12.08.06 - Issue # 248 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Patient Retention – Turn Your Fantasy into Reality
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Do you remember the moment you discovered that a jolly old elf in a red suit with flying reindeer didn’t really circle the globe on December 24th delivering presents to all the good little children of the world? Perhaps it was a sibling or a neighbor kid who innocently - or maliciously - spilled the beans. With a jolt, the illusion was over.

Although most adults won’t admit it, we still like to hold on to illusions. The days of the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus may be over, but we’ve replaced them with grown up fantasies to help us explain discrepancies, inconsistencies, or situations we just plain don’t want to face.

We discount those little indicators, hunches, and feelings that things just aren’t exactly as they should be. We quiet those negative thoughts and let the sugarplum delusions dance through our heads. In the dental practice, the fantasy of choice is that all those patient records represent real patients who are regularly and happily coming in for dental care. So it is quite a shock when the doctor discovers that this strongly held belief is actually 70% fantasy and only 30% reality. Out of the hundreds – if not thousands – of patient records, only a fraction of them – 30% - represent active patients. The rest are merely an illusion of a thriving practice.

However, not all is grim. Mostly likely, many of those inactive patients haven’t truly left the practice, they’re just temporarily disconnected, if you will. They are consumed with the daily demands of life, work, and family. As important as dental care is, for many people it’s one of those details they think of just once in a while.

So how exactly does a practice carve out a bit more space in the patients’ psyche in order to become less of an afterthought and more of a regular presence?  In this age of technological gadgets and gizmos, the wired world offers a huge opportunity to build cost effective and time efficient patient communication strategies.

One of the most innovative services I’ve found is offered by Elexity. The company uses an automated telephone marketing system that enables practices to bridge the communication gap with patients, in between routine visits. It’s a powerfully simple, yet  tremendously effective means of internal marketing that enables practices to stay in front of patients throughout the year.

Patients receive a personal greeting every three months. It maybe a happy birthday greeting, happy holidays message, a patient education message to inform them of a new service or treatment, or a communication to notify them that they have unused insurance benefits remaining. The beauty of the service is that the messages are pre-recorded by the doctor and/or office manager, so the patient hears a familiar voice. The phone calls appear on the patients’ caller I.D. as coming from the dental practice, yet they don’t tie up the practice phone system. And the best part, aside from recording a few patient messages, the distribution details are handled by Elexity, so the service requires virtually NO staff time.

To reinforce the telephone messages, Elexity also provides periodic email messages to patients. Like the telephone messages, these also appear to come from the practice but require almost zero staff time.

Complement the occasional telephone and email messages with an informative practice website that you routinely encourage patients to visit and you’ve built an excellent, cost-effective means of maintaining ongoing communication with your patients in between their routine appointments. Essentially, it’s a full year of electronic marketing at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional marketing. 

Best of all, one of your favorite fantasies – the one in which all of those patient records represent active, happy patients – is that much closer to becoming one of your favorite realities.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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