Think Lost Patients are a Lost Cause? Think Again.
At this writing, the Dow has surpassed 13,000. Economic indicators continue to point to an improving economy. Most of us are holding our collective breath, waiting to exhale and enjoy a long and much anticipated sigh of relief. We've had enough of the recession, enough of the start-stop-start economic recovery, and enough of world events derailing progress at home.
Dental practice owners are eager to see improvements, and thankfully many are. If the great recession did anything positive for dentistry, it forced many dentists to give up the illusion and face the realities of chronic system shortfalls that had long been masked. However, we continue to see grossly neglected recall systems that are exacerbating practice problems, particularly with treatment acceptance and patient attrition. More on that later.
Today, as we chip away at the recession and dental offices reposition themselves to build on the growing economy, it's critical that practices look first at fundamentals. Number one: Know where patient numbers truly stand. Certainly, the last few years have caused patients to find multiple reasons not to return to the dentist. But once you know how many you've lost, you can implement a strategy to get them back. To assess your situation, gather data from a few key reports, starting with the production reports.
Depending on your software system, one of the reports may be called Production by Provider, Practice Analysis, or Production by ADA Code. It is very useful for tracking new patient comprehensive exams. Just be sure those members of your team who are responsible for posting procedures to a patient ledger use the appropriate codes for new comprehensive examinations.
Each month, run the report for exactly the last 12 months. It should show specifically how many new patient exams were performed in your practice in the last year. Write that number down. Next, run an overdue recall/continuing care report for the same timeframe. You're looking for every patient who was due back into the practice during the past 12 months. Write that number down. For example, your results may show 200 new patients and 300 existing patients overdue for recall. You've effectively calculated patient flow ratio. What's more, you now know exactly who has not been scheduled.
In addition, it's time to understand where patient retention numbers are. Answer the following questions.
If the number of inactive patient records is enough to open a second practice or if you answered no to question two, you have lost and are losing patients.
When you consider that it costs five times as much to attract a new patient as it does to keep an existing one, it becomes abundantly clear that investing time and effort in a patient recall and retention strategy is far more than just a good idea. Certainly, today's more frugal patients may want to know that they are receiving value if they make the investment in your care. But don't assume that inactive patients won't return to your practice, many just need the practice to contact them. In fact, in most cases, patients appreciate it if you value them enough to make the effort to reconnect.
Start with your targeted patient list. This is the report you generated from your computer of all patients past due for recall appointments in the last twelve months. Next, give your inactive patients a good reason to return. Send a professionally printed notice to every adult in your active and inactive files who is or was a patient in good standing. Let me be clear, this communication is not a cheap and cheesy little 3x5 postcard that has cartoon characters on it or puppy dogs or scenic pictures that have absolutely nothing to do with dentistry. The cards should impress upon the patient the value of returning to your practice.
I recently designed professionally worded and educational recall reminders for our clients and am now making them available to our readers - GO HERE. These one-of-a-kind recall reminders can be customized to contain a specific message directed toward each patient. They go into an envelope. Why an envelope? Because when patients have to open an envelope they are engaged. You have their attention. Professional communication tools emphasize the professionalism of your practice and the value of your care.
Next week, do this and get patients back in the chair.
For more information on this topic and for additional Dental Practice Management info, visit my blog: The Lighter Side.
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