7.1.11 Issue #486 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Are New Patients One-Visit Wonders?
by Sally McKenzie CEO

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When it comes to new patients, practices can be puzzled as to why some will come once or twice and seem very interested in pursuing treatment, but don’t keep their follow-up appointments. They become the “one-visit wonders.”

There are several reasons why new patients either don’t show or fail subsequent appointments. The practice hours are not convenient. There’s no place to park. Treatment hurts. They don’t understand the fees. The office doesn’t accept their insurance. The staff keep bringing up office policies. The phone is rarely answered by a person. The practice charges for a missed appointment. They can’t get their questions answered clearly.The employees are rude, unfriendly, stressed, or rushed. The doctor and staff don’t listen to them.

At the root of all of the reasons listed above is the fact that the patients do not feel valued by the practice. They are merely records in the file and it shows. Demonstrating that you value your patients takes place in every interaction and begins the moment your phone rings.

Develop a script so that anyone who takes a prospective new patient phone call conveys consistent, positive messages and gathers necessary information. Above all else, new patients should immediately feel welcome. Staff should express a sense of confidence and encouragement. For example:

Mrs. Jones, I would be delighted to schedule a new patient appointment for you. Would 8 a.m. next Thursday, July 28th work best for you, or would you prefer 4 p.m. on August 1st? We also have a 2 p.m. on Monday if that would work for you.Giving the patient options helps both the practice and the patient to maintain some level of control of their own schedules. Additionally, set aside time to accommodate new patients. These should be during times of greatest patient demand.

From the start, patients should feel that they have made the best choice in calling your office. It doesn’t hurt to tell them what they want to hear. “You are going to really like Dr. Watts, she is the gentlest dentist, and she does some of the most beautiful work in town. I am going to send you our new patient information packet. This will have some forms for you to complete and bring with you the day of your appointment. It also provides additional information about the doctor, her team, and some things to help ensure that your visit is as beneficial as it can be for you.”

Take care in developing the new patient packet. It is here that the foundation for treatment acceptance or rejection is laid. Educate the patient on services available. Certainly, practice policies can be explained, but the tone of these should not be negative or punitive. You can gently explain why policies are necessary, without making patients feel like they are on the defensive before they ever step in the door. In many cases, patients look for reasons not to go to the dentist. The new patient packet should give them many reasons to keep the appointment.

When the patient arrives, warmly welcome them by name. The patient coordinator should escort them into a consultation room to review various forms and materials. The assistant then escorts the patient into the treatment room. Once the new patient is in the chair, follow these steps to set the tone for an excellent new patient experience.

  • Create a comfortable, non-rushed environment when explaining treatment. Patients need to feel that they are important and worthy of your time.
  • Explain to the patient how you will make her/him comfortable during treatment and what options are available, such as anesthetic.
  • Explain in simple language the reasons the procedures are necessary.
  • Use educational tools, like video or other visual aids.
  • Ask the patient questions to determine if they have any false ideas about treatment. (For example, many patients still think that root canal therapy involves removing the roots.)
  • Be empathetic to the patient’s concerns about the condition of their teeth. Patients who have postponed dental care are often embarrassed by their oral health.
  • Make sure the benefits and the possible risks of the procedures are understood.
  • Look the patient in the eye when discussing treatment. Sit at the same level as the patient and lean slightly forward to show interest and care. You will be able to listen to and observe the patient’s response more readily.

Handled correctly, new patients will look forward to returning to your office for many years to come.

Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.

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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