  1. Increase patient awareness relative to the hygiene program.  If they want patients to stay in the practice, patients need to understand the value of what the hygienist does.  She performs “professional cleanings” and educates patients on how to maintain their dental investment.  Dr. Wilcox must express to each patient the importance of coming in for their scheduled intervals for maintenance and prevention of dental diseases.
  1. Establish a “New Patient Experience” like nothing that a patient would experience in another office.  Conduct blood pressure screenings, oral cancer screenings, have a new patient gift package, see new patients within a week for excellent customer service, don’t have new patients wait, schedule the new patient appointment for what the patient wants, which is a “cleaning”.  Combine the hygiene visit and the new patient doctor visit at the same time.
  1. Invest in a “new look” for the office.  Get rid of the orange shag carpet and uncomfortable chairs lined up around the wall.  Bring in an interior decorator if necessary and bring the reception area into the 21st century.  Display professional dental posters with people of all ages with beautiful smiles.  After all, isn’t that what we do?
  1. Follow the new “recall protocol” for improving patient retention.  It doesn’t do any good to get 15 new patients in the front door if 20 existing patients are leaving through the back door because of poor customer service and lack of follow-up.  Every patient must feel that YOU are their dentist and they would not even consider trying the “new dentist” down the street!

Conclusions:

Dr. Wilcox’s practice was a very common example of the challenges that all doctors face when they don’t keep up with the times and continue to utilize all the tools that they first used to build up the practice.  If you have a good thing going, keep it going and don’t get off the path.  Never assume that your practice will continue to grow and flourish unless you are willing to nurture and care for it every day.

Dr. Wilcox now understands this concept and is re-establishing many of the internal marketing strategies that he and his staff used to exercise.  The office has become energized again and it is again a fun place to work.

Throw away your “round tuits” and start nurturing your practice again.  It will start rewarding you with the fruits of your labor.

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies….. email info@mckenziemgmt.com.
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