Where Have All Your Patients Gone?
The numbers are in and you’re ignoring them. I’m not talking about your profit and loss numbers, or the number of times you’ve had to replace staff, or the number of patients accepting treatment, although those numbers are all vital to your practice profitability. The number that I’m referring to is rarely the focus of your attention, yet it has the potential to have the greatest impact on your profitability. What is it? Your patient retention numbers.
Still not concerned about patient retention? Consider this: A recent McKenzie Management survey of dental practices in business for an average of 22 years revealed a patient retention ratio of 31%. In other words, for every 10 new patients that come to your office for an appointment once, at least seven will never return. If that doesn’t cause the sweat to begin to bead across your forehead, let me drive the point a little closer to home.
Let’s say you have 1,000 patient records on file. Do you realize that more than likely you have a mere 300 active patients? “Oh Sally, I’m sure that may be true for those other dental practices, but not mine. You should see my schedule.”
I understand it is far easier and much more reassuring to pull up the schedule and see that there are but a few openings here or there. After all, what dentist would want to consider that the appointment failures, cancellations, and empty reception areas are symptoms of a serious patient retention problem? Certainly, we are all in denial about something. But if you want to confirm in your own mind that your patient retention numbers are solid, and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that there is absolutely no need to even consider the possibility that two thirds of your “robust” patient base is merely a figment of your imagination, click HERE to take my Patient Retention Assessment and carry on. Those of you who want to know how to keep the majority of your patients returning to your practice, continue reading.
If you are currently retaining 31% of your patients, and you could increase that by another 54% to 85% - which is the increase that McKenzie Management clients typically experience - how would that improve your practice, boost your team’s morale, and bolster your profitability?
How do you get there? First step: Pay attention. It is the most obvious yet most overlooked variable in improving patient retention. Far too many practices commonly choose to ignore unflattering patient comments. When patients make the effort to tell you something that is less than positive about your practice, your staff, your schedule, etc., take note. These brave souls are carrying the message for countless others who felt the same but never cared enough to share their opinions and experiences directly with you or your team. Instead, they complained to their colleagues, co-workers, friends and family members, and may have even shared their frustration on social media.
Another often overlooked variable in improving patient retention is failing to build positive, personal relationships with patients. Chatting about the weather for three minutes or less every six months is not relationship building. Relationships take time and energy that extends well beyond small talk, yet the return on this investment is huge.
Sadly, we walk into far too many struggling practices where the doctor is performing superior dentistry only to discover that patient retention may be as low as 20%. Why? Some of the very best clinicians disregard the value of patient relationships. They bury themselves in the oral cavity convinced that their work there should be enough. It’s not. For all the methods and systems essential to acquiring and retaining patients, there will never be one that surpasses the value of building strong practice/patient relationships.
Next week, why patients leave.
For more 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
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