Patient Retention – Turn Your Fantasy into Reality
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.
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.
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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:
Business Staff’s concerns:
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!
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:
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 Meetings – There 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:
Trends should be noted by the doctor (up or down) and discuss with the team
“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.
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.
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