When Patients Don’t 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
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Supporting the Team and Patients through Tragic Times
The morning of the infamous 9/11 attack, I was getting ready for work as a Dental Insurance Coordinator and my then fourteen-year-old daughter was listening to her radio while getting ready for school. I heard her cry out “Mom, someone is attacking New York!” We turned on the television in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Tower.
In shock, we didn’t know what was happening, but we had to keep the day as normal as possible, so she went to school and I went to work. There were quiet murmurs, and everyone was subdued as we all awaited further news of the shocking events.
One of the patients did not show up for their scheduled appointment, so the Scheduling Coordinator called and left a message on the answering machine stating that there may be a charge for a broken appointment. Later we learned that the patient had a relative who worked at the World Trade Center in New York. It’s a small world, and even though we were in California there were many people who had friends and relatives in New York. The point to the story is that in times of tragedy and unrest, it’s important to stay sensitive to what is happening to the people in our practices as well as in our personal lives.
The times we are living in require all of us to be vigilant, and at the same time unafraid. As the leader of your practice, whether as Office Manager or Dentist CEO, there must be a plan in place to manage the after effects of these terrible tragedies.
To be completely able to leave the emotional fallout on the doorstep when you walk into the office is very difficult, if not impossible. Here are a few suggestions gathered from dental professionals and other healthcare professionals that may help with ongoing crisis prevention.
1. Morning huddles and team meetings are a wonderful time to connect and communicate with the team. Prepare an inspirational quote to read to the group. You can take turns with each member being able to contribute. Here is my favorite site for inspirational quotes: https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/inspirational
2. Provide a leadership session for yourself and for the team.
3. Provide a team retreat which may include some interesting and positive continuing education for the team. Make sure to share meals and conversation together. Avoid highly charged political subjects.
4. Light a candle in the staff lounge area and have a moment of silence for the victims of recent tragedies. This can be a healthy release for pain and sadness that people are trying to stifle.
5. Show appreciation for your patients with a flower or special treat. Thank them for their loyalty and cooperation in keeping their appointments.
6. Be sensitive to the daily news and how it may affect the team and your patients. Offer a warm blanket or teddy bear to young patients who appear to be especially nervous or fearful at the appointment.
7. Sign the team up for an in-house shoulder and neck massage. Many therapists are mobile and can come to your practice when it is convenient, maybe during lunch break.
8. Encourage the team to eat healthy and to not skip exercise. Provide healthy snacks in the breakroom. Exercise and healthy eating can be good antidotes to the effects of stress.
9. Encourage the team to make time for their family and friends. Often people want to hibernate and disconnect when fearful and distraught.
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