Keep More Patients with these 5 Tips

By Sally McKenzie, CEO Printer Friendly Version

Attracting new patients to your office is vital to practice growth—but it doesn’t do you much good if they never come back. To be successful, you have to find ways to make patients want to call your practice their dental home. You need a strong base of loyal patients who accept treatment and refer.

Unfortunately, many practices struggle with patient retention. They lose more patients than they bring in each month, and they have no idea why. This is both frustrating and costly, but if you make the right changes, you can build your patient base and grow your bottom line.

I want to be the one to help you do that. Follow these five tips and you’ll start keeping more patients, with retention rates hovering between 85 and 95 percent.

1. Show patients you care. Patients don’t want to feel like a number. They want to know you have their best interest at heart, and that you’re not just trying to sell them on expensive dentistry.

There are many ways you can show patients you care, starting with making exceptional customer service a priority. Make patients feel at home from the moment they walk through the door, with friendly smiles from team members who are ready to help in any way they can.

Taking the time to educate patients also shows them you care about their wellbeing. Talk with them about any problems you discover and the services you provide that can help them reach optimal oral health. Don’t just limit the conversation to dentistry, though. Ask patients about their families and their jobs. Get to know them and start developing a rapport. This will help them feel a connection to your practice, and that fosters loyalty.

2. Focus on recall. Many practices ignore this important system—and it shows. If you’re among them, now is the time to revamp recall and start getting patients back in the chair.

How, you ask? Instead of sending out generic reminder cards and hoping they’ll entice patients to call and make an appointment (they won’t, by the way), I suggest you hire a Patient Coordinator. Task this team member with re-energizing the recall system by reaching out and scheduling a certain number of past due patients every day. He or she should be trained in sales and prepared to educate these patients about the importance of maintaining their oral health and scheduling treatment.

Neglecting your recall system isn’t doing your practice any good. Start focusing on getting past due patients back on the schedule and you’ll see an increase in patient retention rates and practice productivity. 

3. Set your team members up for success. To excel, team members need guidance from you, the practice CEO. That guidance should come in the form of detailed job descriptions, proper training and continual feedback.

When team members have the direction they crave, not only will they be more effective and have more confidence in their skills, they’ll also be happier to come to work each day—and that will come through in their patient interactions. Patients will notice the difference, making them more likely to stay loyal to your practice.

4. Consider hiring a Treatment Coordinator. While you might enjoy performing your own case presentations, talking with patients for five to 10 minutes chairside usually isn’t enough to get them to accept treatment, or want to come back to your practice. Patients can tell if you’re in a rush, and won’t feel like they can ask the questions they have about treatment.

A Treatment Coordinator can sit with patients in a relaxed environment for as long as necessary to explain all aspects of treatment, from how long it will take, to post-op care to cost. The coordinator can answer their questions and address any perceived barriers to care. Patients leave the practice with a much better understanding of why they should go forward with treatment, and that makes them more likely to come back to receive that treatment.

5. Always follow up. While more personalized case presentations given by a Treatment Coordinator go a long way in earning patient loyalty and improving case acceptance, they’re even more effective if they’re followed up with a telephone call two days later. During these calls, the coordinator can continue to educate patients about why treatment is important and the possible consequences of ignoring any problems identified. This is also the time to revisit any perceived barriers to care. By the end of the call, patients should be ready to schedule, leading to higher patient retention numbers as well as higher practice productivity.

Patients have a lot of options when it comes to finding a dental home. If they’re not happy with their experience at your practice for any reason, they won’t feel guilty about trying out a different dentist when it’s time for their next appointment. If you follow these tips, that won’t happen. You’ll keep more patients and grow your bottom line.

Want more advice to help you grow your patient base? Feel free to reach out. Send me an email at I’m happy to help.

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