Increase Your Patient Base 50%
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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The day after Thanksgiving, as everyone knows, is the busiest shopping day of the year. Although it’s the official start of the holiday buying season, retailers pin a full year’s success or failure on this one 24-hour period that begins when the clock strikes midnight Thursday and concludes at 12 a.m. Friday. Merchants rely on the special “door buster” deals, the hot items, the before dawn openings, the gimmicks – anything to set themselves apart from the competition. They know they can win big or lose big in the span of just a few hours.
Now isn’t it a relief that your success or failure doesn’t hinge on one 24-hour period? Little do you realize, however, that the time you have is actually much less. Your success or failure is dependent largely on a few minutes, not hours. Surprised? Consider this- for some dentists, the opportunity to make an impression on many patients is limited to a mere 10 minutes a year. It’s contained in those two five-minute interactions with patients who come in for nothing more than the six-month visit.
With five minutes here and five minutes there, just how do you build the practice-patient relationship? Unfortunately, as charismatic as you may be, five minutes twice a year doesn’t do it. Is it any wonder that the majority of your patients just drift away over time?
Disagree? Look at your patient’s roll. Run a report from your practice management software that shows the number of patient names in your system compared to the number of active patients. It’s likely you’ll find only three out of 10 patients have been into your office during the last 12 months. In fact, most dental practices make 100% of their revenues from a mere 30% of the patients. What about the other 70%? They’re inactive. Startling, isn’t it?
In our “too busy” culture, many patients are so focused on the day-to-day demands of life, work, and family, that after a couple of missed appointments they can easily become disconnected from a practice. While a dental visit may not be the first thing on their minds, your practice can still carve out a presence in even the busiest patient’s life. I’ve found the Elexity Patient Management System, which is incredibly easy to use and requires very little staff or doctor time, to be a valuable tool in the total patient reactivation package.
Using your inactive patient report, identify those that have not been in the office in the last year. These are the patients most likely to return. With the help of the Elexity Patient Management System, the doctor or office manager pre-records a personal message from the practice letting the patient know that they have been missed and encouraging them to contact the office to schedule an appointment.
Over a period of a few weeks, phone calls are placed automatically to all of the patients identified as inactive. The calls appear on the patient’s caller I.D. to come directly from the practice, but Elexity handles the details, which means, aside from taking a couple of minutes to record a reactivation message, doctor and staff have to do absolutely nothing. In addition, the Elexity system enables the practice to send an email to the patients that reinforces the telephone reactivation message. Once again, the message appears to come from the practice, but Elexity handles the details, so there’s no drain on staff resources.
To round out the effort, the office can send a personal letter further encouraging the patient to schedule an appointment. In some cases, practices might want to offer an incentive, such as a whitening product, dental exam, or a financial incentive.
While you may not bring every inactive patient back into the fold, even if only 15% are reactivated, you’ve increased your active patient base to 45% and are growing your practice by 50% - a huge return on the investment.
Next week, stay connected between office visits and curb the numbers of patients slipping into inactive status.
Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at email@example.com.
Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.
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Developing or Modifying Your Hygiene Department
You have been cleaning and root planing your patient’s teeth since you opened the doors to your practice. Now you are looking at hiring a hygienist because your schedule is booked out three weeks with restorative needs.
Starting a hygiene department is more than hiring a hygienist. It is buying the dental equipment and instruments, setting up the operatory, deciding on what probing system you want to use, and appointing patients.
Protocols need to be established, goals set, documents need to be created, and training needs to take place before the hygiene department is able to be the profit center you want and not just a prophylaxis oriented hygiene department.
Here are some of the protocols you will want to set up, and a few questions that you will need to answer:
- When do you refer to the periodontist?
- When do you root plane?
- What code is going to be used?
- How often do you probe?
- What computer probing system do you want to use?
There are so many computer probing systems out there that it is hard to find the time to really test them all. However, it is important to make your decisions based on knowledge and performance. Not all software and probing systems are created equal. It is recommended to use a system that will help with co-diagnosis, allows for the operators to be calibrated, and is user-friendly, regardless of the environment.
- What x-rays will be taken?
- At what age do you take the recommended x-rays?
- How often do you take the x-rays?
The office protocol may be developed by the doctor or doctor and staff based on guidelines posted by the American Dental Association. The guidelines for prescribing dental radiographs can be found on their web page at WWW.ADA.Org. These guidelines are to be used as an adjunct to the dentist’s clinical and professional opinion on how and when to take radiographs on their patients.
- What is to be done at each appointment?
- Who is accountable for different procedures?
- How much time does the hygienist need to complete the appointment?
- When will the financials be gone over?
- Who will go over the financials?
- What informed consent form will you use?
- How many days of hygiene do you really need?
- How is the recall system going to be set up?
- Who is going to work the recall system?
The recall system is one of the most important systems in a practice, and is also one of the most overlooked systems. Many offices prefer to have the recall system managed by the hygienist when she/he has open time. It is recommended that a specific person be responsible and accountable for management of the recall system. We will call this position the Patient Coordinator. How much time do they need to be employed based on your patients of record? What will their responsibilities be, and how will they be held accountable?
What are you going to pay the hygienist? Is she going to work commission, a base pay plus commission, or an hourly rate? Usually, it is not that the hygienist is paid too much, it is that the hygienist is not producing enough. So, it is recommended that the hygienist have daily, weekly, and monthly goals.
It is the industry standard that the hygienist’s salary should not exceed 33% of their production, and 33% of total hygiene production should come from ancillary services such as an interceptive periodontal program, and 33% of practice production should come from the hygiene department.
These standards should be monitored on a regular basis by the hygienist and brought to either the monthly business meeting or the morning business meeting, depending on if it is daily information or monthly.
Not only do the questions above need to be answered, there is also more to consider when it comes to starting a hygiene department for the first time, or modifying your existing hygiene department. Then everything should be included in an office policy and procedure book, in order, to have it in the future when you need to look at hiring another hygienist.
Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Small Steps Create Big Impact:
Getting the Most from Your Employees
You’re ready to pull you hair out about Carol, the come-in-late-and-leave-early front office employee. You’ve raised her hourly rate beyond industry standards in your community. Still, she’s doing as little as possible. How do you motivate her to do the work you’re paying her to do?
It’s no surprise that Carol isn’t performing up to speed. Research shows that once a fair level of pay is established, money ceases to be a significant motivator for long term performance.
Influencing your staff to higher levels of productivity is less about financial involvement and more about relationship investment. In fact, surveys have found that employees often leave a company not because of dissatisfaction with the company or work itself, but because of poor relationships with their boss.
So, a coaching question for your consideration:
How would you rate the quality of your connections with your staff?
This doesn’t mean you have to feel a close kinship with everyone in your office. It does mean…
- Be present. When you are at work, be mindful of the people who are there with you. Pay attention to your employees, as well as your patients. Before you even get out of your car at the office, pause and clear your head. Make a sincere commitment to focus on external exchanges.
- Build ‘think time’, into your schedule. Small 10-minute breaks can do wonders to keep you engaged and less distracted.
- Convey belief in your employees’ potential. When you see each person as creative and dependable it builds trust, and it allows them to venture forward with increased confidence.
- As management guru Ken Blanchard said, ‘Catch people doing things right’.Verbalize it. Recognition is about feeling appreciated. It’s knowing that what you do is seen and noted, and preferably by the whole team as well as by the boss. Think about this in opposite terms - if your employees do something well but you don’t say anything, they feel it is ignored…they may not bother to do it so well next time (because "no one cares").
- Set up individual meetings with your employees. Identify what they do well (their strengths), what needs improving (be constructive) and what is expected of them in the future (something to aim for). Although this may seem obvious, how many on your team really know these things right now? Perhaps more importantly, for which of your team members could you write these down now (Try it)?
- Give feedback when the event occurs. It should be honest, direct and kind at the same time. Start by highlighting something good. Then point out what you would like to be different, and offer a suggestion about how to improve it.
- If you don’t find anything positive to say, offer recognition of the effort that has been put into the work.
- Be specific. Drive-by praise without behavioral examples is ineffective. Strengthen ‘great job’ with concrete details such as “Thank you for taking quick action and filling the schedule when we had a cancellation this morning. It really made a difference in our daily production rate”.
- Refrain from abbreviated communication that is unhelpful in solving problems. Describing Carol as ‘lazy’ does not provide clear, tangible direction over which you have influence. “Carol is lazy” should be translated into “Carol needs to be more punctual with the weekly report”. In this way, you and Carol have a starting point and something that can be measured. No generalities; only specific, observable behavior.
- Develop progress plans. Link employees’ performance to organizational goals. Review these at least quarterly. Reinforce your investment by spending time with your employees. Your follow-up will demonstrate that they are important to you, and that you value and appreciate them.
Developing positive connections with your staff requires time and effort. But by building good relationships with your team and motivating peak performance from them, you will yield big dividends for your bottom line.
Create the right environment that sustains employee commitment. Contact Dr. Haller at email@example.com.
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.
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