10.17.14 Issue #658 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Improve Patient Retention and Increase Production
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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Patients are the lifeblood of your practice. They’re the driving force behind everything you do, and without them, you have no reason to come to work every day. Loyal patients are the ones who keep your practice thriving, who forgive you when you’re running behind or make a small error on their statement. They’re the ones who are more likely to accept treatment and then talk you up to family and friends...yet often they are overlooked when production numbers begin to fall or level off.

When a practice hits a plateau, the team tends to go into panic mode and decides the only way to increase production is to bring more new patients through the front door. They throw marketing dollars at the problem, yet they don’t take the time to find out why current patients are leaving. So they bring new patients in, only to find those patients end up leaving too.

Instead of focusing all your efforts on attracting new patients, it’s time to look at your patient retention system. Increasing patient retention is a sure way to help you increase production and get your practice over that plateau.

Take Patient Concerns Seriously
Most patients won’t take the time to tell you what they think you’re doing wrong, or why they’ve decided to leave your practice, so when a patient does offer up his or her opinion, you better listen.

Don’t just view patient complaints as their problem. Take them seriously, and think about making changes to address their concerns. Chances are, if Mrs. Smith doesn’t like the way your office manager answered the phone or isn’t happy about how long it takes to see the doctor, she isn’t the only one. Remember that patients leave for many reasons, and the more you understand about why they’ve opted to find a new practice, the better chance you have at retaining more patients in the future.

Build Relationships with your Patients
Your patients want to feel like they can trust you and your team. They want to know you truly care about them and their dental health, and have their best interest at heart. If you don’t take the time to get to know them and their oral health concerns, they’ll never feel that level of trust, and that means they’ll not only be less likely to accept treatment, they’ll be less likely to stay.

Talk to your patients. Get to know them. Don’t become so focused on the dentistry that you forget you’re treating a person. Once you build rapport, patients will feel like they belong in your practice. They’ll turn into loyal patients who are happy to refer you, and that means more new patients without spending a dime on marketing.

Take a Good Look at your Recall System
If you’re losing patients, I’m willing to bet your recall system is broken. The recall system is one of the easiest ways to improve patient retention and increase production, yet it’s the most neglected. This is where system accountability comes into play. You need a Patient Coordinator who is responsible for reaching out to and scheduling past due patients. Pre-appointing and then confirming appointments isn’t enough.

To ensure these phone calls lead to appointments, your Patient Coordinator should be calling patients armed with all of the necessary information, including name, age, their insurance information and which hygienists they see. Make sure your Patient Coordinator has access to the most accurate recall information and can update the system in real time. Expecting the Patient Coordinator to work from an outdated printout won’t get you the results you’re after.

Trust me, this makes a difference and can take a practice that’s hovering at 75% patient retention to 95% patient retention, which will give you a big boost in production. It’s well worth the $18 an hour you spend on a Patient Coordinator, especially when you consider that at six 10-minute calls a day, if this team member is expected to average a scheduling rate of 35% of those calls, or 1.75 appointments, he or she is bringing in about $402.50 an hour (this is assuming a fee of $230 for an exam, prophy and four bitewings). The direct cost to you is only $10.29, or 4.5% of the fee charged to the patient.

I hope this helps you see how vital a strong recall system is to your practice’s success. It’s time to stop relying on the easiest, cheapest recall methods that only consist of pre-appointing and sending out generic post cards, and instead start delegating recall efforts to a Patient Coordinator who knows how to make sales calls. And, be sure to integrate a patient communication system with text, email and voicemail as well.

Loyal Patients lead to New Patients
It costs five times as much money to attract new patients to your practice as it does to keep the ones you already have. If you want to improve treatment acceptance, increase production and get off that plateau, you have to start focusing on your current patients. They’re your biggest referral source and will help you attract those new patients who are also vital to your practice’s success and profitability. Refocus your efforts, and your days spent on a production plateau will be long behind you.

For more information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side

Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
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