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  Sally McKenzie's
 Weekly Management e-Motivator
  6.11.04 Issue #118

New Patient or Never to Be Seen Again?

Sally Mckenzie, CMC
McKenzie Management

      You know the feeling you get when you sit in a new car, walk into a new home, or try out that new gadget? There’s an excitement and anticipation that you feel. There is potential and opportunity in that newness. You can see yourself in the car, the home, with the new “toy.” New patients are no different. They also can be excited about the potential and new opportunity that your office has to offer, provided you help to encourage rather than discourage that excitement.

Maybe the potential new patient has called your practice because they were awed by the cosmetic dentistry you performed on a colleague. Perhaps they learned you use modern technology in your diagnostic practices. Possibly a friend swears you are the gentlest dentist she has ever visited. Whatever the reason, the prospective new patient turns to your practice to fulfill both their dental needs and their wants. And they are ready for something new when they pick up the phone and place that call.

But whether they actually follow through with the initial appointment as well as subsequent visits is often contingent upon a series of subtle and largely intangible exchanges between the prospective new patient and your practice.

How do you really handle new patient calls and the overall new patient experience? Do you have time in the schedule to accommodate them? Are you creating both a welcoming and positive experience for new patients from the first call they place to your office to the moment they complete their first visit? Are you paying attention to the details or just going through the motions of the new patient routine?

If you’ve had your share of “new but never to be seen again patients” it’s probably time to dust off the “rules” for encouraging and welcoming new patients into your practice.

Rule #1 - Be prepared to handle the demand. New patients are calling because they want your services now, not next month - let alone in six months. Absolutely the worst message you can give anyone who calls your practice – new or existing patients – is that you don’t have time for them. I’ve seen practices tell prospective patients that they will have to wait three weeks to three months for an appointment. This is an insult to the caller. You might just as well just sigh in disgust and tell the patient the practice really doesn’t need or want them.

Avoid the backlog blunder. Determine how much time you need to allocate in the schedule to accommodate new patients. Look at new patient activity over the last six months. If you saw 60 new patients, that would be 10 per month and 2.5 per week. Reserve at least that much time in your schedule to handle immediate new patient demand.

Rule #2 - New patient slots should be reserved during prime time. Those are the hours in which your practice experiences the greatest demand for appointments, and, typically, they are in the late afternoons, evenings, and on Saturdays.

Rule #3 - Never underestimate the expectations of prospective new patients. From the first phone call to your practice new patients are judging the professionalism of the doctor and the staff. Right or wrong they don’t care if you are having a bad day. Patients expect to be treated with respect and professionalism. They expect their concerns and needs to be addressed expeditiously. They expect doctor and staff to offer the perfect balance of control and flexibility. And, like it or not, they expect the quality of the doctor to be reflected in the quality of his or her staff.

Yours may be the most clinically superior practice in the entire region, but how the new patient feels about the doctor, the staff, and the experience overall will determine if they are a returning patient.

Next week, make sure new patients “rule” the practice.

If you have any questions or comments, please email Sally McKenzie at

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Tech Tips For Today!

Designed to improve management techniques through your technology platform

Mark Dilatush
VP Professional Relations
McKenzie Management

      Last issue, [see article], we discussed how to set up, report, and analyze the profitability of your insurance plans. I received many email responses from that article. Thank you for taking the time to write. Based on the questions and comments, I know many of you are taking a much closer look at this important aspect of your business.

This week I want to focus on another fairly common question from e-Motivator readers.

“What’s the best way to transition from front desk computing to having computers throughout the whole office (treatment rooms)?”

Wow, that’s a loaded question! In general, here is a checklist of steps in the order of implementation.

Make sure the front desk personnel have implemented every possible business feature of the software. It’s not unusual for a dentist to skip completely over a business feature to a clinical feature of a software product. Dentists (in general) are familiar with and appreciate clinical features. Business features of software tend to be less familiar to the owner. Therefore, less value is given them by the dentist. As you transition into the treatment rooms, commit to the full and proper use of your management software for all business related activities. Training is the key here. It is far more expensive to under train than over train.

Assign someone in the office as your technology liaison. Before you give everyone on your dental team access to the database, somebody has to be in charge of answering day to day team questions, making sure mistakes are at a minimum, and making sure everyone is using your system like an orchestra – rather than a bunch of individual trumpet players all playing different music. Typically this person will have front desk business duties, be most familiar with the software, and would have received the most one on one training from the software company. Your office technology liaison is the center point for all software support calls, arranging (and being present for) all professional software training, providing one on one training for new personnel, and reporting the status of implemented features as well as the schedule of implementing new features in the future.

Set yourselves an implementation schedule/plan and stick to it. Over aggressive owners will try to implement everything all at once and expect one or two days of professional training will get them there. These owners are usually disappointed with the outcome. Under aggressive owners will usually just leave the implementation to the team and expect them to take the ball and run with it. These owners too are usually disappointed with the outcome. The implementation schedule/plan needs to be discussed by the whole team. Give yourselves a reasonable amount of time to implement each new feature. List the features on a piece of paper and assign each one a score from 1 to 10, 10 being most important to your practice. Discuss the implementation plan with your professional software trainer before training begins. Get their input and rearrange your plan (and timing) to fit reality. Now your technology liaison has a task list to report from each month and your team can see how they (as a group) are progressing.

Expect bumps in the road. Even the best thought out plans present challenges along the way. You can certainly minimize your negative surprises by planning properly. That’s the whole idea behind this article. But, it is also a reasonable expectation that you and your team will run into some difficulties along the way. The most common “bump” is technology itself. Once you’re in the treatment room with computers, you have more machines connected to your network, more “things” connected to those computers, and more humans using the system. It would be amazing for something not to happen! My point here is to expect some bumps. Clinical team members need the calm, cool, and collected support of their dentist. Business team members have used these computers for years and years. They are used to the printer not working, a back up tape that just doesn’t seem to work, and the sheer panic of a workstation failure when there are ten patients in the reception area. The clinical team is probably nervous about this transition to begin with. Take each “bump” along the way in stride. Your technology liaison will handle calling the techs, the software support line, and making sure the “bumps” get smaller and smaller.

Going from the business (front desk) to the treatment rooms completely and successfully is usually a 6 to 12 month process from start to finish. If you map the implementation strategy out for the whole team to see and understand – you’ll get there.

I welcome any and all readers to email me with specific questions, problems, requests and challenges. Who knows? Maybe your inquiry will lead to a new Tips For Today article! Don’t worry, your inquiry will remain anonymous unless you want credit for the question.

Interested in having Mark speak to your dental society or study club?
Click here


How To Increase The Dental IQ Of Your Patients

Dr. Allan Monack
Hygiene Clinical Director
McKenzie Management

         How often does a patient call the office and cancel their appointment at the last moment or just fails to show? Most of the time it is not an emergency or illness ... but priorities. They don’t perceive that their hygiene appointment has value. If nothing is hurting them, why bother? They only show if their insurance pays for the appointment. When this is the prevailing attitude in your office, you have failed in your efforts to communicate the value of the hygiene visit. If your hygiene schedule is consistently having

these no show patients, last minute cancels, or a large overdue patient list, then it may be internally where the problem lies.

Beware of the hygiene schedule that is always booked but too many of your patients are long overdue for recall or periodontal maintenance. You may not have enough hygiene time for all the patients in your practice. You may feel this is acceptable. However, my observation when consulting with hygiene practices throughout the U.S. is you end up with too many neglected problems and too many emergencies that are disruptive to an efficient schedule. Keep a record of emergency visits of existing patients along with new patients. See whether the trend of emergencies in the office is increasing, excluding problems of work in progress. We all have patients that need provisional cementation or adjustments which I also suggest keeping a record of these treatment procedures. However, this is a separate problem that involves operative techniques. The best way to see if you are dealing with acceptable existing patient emergencies is the number of new patients per month should be greater than actual existing patient true emergencies.

Besides having long overdue patients, there are other reasons for this problem. Look at your unscheduled treatment list. If there is a lot of treatment not scheduled, it will lead to emergencies because the patient neglected to take care of their needs in a timely manner. How about the treatment acceptance percentage? Most of them still consider you their dental office, except you could not get them to accept proper treatment. If treatment acceptance is less than 85%, this could be an indicator that you need to work on your treatment presentation.

All of these problems can be reduced with a properly designed protocol in the hygiene department. It is easier for the hygienist to communicate with the patient because they are with the patient for most of their hour appointment. The dentist is usually only there for five minutes. The hygienist should be planting the seeds for the treatment needed, giving information about what is available to address any patient concerns. Explain to the patient why it is important to return at a specific interval in order to keep their oral conditions healthy as well as hand out brochures on the pertinent information for that patient.

Be consistent in your approach. Make sure the information and findings of the hygienist are given to the dentist so he can reinforce the necessary needs of the patient. Make sure the patient is reminded of the reasons they need to return for maintenance, when they are due for their next examination. The best way is to include a note with the appointment confirmation. Write the note on the confirmation card or notice that fits into an envelope. ( because of HIPAA we prefer the envelope ) and have the patient address the envelope. Send the reminder three to four weeks before the patient is due requesting them to call and set up their appointment.

When the hygienist dismisses the patient to the financial coordinator, repeat the importance and reasons the patient needs to return at a specific interval. By the patient hearing the message again as it is communicated between staff members, this becomes a great motivator in getting the patient to return. Monitor carefully your overdue patient list. Contact patients as soon as they are late in scheduling their appointments. Have a system in place that follows up on a timely basis. It is much easier retaining existing patients in active status than the effort necessary to attract new patients.

The effort you put into retaining the existing patients will be rewarded. The patient will perceive the care and concern you are showing them. Your practice will grow with referrals by these happy patients. Remember if you exceed their expectations, focus on their needs, be consistent in your message of how important the value of their dental health is to you, they will understand and appreciate the care they are given.

If you have any questions concerning your hygiene program submit them to me at allan@ and I will answer them in future articles.

Interested in having Dr. Allan Monack speak to your dental society or study club? Click here

McKenzie Management’s Hygiene Clinical Practice Enrichment Program is designed to improve Hygiene Clinical Skills and develop and implement a step-by-step Interceptive Periodontal Therapy Program that will immediately bring greater productivity, with enhanced patient care. For more information...GO HERE

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Sally's Mail Bag

Hi Sally,

As part of trying to arrive at a divorce settlement, I need to get some idea of what my practice is worth (since my wife seems intent on taking a share of it). I recently heard that a practice should sell for 14 times its monthly NET income. That sounds reasonable to me. I’ve also heard 65% of the GROSS annual income is thrown out, but that sounds crazy to me. What does gross income have to do with anything? Two different practices can have the same gross, but one could have 50% overhead while the other has 80% overhead. Obviously those two practices shouldn’t be worth the same.
Do you have any thoughts on this?

Dr. Phoenix, AZ

Dear Dr.

There are many different valuation methods and McKenzie Management utilizes three different methods to ensure that the resulting price represents a fair and accurate value for the practice. After many years of study and comparing estimated practice values with actual sales prices, McKenzie Management has found that an average of these three formulas provides a seller with a fair price for his or her investment but also demonstrates the probability of maintaining or increasing the margin that a new owner will require to capture a return on investment. We would be happy to provide for you a value of your practice.
Email me if you would like more information.

Best regards,
Sally McKenzie, CEO

Office Managers
Financial Coordinators
Scheduling Coordinators
Treatment Coordinators
Hygiene Coordinators

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Dr. Allan Monack,
Hygiene Clinical Consultant for
McKenzie Management,
develop a profitable
Hygiene Department

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Missed Past Issues of Our e-Motivator Newsletter?

This issue is sponsored
in part by:
The Center for Dental Career Development
San Diego Workshop Series
Spring & Summer Schedule
 Date Seminar Instructor(s)  
 July 9
 9:00 - 4:00
How to Become an EXCEPTIONAL Front Office Dental Employee Belle DuCharme, RDA, CDPMA  
 August 6
 9:00 - 4:00
10 Vital Skills to Master Management of Your Dental Practice Belle DuCharme, RDA, CDPMA  
 August 27
 9:00 - 4:00
How to Become an EXCEPTIONAL Front Office Dental Employee Belle DuCharme, RDA, CDPMA  

The Center for Dental Career Development has been approved under the Academy of General Dentistry, Program Approval for Continuing Education (PACE). Starting 10/19/03 through 10/18/07 members of the Academy of General Dentistry can receive AGD credits for all seminars and workshops sponsored by the Center for Dental Career Development.

Please visit to view a list of upcoming seminars and workshops.

To Register 877-900-5775 or
McKenzie Management Upcoming Events
Date Location Sponsor Speaker
June 25-26 Atlanta, GA Endo Magic Root Camp Sally McKenzie
July 8-11 Anaheim, CA Academy of General Dentistry Sally McKenzie & Exhibiting
July 16 Medford, OR S. Oregon Dental Society Sally McKenzie
Aug 7 San Diego, CA Dental Manufacturers Association Sally McKenzie
Sep 10 -12 San Francisco, CA California Dental Association Exhibiting

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