12.08.06 - Issue # 248 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Patient Retention
Year End Marketing
Staffing Communication

Patient Retention Turn Your Fantasy into Reality
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Do you remember the moment you discovered that a jolly old elf in a red suit with flying reindeer didn’t really circle the globe on December 24th delivering presents to all the good little children of the world? Perhaps it was a sibling or a neighbor kid who innocently - or maliciously - spilled the beans. With a jolt, the illusion was over.

Although most adults won’t admit it, we still like to hold on to illusions. The days of the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus may be over, but we’ve replaced them with grown up fantasies to help us explain discrepancies, inconsistencies, or situations we just plain don’t want to face.

We discount those little indicators, hunches, and feelings that things just aren’t exactly as they should be. We quiet those negative thoughts and let the sugarplum delusions dance through our heads. In the dental practice, the fantasy of choice is that all those patient records represent real patients who are regularly and happily coming in for dental care. So it is quite a shock when the doctor discovers that this strongly held belief is actually 70% fantasy and only 30% reality. Out of the hundreds – if not thousands – of patient records, only a fraction of them – 30% - represent active patients. The rest are merely an illusion of a thriving practice.

However, not all is grim. Mostly likely, many of those inactive patients haven’t truly left the practice, they’re just temporarily disconnected, if you will. They are consumed with the daily demands of life, work, and family. As important as dental care is, for many people it’s one of those details they think of just once in a while.

So how exactly does a practice carve out a bit more space in the patients’ psyche in order to become less of an afterthought and more of a regular presence?  In this age of technological gadgets and gizmos, the wired world offers a huge opportunity to build cost effective and time efficient patient communication strategies.

One of the most innovative services I’ve found is offered by Elexity. The company uses an automated telephone marketing system that enables practices to bridge the communication gap with patients, in between routine visits. It’s a powerfully simple, yet  tremendously effective means of internal marketing that enables practices to stay in front of patients throughout the year.

Patients receive a personal greeting every three months. It maybe a happy birthday greeting, happy holidays message, a patient education message to inform them of a new service or treatment, or a communication to notify them that they have unused insurance benefits remaining. The beauty of the service is that the messages are pre-recorded by the doctor and/or office manager, so the patient hears a familiar voice. The phone calls appear on the patients’ caller I.D. as coming from the dental practice, yet they don’t tie up the practice phone system. And the best part, aside from recording a few patient messages, the distribution details are handled by Elexity, so the service requires virtually NO staff time.

To reinforce the telephone messages, Elexity also provides periodic email messages to patients. Like the telephone messages, these also appear to come from the practice but require almost zero staff time.

Complement the occasional telephone and email messages with an informative practice website that you routinely encourage patients to visit and you’ve built an excellent, cost-effective means of maintaining ongoing communication with your patients in between their routine appointments. Essentially, it’s a full year of electronic marketing at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional marketing. 

Best of all, one of your favorite fantasies – the one in which all of those patient records represent active, happy patients – is that much closer to becoming one of your favorite realities.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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Belle DuCharme CDPMA
Instructor/Consultant
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Anytime is Time to Thank Your Patients for Choosing Your Practice

Internal Marketing That Pays Big and Costs Little

In July and August, one of our clients started a campaign to reactivate patients who were overdue for recall appointments and diagnosed treatment.  This particular practice was steadily busy with 30 new patients each month, so Dr. Overtooth smiled and said, “Aren’t we busy enough without doing all of those cards and letters?”  I replied to Dr. Overtooth, “Yes, you are busy but let me remind you of our conversation where you said that your goal was to hire an associate so that you could work less days in the future and take more vacations with your family. The only way we can do that is to keep up a continuous reactivation process to insure that our patient retention rate stays at your established goal.  Along with that, we need to be able to accommodate the 30 new patients per month without being scheduled so far out that we end up losing patients who don’t want to wait more than two weeks to be seen.” 

Using McKenzie Management’s Recall Letter System, and not “cutesy postcards” ,I was able to include a personal note to the patient about areas of the mouth that needed to be maintained or monitored.  Along with that, I included some information about products or services that the practice offered that would benefit that particular patient.  For instance, if the patient was in perio maintenance or had some pocketing areas that were not resolved, I would include the ADA brochure about how periodontal disease may have consequences on cardiovascular health. If the patient had young children, I would include a brochure about the importance of keeping primary teeth healthy.  The text of the recall or recare reactivation card or letter should read something like this:

It’s been a long time!  Our records show your last visit was_____________.
We’ve missed you and are concerned about your dental health.  As you know, regular care is important to maintain good dental health. 
We also wonder if we should keep your records on active status.  Please help by calling today to let us know or to schedule an appointment.

Personal note__________________________________________________

You could also include an incentive of $25.00 off any service (except those services covered at 100% by insurance).

It is now November in Dr. Overtooth’s practice and he has an associate one day per week.  He is booked solid through the end of December with patients who want to use their insurance benefits and flex money. The associate has been asked to add two more days in December.  Many practices lose this revenue because they did not prepare for this yearly occurrence.

There is an old saying “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”  A patient that has chosen you as their dental health provider and has purchased services in your practice is far easier to market to than the “two” patients you are trying to attract to your practice that have never heard of you.  A patient that has been referred by a happy patient in your practice is open to buying more services from you because they come into the practice with a higher trust level.  These patients need your VIP treatment.  Developing an internal marketing program for the staff will insure that these patients are as pleased as the friend that sent them.  If you do not give the service expected, you could lose the new patient and the patient that referred them.  Thanking your referral sources is critical to the success of any marketing plan.  Your software can track referral sources only if the information is entered.  In many practices with scheduling holes big enough to drive a MacK Truck through, I have noted referral sources entered for few, if any, patients.  If you track your referral sources you can tier your rewards to patients who are your “champions”.  These patients, when they see that you are recognizing that they are referring their friends and family, will continue to do so.

How often I have heard from practices, “We don’t have time for reactivation!”  To that I say, “Do you have time to mail out 5 letters a day and make 5 calls a day?”  That is all you have to do, but it must be carried out on a daily basis.  You will eliminate the rhetoric of “It’s always slow this time of year” if you establish an internal marketing program that includes a consistent reactivation process and a system of thanking your referral sources.

For more information on McKenzie's Advanced Training for Front Office and Office Managers, email training@mckenziemgmt.com, call `1-877-777-6151 or visit our web-site at http://www.mckenziemgmt.com/

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Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
McKenzie Management
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Can We Talk?

A McKenzie Management Case Study

Dr. Matthew Fox – Case Study #256

Dr. Fox was not unique in his daily challenges of managing an efficient and productive office.  Also not unique were the obvious struggles that the team had in regard to the same challenges.

Guess what?...the doctor and the team had no idea how to solve any of the issues they faced because there was no effective communication taking place among anyone! 

Dr. Fox’s concerns:

  • Employees were not making day to day decisions regarding scheduling and patient questions regarding treatment.  He always felt they needed to speak to him about everything.  He felt like he was working the deli department in the grocery store where the customer takes a number and waits until their number is called in order to get served.
  • The schedule was stressful and not productive on many days.  The doctor and staff found themselves working into lunch and late in the evenings.
  • Dr. Fox and his clinical team felt like they were “flying by the seat of their pants” many times throughout the day regarding patient care and treatment.

Business Staff’s concerns:

  • It was difficult to find time throughout the day to talk with the doctor about scheduling questions as well as patient questions.
  • Treatment plans were not being followed so it was difficult to explain to the patient what they were being scheduled for.
  • Difficult to collect patient’s payments because the recommended treatment was being changed mid-stream.

As I observed the activities throughout the day during my first two days of my visit, it was obvious to me what was causing such “mass confusion” between the doctor and the staff.  There was NO communication taking place that was effectively resolving the issues of the day.  There were also no tools for doing so.  In other words, no one really knew how to talk to one another!

Recommendations:

Morning meetings – Dr. Fox and his clinical team would gather in the hall while the hygiene patients were being walked between them to briefly “chat” about the day.  The meeting was non-productive and did not completely cover the areas that needed to be covered in order to have an efficient and productive day.
Morning meetings should include the following:

  • Review of all the procedures that are scheduled to confirm the accuracy of the information
  • Review medical alerts
  • Determine any patients who have birthdays that week that are coming in for celebration
  • Share production goals for the previous day, as well as scheduled production for this day and tomorrow
  • Look for good times for emergencies that may need to be seen for the day
  • Make sure that all lab cases that are scheduled for the day are in the office and ready for delivery.
  • Review tomorrow’s schedule if time allows

In conjunction with the morning meeting, the hygienists and assistants should have access to their patients’ records for the next day by lunch-time in order to have time to review the information prior to the morning huddle.

Monthly MeetingsThere was some form of monthly meetings held but it was felt by the staff that they were not productive.  They were held during lunch without an agenda and no “old business” was discussed from the previous meeting. Monthly meetings should include the following:

  • Monthly statistics for the practice for the previous month – this is extremely important so everyone is aware of how the practice is performing.

Trends should be noted by the doctor (up or down) and discuss with the team

  • A “To Do” List should be reviewed each month that includes tasks that were discussed and need to be completed by assigned team members.  Monthly meetings can be productive and information and ideas are shared but nothing is followed up on because no one is held accountable for the tasks that are discussed, and no notes are made so this information can be reviewed at the next monthly meeting for completion of the tasks.
  • New agenda items should be discussed.  These items are accumulated by the “Monthly Meeting Coordinator” from the staff.  A bulletin board, an envelope, a suggestion box, etc. can be used as a mechanism for the team to make suggestions for agenda items throughout the month.

“Walkie Talkies” could be used by all team members and doctors to improve inter-office communication.  Staff members were running around the office like “chickens with their heads cut off” trying to find other staff members to ask questions or share information to. Team members were constantly playing “hide and seek” with the doctor or each other.

New Patient Time to make an accurate treatment plan is a necessity in order to have continuity of information between the doctor, the clinical staff and the business team.  Everyone must be on the same page regarding the patient’s treatment, the fees, how the appointments need to be scheduled and how much time is needed for each appointment.  This would eliminate many of the questions for the doctor throughout the day regarding patients’ treatment.

Conclusions:

There is “talking” to make noise and there is “talking” for a purpose.  Communication must be clear and concise between the doctor and the staff.  If the staff does not completely understand what the doctor is saying,…ask for clarification.  Some doctors communicate more clearly than others.  Dr. Fox was a friendly and very likeable doctor, but he did not always communicate his thoughts clearly and with a definitive conclusion.

It takes practice to improve communication in an office. By implementing the tools listed above, the practice day will be more productive and less hectic.  Everyone will be aware of the “page” that the practice is on for the day.  Start the day on the right foot and it will continue to march on efficiently until it’s time to go home.

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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1.877.777.6151
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