Not Converting Emergency Patients into Loyal Patients? Here's Why
When emergency patients call your practice, they’re likely in a panic. Not only are they in a lot of pain, they feel like they have nowhere to turn. They don’t have a dental home or anyone they can trust with their oral health care. They’re calling your office, hoping you can fit them in and alleviate their pain and discomfort as soon as possible. They’re scared, and might even be ready to start thinking about prevention and the benefits of comprehensive dental care.
It’s a stressful situation for these patients, and if you don’t plan properly it can be stressful for your practice as well. All too often practices see these emergency patients as a nuisance, and are annoyed when the panicked calls come in. After all, most emergency patients disappear after they receive treatment and only serve to throw the schedule out of whack and add aggravation to your day.
Emergency patients are often seen as a negative, but the truth is, you should look at these patients as an opportunity. 80% of all emergency patients who walk into your practice should be converted into a comprehensive exam, according to the industry standard. If that isn’t happening, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to grow your patient base, your production numbers and your bottom line.
Starting to see how emergency patients can benefit your practice? If you want to convert emergency patients into loyal patients, your team is going to need an attitude adjustment. These patients can tell if your team members see them as an annoyance, and if they don’t feel comfortable or wanted in your practice, why would they come back? Even if they’ve decided it’s time to find a dental home, they’re going to quickly mark you off their list and start looking for a practice that makes them feel welcome.
If you want to successfully convert these patients and maximize this opportunity for practice growth, it’s time to develop a plan – and it all starts with that initial phone call. It might not be intentional, but practices often send a negative message to emergency patients who call in the hopes of scheduling time with the doctor. The Scheduling Coordinator is annoyed by the interruption, and frustrated because the schedule is jam packed as it is. She sighs, and lets the patient know it will be difficult to squeeze him into the doctor’s very busy schedule, but she’ll do her best to work him in today. Before hanging up, she reminds the patient that payment is expected up front.
After that conversation, would you want to call this practice your dental home? Probably not. Instead of laying the groundwork to convert this patient into a comprehensive exam, the Scheduling Coordinator made the patient feel like a nuisance, and conveyed that the practice cares more about collecting payment than getting the patient out of pain.
When emergency patients call in, they should be greeted by a warm welcome. I suggest developing a written script to help team members effectively communicate with these patients. No matter how full the schedule is or how stressed out an emergency patient might make team members feel, you must treat them with compassion and understanding. These patients are scared and in pain, so team members need to take the time to put them at ease and assure them they’re in great hands.
All too often, practices focus on getting these patients in and out as quickly as possible so they can go about their day. That will pretty much guarantee you never see them again. Instead, use the appointment time to educate patients about the benefits of prevention and comprehensive care, and they’ll be much more likely to come back.
To make it easier to fit emergency patients into your schedule, identify where they should be placed. This will ensure that the Scheduling Coordinator knows exactly where emergencies should go in the schedule each day and there will be no surprises for the clinical team – making it much easier to happily welcome emergency patients to your practice.
Up until the day they had a dental emergency, many of these patients never even thought about the importance of maintaining their dental health through comprehensive exams and prevention. During their visit, you have the opportunity to educate them, address any perceived barriers to care, and put any dental-related fears to rest. If you welcome these patients, provide a comfortable, friendly environment and offer much-needed education, you’ll find that many emergency cases will turn into loyal patients who can’t say enough good things about your practice.Next week: Six ways to convert emergency patients into loyal patients.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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