2.27.15 Issue #677 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

3 Types of Patients Who Are Hurting Your Practice
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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Every dentist wants a strong patient base. Patients are the lifeblood of a practice, after all, and without them there wouldn’t be any dentistry to perform. The problem is, not all patients are created equal. I hate to say it, but there are actually patients who do your practice more harm than good. You know the ones I’m talking about. They’re the patients who are always running late for their appointments, or who give your front office grief when it’s time to make a payment. These patients not only cause undue stress for you and your team members, they’re also hurting your bottom line.

If you want to create a successful, profitable dental practice, you have to find a way to attract the right patients to your practice. Loyal patients who are happy to give you a referral and who trust you with their oral health care. If that’s not how you would describe the majority of your patients, it’s time to make some changes. Here’s a list of the three types of patients who are doing the most damage to your practice, and how you can turn these nightmare patients into loyal patients.

1. Patients who don’t show up for their appointments
Every practice deals with patients who just can’t seem to remember their appointment times, and who are at least 20 minutes late when they do show up. These patients not only wreak havoc on your schedule and stress out your team, they also cost you money. And not just a little bit of money, I’m talking tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. Don’t believe me? If your practice averages two cancellations/no-shows a day, at a value of about $100–$125 each, you’re losing more than $40,000 a year. 

I know that’s a scary number, but there are ways to reduce cancellations and no-shows. You can start by making sure patients understand the value of their appointment times. Educate them about the importance of maintaining their oral health, and they’ll be much more likely to show up for their scheduled visits.

It’s also important to confirm appointments two days in advance. Patients lead busy lives, and they might not remember scheduling an appointment with your office six months ago. If you rely on pre-appointing alone, it might be time to reconsider that practice. Most patients don’t know what they’re doing six months from now at 3 p.m., and chances are if they schedule an appointment with you for that far down the road, they’re going to cancel or not show up at all. If you’re not ready to give up pre-appointing altogether, consider developing a hybrid system.

2. Patients who don’t pay on time
The process should be simple. You perform the dentistry and patients pay you for your services. Unfortunately, many practices struggle with collections, and it’s killing their bottom line. To help encourage patients to pay on time, you need to establish a clear financial policy. Make sure there’s no confusion about when payment is expected, and patients will be more likely to pay you in a timely manner.

When putting together your financial policy, consider offering third party patient financing, such as CareCredit. This will ensure that you get paid for what you produce, while also giving patients an affordable, interest-free way to pay for larger cases.

3. Patients who never come back
When patients walk into your office for the first time, you want them to feel a connection. Create a friendly, relaxed environment that makes them feel comfortable right away. If you don’t, these patients likely won’t return, leaving you wondering what went wrong. 

Yes, it’s frustrating when first-time patients don’t come back. But more importantly, losing these patients costs you thousands of dollars in undiagnosed treatment, as well as any referrals those patients may have made down the road. Not only that, it costs five times more to attract new patients to your practice then it does to keep the ones you already have. So, you really want those first-time patients to become long-term patients who turn to your practice for their dental care. Remember, patient retention is key to your practice’s success, and should be at about 95%. If you’d like to know how your practice is doing with patient retention, click HERE to take my free Patient Retention Assessment.

So how can you turn first-time patients into loyal patients? Focus on customer service and improving the patient experience. Take the time to talk with new patients about their oral health concerns, and don’t try to sell them on big cases right away. Get to know them, and encourage your team members to do the same. Simply put, start building relationships from the moment patients walk through the door, and they’ll be more likely to call your practice their new dental home.

These three nightmare patients can wreak havoc on your practice. But if you make some changes, you can turn them into happy, loyal patients. This will not only reduce stress in your practice, it will also improve your bottom line.

Next week: Want to attract and keep loyal patients? Follow these tips.

For additional 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
Interested in having McKenzie Management Seminars speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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