How to Attract (And Keep!) the Best Patients
It seems like practice growth has stalled. Sure, you have a fair number of new patients visiting your practice each month (though of course you could see more), but very few of them become loyal patients. Retention rates are nowhere near the 95% benchmark, and patients cancel at the last minute or don’t show up at all just about every day.
These costly problems are a huge source of stress and frustration, keeping your practice from meeting its full potential. How can you overcome them? Start by focusing on attracting (and keeping) the best patients – you know, the ones who show up to appointments on time, accept the treatment you recommend, and refer.
Not sure how to make that happen? Here are my tips:
Invest in marketing. Most dentists don’t want to be bothered with marketing. They convince themselves word-of-mouth referrals are all they need to grow their practice and reach their goals. Sorry, but they’re not. Neither is putting together one-off promotions a few times a year. While you’ll get patients to come to your practice to take advantage of the deals, you’ll never hear from most of them again.
For the best results, you really should develop a brand and a targeted marketing strategy. Put together a cohesive, consistent and continual message that’s designed to attract the type of patients you want to treat. Understand the demographics of your market and target your efforts accordingly.
Of course, marketing isn’t just about attracting new patients. It’s also about keeping the ones you already have. Make sure current patients are aware of any new services you provide and how those services can benefit their oral health. Simply put, give them a reason to come back.
Focus on creating an exceptional patient experience. Unfortunately, most patients don’t enjoy going to the dentist. There’s a million things they’d rather do, which is why it’s so vital to create an outstanding patient experience that makes them actually want to come back to your practice. This starts with offering top-notch customer service. Train team members to greet each patient with a smile and provide refreshments as they wait. Create a comfortable environment in the reception area and have team members offer to help them complete paperwork. These small touches go a long way in creating the kind of connections that will keep patients loyal to your practice.
An added benefit? If patients are happy with their experience, there’s a good chance they’ll tell family and friends. They might even write a positive online review or share information about your practice on social media – which could lead to more new patients and increased practice productivity.
Make patient education a priority. If patients don’t value the care you provide, they have no real reason to keep their appointments or even return to your practice. During every appointment, take the time to educate. In fact, I suggest you look at every patient interaction as an opportunity to educate.
While chairside, talk with patients about their condition and how you can help improve it. Show videos that explain the recommended treatment, as well as intraoral camera images and their x-rays. This will help patients see exactly what’s going on in their mouth, and why treatment is necessary. From there, ask about their concerns and address them.
I also recommend you consider hiring a Treatment Coordinator. Once you give an overview of treatment recommendations, this team member can sit down with patients for as long as necessary to go over the procedure. Patients will have the chance to ask questions in a comfortable, relaxed environment. If patients don’t commit before they leave, then the coordinator should follow up in the next two days to address any lingering concerns and perceived barriers to care. Not only will patients appreciate the extra time your practice spent with them, they’ll be more likely to call your practice their dental home and accept the treatment you recommend.
Add new procedures to your list of services. When patients are looking for a new dentist, they often have certain requirements. Maybe they want a dentist who offers implants, or they might be interested in clear aligner therapy. Offering a variety of services will help attract new patients to your practice, as well as retain current patients. And as an added bonus, continually updating your skills will also help you stay passionate about dentistry.
Finding ways to attract and keep loyal patients can be challenging, but it’s vital to your practice’s success. Following these tips will help you get more new patients in the chair and ultimately raise your patient retention numbers.
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
It’s Not Just Running Reports
As a consultant, I advise dental practices to generate certain practice reports on a regular basis. Whether it’s the front office team, office manager, hygienist, doctor’s spouse, assistants, or the doctors getting the reports themselves, it is vitally important for someone to monitor this data.
The information available through practice reports is priceless, and it is a consultant’s goal to teach you how to do all this on your own; giving you the knowledge to evaluate your office on a regular basis. It is best if each department feels accountable for their numbers and “owns” them.
If information is not entered into the software correctly at the time of service, reports may not be accurate. In this case, we must work together to figure out where adjustments are necessary. For example, if an appointment is not broken properly or not set up correctly, there will be no way to track that patient in your recall system. They may become “lost in cyberspace” or end up with the wrong recall – perhaps not set up as a periodontal maintenance after root planing, or accidentally given two recalls, one for prophylaxis and one for periodontal maintenance.
In other cases, if information is being input correctly but all you do is generate the reports and don’t look at the data provided, you might be missing valuable information.. Once you generate the reports, you need to know what to look for so they can be properly examined.
When it comes to hygiene, it’s important to monitor the periodontal percentage of the hygiene department every month. At the end of the year, look at the periodontal percentage for each hygienist, in addition to the hygiene department as a whole. According to industry standards, this should be at 33% or more.
Look at hygiene to practice production. According to industry standard, this should also be 33%. Take note of how many patients are not returning vs. new patients increasing the patient base. If more patients are not returning than new patients coming into the practice, consider what major changes may have happened during that time. Did you bring on new employees, have staff turnover, or implement office protocol that directly affects patients? Did the quality of customer service and how patients are being cared for change in some way?
When consulting with a practice, I also look at how many cancellations, no-shows and open time you have available every month and the entire year. If you have a lot of no-shows, it may be because patients do not value their appointments. This would mean patients need more education about the importance of keeping appointments to improve their overall health. This requires effort from the entire team.
If you have a lot of open time, look at how many hours of hygiene you have and how many you really need. If you have more patients coming into the practice than leaving, hygiene time may need to be added to your schedule.
Not all reports are created equal either. Some software provides a report that will give you a production summary by category, showing the percentage and average dollar amount earned in each category. However, it may not allow you to see how many root planeings of one to three teeth were done, or how many periodontal maintenances, fluorides, full quadrants of root planing, etc. Knowing these details allows you to be more in touch with where the money is coming from in your hygiene department.
Next time you run a report, really take the time to look at all the information available. It may end up resulting in major practice benefits, such as a higher profit margin, raises, and new equipment.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email email@example.com and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
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