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5.16.08 Issue #323 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
McKenzie Management
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Remember When You Used To…?

Dr. Lou Howard—Case Study #114

“I need more patients!” Dr. Howard’s statement is becoming more common with the downturn in the economy. The schedule starts to look lean and hygiene is riddled with cancellations. The symptoms are bringing to light that Dr. Howard needs to know exactly how many new patients are coming in daily, weekly and monthly, as well as where these new patients are coming from. He also needs to know if they are continuing with treatment and if his marketing dollars are giving him the return he should be getting.

To help him solve the problem, the following computer reports were examined:

Number of New Patients
Depending on the software you are using, various reports can be generated to determine your new patient count. The accuracy of the report is based on how the software extrapolates the information for the report. There are two types of “new patients.” There are new “emergency” patients and new “hygiene” patients. Emergency patients do not contribute to the growth of the practice unless they are converted to comprehensive exam patients.

Some software programs allow you to print a New Patient Report. This report is based on the “first visit date” but does not distinguish between emergency and hygiene or comprehensive new patients. Other software programs generate this report based on the date when an ADA code is posted to the patient’s ledger.

How to resolve this: All new patients going into your hygiene program should receive a Comprehensive Exam (D0150). This code is posted to the patient’s ledger, so a running total of this code is tabulated within the software. A report can be generated to determine how many of these codes were posted during any time period. This report may be called a “Production Summary Report,” “Procedures by Provider Report,” or “Production by ADA Code.” If you are unsure how to generate this report, contact your software support team. By the way, this report is one of the most important reports that can be generated to determine the performance of your practice, based on the procedures that are completed.

Where Are New Patients Coming From?
If your Scheduling Coordinator is not entering referral information into the New Patient’s information screen, your Referral Report will not be accurate. In Dr. Howard’s office, the referral source was entered if the new patient answered the question on the intake form; otherwise, no effort was made to gather the information. This information is essential to determining how future marketing and advertising dollars are to be spent.

Examples of referral sources:

  • signage (drove by and stopped)
  • yellow pages
  • direct Mail
  • insurance participation
  • employees
  • referral by patients of record, relatives or friends

The most valuable referral source is “existing patients.” These are patients that are happy with you and your team, and enjoy coming to see you. It is also the most cost-effective source of marketing and can be developed by improving your “internal marketing” strategies.

Dr. Howard’s Referral Report was proof that the information was not accurate because the Procedural Report showed he was averaging 16 new hygiene patients per month but the Referral Report was only reporting 7. Of those referral sources that were reported, the majority of the patients were coming from the yellow pages and not existing patients.

Are Your Patients Staying?
Now that you know how many new hygiene patients you are seeing per month, multiply this by 12 months to get a yearly average. If you have already been tracking the number of New Patients correctly, run the procedural report for the past 12 months for a more accurate count.

Next, run the Past Due Recall Report. This is also a very important report, as it tells how many patients are lost through your hygiene department if action is not taken to retain these patients.

Dr. Howard discovered:

Number of New Patients (average) for this year = 192
Number of Past Due Patients for the past year = 223
Number of patients lost in a year = 31

Conclusions
The practice isn’t growing; patients aren’t staying and are not referring their friends and family. Why? Dr. Howard had stopped doing the things that had built his practice in the beginning.

Recommendations:
Implement customer service points to recapture the patient base:

  • handwrite personal notes to all your new patients
  • call patients after long or difficult procedures to see how they are feeling
  • handwrite “thank you” notes to patients that refer other patients
  • recognize patients’ birthdays with cards or gifts
  • give tokens of appreciation to all your patients during holidays or special events
  • follow up on the status of a patient referred to a specialist
  • make time to develop a relationship with new patients and to reconnect with recall patients

Dr. Howard built his practice with his caring nature. He connected with his patients in a special way that made him unique. His patients loved him and referred their family and friends. As Dr. Howard became complacent about these personal touches, his patients fell by the wayside. They stopped referring their friends and eventually stopped going to his office because he was no longer the same dentist.

Re-evaluate your practice. Are the majority of your referrals coming from your existing patients? If not, improve your internal customer service techniques to make yourself unique again. You will have happy patients and you will be happy as you “reconnect” with them.

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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