Improve Patient Retention and Increase Production
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
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
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
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 Expecting the Patient Coordinator to work from an outdated printout won’t get you the results you’re after.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
For more information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Everyday Problems; Broken Appointments, Always Late, Slow Pay, Etc.
No matter how advanced our offices become technologically, or how devoted we are to improving the quality of dental care we provide, some everyday problems persist. The causes of many of these problems are primarily because we are dealing with human beings, not manufacturing widgets. Dealing with human beings is unpredictable, time-consuming, and stress-inducing. Even when we have devoted considerable energy to designing our appointment times so each important stage and step of treatment can be accomplished, our patients can surprise us with unexpected issues or concerns. The best we can do is address problems as they arise, and attempt to keep calm while we do it.
One suggestion might be to keep them on a list for filling in the schedule on a “today’s schedule only” basis. This means rather than putting them in the computer for two hours two weeks from now, we keep them in a separate file to fill in a hole that might occur today. This can work for patients who are able to come on short notice, who actually want to have their treatment accomplished, and who live or work fairly close to the office. Another idea might be to schedule a long appointment to complete all necessary treatment on a day when the dentist does not normally work. Reluctant or inconsiderate patients may keep this type of appointment when they know the dentist and assistant are only coming in to take care of them. All treatment is done, a very productive day is logged, and a source of headaches is removed.
For example, an office policy might state that if Paul the Patient is under ten minutes late, he can be seen in the dentist and/or hygienist’s schedule for a regular appointment. If he is over ten minutes but less than twenty minutes late, he might still be seen in the dentist’s schedule for his normal treatment. Over ten minutes but less than twenty in the hygienist’s schedule might result in some portions of the appointment being delayed until another time, for example, periodontal probing or necessary radiographs. If he is over twenty minutes late in the dentist’s or hygienist’s schedule, he will need to be re-appointed.
Sensitive and “Jumpy”
All offices have their share of problems that occur frequently – it is just part of providing dental treatment to the public. Everyday problems occur every day! Having policies in place to help deal with these issues can make them a little less stressful to handle.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email email@example.com.
Listen with Your Face
Because human beings tend to process visual cues more than any other signal, facial expressions are key to influencing others. Think about the phrases, “When you smile the whole world smiles with you” and “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” These are great examples of how our facial expressions impact the feelings and emotions of those around us.
Facial expressions are powerful transmitters of vital information. Is there ever any doubt in your mind about the ability to get children to behave by simply giving them The Eye? A “listener’s face” assures others that you are interested in what they are saying. It is the foundation to getting more information about what they are thinking, so in turn you will know how to influence them. Unfortunately in today’s high-tech, virtual world we don’t see one another. Even in face-to-face situations where we can read facial expressions, messages are often misinterpreted. Imagine someone telling a joke, but saying it with a completely straight face.
It’s so easy to zone out as a listener, but when you do you can give a blank, open-mouthed look that signals disinterest. Just as you have to work your abs to have toned stomach muscles, you have to work your face to have toned empathetic skills. Be sure that your face is transmitting interest in what others are saying with these crucial reminders.
A listener should give more eye contact than the speaker. Research suggests that if you want to have good rapport you should maintain eye contact 60-70% of the time that someone is speaking to you. Eye contact is the communication circuit that must be established between the speaker and the listener. By making eye contact, you show interest, empathy and sincerity. Your eyes will also pick up the non-verbal signals that all people send out when they are speaking.
When you have established eye and face contact, react to the speaker by sending out non-verbal signals. Our faces contain most of the receptive equipment in our bodies, so tilt your face toward the person talking with you. Move your facial muscles to give the range of emotions that indicate you are following what the person has to say. By moving your face to the information, you can better concentrate on what the person is saying.
Your face must become an active and contoured catcher of information. When you smile, you convey approachability. Your employees and your patients will feel more comfortable around you and will listen more attentively. Be careful, however, to avoid smiling when the message is serious.
It is extremely difficult to receive information when your mouth is moving information out at the same time. A good listener will stop talking and use receptive language instead. Use occasional nodding to encourage the other person to continue talking. Instead of giving your opinion, ask questions. A true listening skill is to become a receptor of information rather than a broadcaster.
Let your facial expressions show your emotional response to the speaker. If they are concerned, show understanding by furrowing your brow. If they are unhappy, frown and lower your eyes. If they are mad, close and flatten out your lip like a sealed envelope. Matching their facial expressions shows your employees and patients that you are listening. It also creates the same chemicals in your brain that are being produced in theirs. This actually enables you to feel and understand them more effectively.
Be curious about what your “listener’s face” looks like. Ask for feedback from people who will be honest about what you look like when they’re talking to you. Or you could ask a family member to take a picture of you when you’re lost in a TV show. My favorite is to get up in front of a mirror and imagine being a listener with your eyes closed. Freeze your face then open your eyes. If your reflection does not match your intention, adjust your facial muscles. Close your eyes again and capture the feeling of what your face looks like from the inside so you’ll be able to reproduce that in the future without the aid of a mirror.
When you’re talking with people, really notice them, really listen to them, and really get into what they say. Commit to letting them know that you’re listening. Nod in agreement, smile along, and respond vocally (without interrupting). Actively practice this at least once a day every day for three weeks so it becomes a habit. Your automatic “listener’s face” will increase your power to influence.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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