3 Reasons Emergency Patients Donít Return
Dealing with a dental emergency is never easy, whether you’re the patient experiencing the problem or the dentist trying to fix it. These patients are often scared and in pain with nowhere to turn. For whatever reason they don’t have a dental home, and when they call your practice they’re hoping to find someone who understands their concerns and who can help. Of course you do your best to get them out of pain as quickly as possible, but you know fitting an emergency patient in will send your practice and your schedule into chaos. And the worst part? Most of these patients never return.
But the truth is, they should return. According to the industry standard, 80% of all emergency patients you treat should be converted into a comprehensive exam. Just think about what that would do for your practice in terms of growing your patient base, your production numbers and your bottom line. Emergency patients represent a huge opportunity, but it’s an opportunity many dental practices aren’t taking advantage of.
If you want emergency patients to become loyal patients, you have to figure out why they’re not coming back. Here are three reasons you never see emergency patients again and how to make these patients want to call your practice their dental home.
1. They feel like they’re bothering you. Remember, when emergency patients call to see if you can squeeze them in, they’re often in panic mode. They’re looking for comfort and reassurance that you can alleviate their pain as soon as possible. They don’t receive that comfort if it’s obvious the person answering the phone is annoyed by their call.
If the team member who answers sighs after the patient explains the situation and says something like “we’re very busy but we’ll try to get you in” and then follows that up by reminding the patient that payment is due at the time of treatment, that doesn’t exactly send a welcoming message. So even if the emergency prompts the patient to find a new dental home, chances are it won’t be yours.
To avoid this situation, make sure team members understand how important emergency patients are and the opportunity they represent. Develop scripts so team members know exactly what to say to emergency patients to put them at ease during that initial call.
It’s also a good idea to leave space in the schedule for emergency patients. This makes it easier to find a time to fit them in, so scheduling becomes much less stressful.
2. They just don’t feel comfortable. Emergency patients are more nervous than most, which is why it’s so important for team members to do what they can to put them at ease and give them extra attention. Train team members to greet these scared patients with a friendly smile as soon as they walk through the door. If it’s clear they’re in a lot of discomfort, offer to help them fill out the necessary forms in a quiet consultation room. Reassure them they’re in good hands and the doctor will do his or her best to alleviate their pain.
These small gestures will go a long way in putting emergency patients at ease, which will not only make them more likely to schedule that comprehensive exam before they go, it will make them more likely to talk your practice up to family and friends.
3. There’s not enough education. Most dentists want to get emergency patients in and out as quickly as possible. So while they do their part to alleviate their pain, they don’t spend much time educating them on the importance of maintaining their oral health. When treating emergency patients, start building a rapport. Ask them about their oral health goals and find out why they don’t have a dental home. Tailor your education to address their fears and let them know about the services you provide that can help keep their mouths healthy. Educated patients are more likely to return for follow-up care, especially if they feel a connection to your practice.
Treating emergency patients doesn’t have to bring stress to your day. If you plan for them and train your team members to see these patients as the opportunity they are, emergency patients can be a huge source of practice growth.
Next week: How to win emergency patients over
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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