When Patients Donít Appreciate You, It Hurts Your Practice
Growing a loyal patient base can be challenging, but it’s also vital to any dental practice’s success. You’re simply not going to get very far if you don’t have enough patients to treat, no matter how talented you are as a clinician.
Part of developing this strong foundation is getting patients to appreciate the services you provide, as well as understand the value of dentistry. This is something many dentists struggle with, which is why they end up with lackluster patient retention and case acceptance numbers – and that’s not only frustrating, but pretty damaging to their bottom line.
To get patients to appreciate what you do, you have to take the time to educate them about dentistry and how their dental health impacts the rest of their body. Talk with them about their oral health goals and any concerns they have about their smile. Tailor your education to each patient’s situation, and be sure to address any perceived barriers to care they bring up.
If you don’t spend much time educating patients about their condition and the possible consequences of not going forward with recommended treatment, I can pretty much guarantee they don’t appreciate what you do, and it’s damaging your practice. Not convinced? Read on.
First-time patients don’t come back. Patients want to feel a connection to the practice they choose as their dental home, and to know both the dentist and the team have their best interest at heart. If you rush in and out of the treatment room without taking the time to get to know them or provide much education, they’re probably not going to feel that connection, which means there’s a good chance they’ll be making their next appointment at another practice.
If you want patients to come back, I suggest you show them you care about them as people, not just a potential revenue source. Train your team members to offer exceptional customer service, and to make patients as comfortable as possible from the moment they walk through the door – whether that means offering them water as they wait or helping them fill out paperwork. Start building a rapport with patients from the first time they call your office to make an appointment, and you’ll find they’re much more likely to value your practice and stay loyal.
Patients don’t show up for their hygiene appointments, or cancel at the last minute. When patients don’t recognize the value of the care you provide, they don’t see any reason to keep their appointments, which leads to chaos in your practice and usually keeps you from meeting daily production goals.
How can you get patients to understand the importance of keeping these appointments? When patients cancel at the last minute, politely let them know how it hurts the practice and other patients who could have seen the doctor at that time. I also suggest you give patients who do show up a summary of their visit. Include a list of the services performed, such as a periodontal exam and an oral cancer screening, a review of the hygiene evaluation, home care instructions and a reminder about specific areas to pay attention to between now and the next visit.
Be sure to outline treatment recommendations, and list every free product the patient received, along with an estimated value of those products. Have the summary waiting for patients when they check out, or use it as a reason to send a follow-up email.
This, along with the education you provide, will help patients truly appreciate what you do, making them less likely to flake out when it’s time for their next visit.
Case acceptance takes a hit. When patients aren’t properly educated, they don’t see the need to go forward with the treatment you recommend. They convince themselves you’re just trying to sell them dentistry, or decide treatment can wait. This, of course, kills your bottom line, not to mention team morale.
To boost case acceptance numbers, consider hiring a Treatment Coordinator to help educate patients about the importance of going forward with recommended treatment, and why they need to maintain their oral health. This team member, trained in sales, should be in charge of case presentations for all producers in the practice. Rather than you spending 10 minutes quickly going through treatment chairside, this team member can talk with patients as long as necessary, and then follow up with a phone call two days later to provide further education and address any lingering concerns.
This approach will not only help patients feel more connected to your practice, they’ll be better educated and more likely to say yes to treatment.
Creating a loyal patient base can be tricky, especially when patients don’t value dentistry. If you provide the necessary education and take the time to build a rapport, patients will start to appreciate what you do and feel a real connection to you and your team – and that’s when your practice will really start to grow.
Next week: Focus on education to boost patient appreciation and grow your practice
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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