07.10.09 Issue #383 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
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Use Relationships to Keep Your Practice Growing

Dr. Beverly Lane – Case Study #322

More inquiries are coming into McKenzie Management regarding the loss of existing patients, fewer new patients, and the significant increase in cancelled and broken appointments.  What to do?

Dr. Lane was a client of McKenzie Management three years ago. During her relationship with us, she learned a very valuable tool: dentistry is about relationships, and is not about carving the most beautiful restoration or fabricating the perfect porcelain crown.

Practice Statistics
Dr. Lane has continued to increase the number of new patients by 15% a year, even during these times. 73% of her new patients come referred by her existing patients, and the remainder come from insurance participation or a weekly ad that she runs in the local paper.

Practice production and collections has also continued to increase by over 25% each year. This year she has elected not to increase her fees. Her appointment acceptance is over 80% (not including hygiene appointments).

The Hygiene Department continues to grow.  The patient retention is 92% and additional days of hygiene have been added consistently over the past three years as the indicators warrant.

Why Is She Successful?
There are only two answers to this question:  She has excellent practice systems in place AND she understands the importance of having a professional relationship with her patients.

I have written many articles about the necessity of systems, so this article will not address this. Creating and sustaining relationships is equally as important in a dental practice. One requires the other.

How Did She Create Relationships?
Give yourself this test: Think of a restaurant where you enjoy dining. Now think about why you enjoy dining there.  The food is good – prices are reasonable for the quality you receive – you don’t have to wait – it is well-appointed – the wait staff are personable and remember your name – they call you the next day to confirm that your meal was exceptional and to find what could have been done to make your experience even better. Do you see where I am going with this?  All these considerations can be applied to your dental practice.

This is what Dr. Lane did:

  • Patients are greeted by name by the entire team and doctor
  • Her fees are not the highest and not the lowest in town
  • The practice is equipped with the latest high-tech equipment
  • Special amenities are available for patients, such as coffee, tea and granola bars
  • Patients are recognized during their birthday week with balloons
  • She calls all her new patients and any patients that had exceptional treatment
  • The patients are emailed or mailed surveys to inquire about ways to improve their service
  • Patients rarely have to wait.  If they do, they are given an “I am sorry” token
  • There is a laptop available for adults to work on while they wait for patients

The list goes on. What I hope you see is that Dr. Lane actually likes her patients and she has team members that understand what customer service is all about.

How Is She Maintaining These Relationships?
Dr. Lane is sensitive to the financial needs of her patients. During these more difficult times, not only has she not increased her fees, she is offering incentives to her patients to help them to accept the needed treatment.

Currently, she is providing her hygiene exams free of charge to her patients.  Do you think that this sales tool helps the Hygiene Coordinator to encourage a past due hygiene patient to come in? She has also offered complimentary radiographs in order to provide a complete diagnosis for a patient without insurance that indicated that she couldn’t afford them.

In order to maintain her daily production goal, the Schedule Coordinator has implemented an “On Call Program” for patients that are geographically close to the office.  These patients are called on short notice and if they are able to come in, they are given a 10% adjustment to their fee.

Dr. Lane has also been known to play “Let’s Make a Deal” with her patients. For example, Mrs. Jones needs two crowns in the same quadrant.  The investment was not manageable by the patient at full fee for two crowns. Dr. Lane offered the second crown for half the fee as a courtesy to the patient. 

Outside Relationships that Benefit Her Practice
Not only are dental offices struggling, but the labs that service these practices are struggling as well. Dr. Lane contacted her lab and expressed her interest in offering special fees for some of her patients in order to help them financially as well as dentally. She asked if the lab would consider passing on a savings to her as well so she could pass on the savings to the patient.  They said “yes!

The Hygiene Coordinator needed a creative way to thank patients that referred new patients.  She contacted several of the local restaurants and invited them to offer buy one get one free coupons that she could give to their patients.  It is a “win-win-win” situation for all parties involved.

It is never too late to start creating and maintaining relationships with your patients.  We don’t know how long the economy is going to suffer, but I do know this: the practices that are still growing have created a bond with their patients that can’t be duplicated anywhere else. When these practices do lose a patient to another dental office because of insurance participation, they often come back because of the relationship that was missing in the other office.

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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