4 Ways to Improve Patient Retention
You understand how important it is to develop a loyal patient base for your practice. After all, without patients, you have no reason to come to work every day. They’re the lifeblood of your practice, yet you struggle to attract the loyal patients you need to keep your practice thriving.
The truth is, many practices struggle with patient retention. I recently did a survey that covered dental practices in business for an average of 22 years. The survey revealed a patient retention ratio of 31%. So for every 10 new patients who visit your office, seven won’t return. To break that down even further, if you have 1,000 patient records on file, you only have 300 active patients – not nearly enough for you to grow the successful, profitable practice you’ve always wanted.
This may seem a little disheartening, but I’m here to help you turn it around. With a few changes, you can raise your patient retention rates to 85% or even 95%. Just think about how much additional revenue that would mean for your practice. To get started, you can click here to take my free Patient Retention Assessment and read on for four tips designed to help you improve patient retention and grow your bottom line.
1. Focus on recall. This is one of the most important practice systems, yet it’s also one of the most neglected. If you want to grow your practice and your bottom line, it’s time to reactivate your recall system. Not sure how? I suggest hiring a Patient Coordinator and making that person responsible for the recall system.
Task your Patient Coordinator with reaching out to a certain number of past due patients each day, and getting those patients on the schedule. Your Patient Coordinator should be trained in sales, and have access to the information needed to make these calls successful. Even if you are or elect to go with a patient communication system, don’t “assume” that the technology will be successful in retaining your patients. Measure the success of any system you put in place.
If you’re ignoring your recall system, you’re missing out on thousands of dollars in potential revenue. Dental care may not be top of mind for these past due patients, but if you reach out and educate them on the importance of keeping their appointments and maintaining their oral health, they’ll be much more likely to return to your practice.
2. Improve your practice’s customer service. It’s nothing personal, but most patients just don’t like going to the dentist. They’re nervous and uneasy when they walk through those doors, and want to get the visit over with as soon as possible.
That’s why it’s so important to make every patient feel welcome and put them at ease from the moment they walk in. Make sure team members are trained to greet patients with a smile, and offer them coffee or water while they wait for their appointment. Help them fill out their paperwork if necessary, and answer any questions they might have. Create a memorable, positive experience and they’ll be happy to call your practice their dental home.
3. Consider hiring a Treatment Coordinator. All too often, dentists perform their own case presentations. These presentations usually happen chairside, and only last 5-10 minutes. Not exactly an environment that encourages patients to ask questions about the recommended treatment options.
Consider adding a Treatment Coordinator to your team, and tasking this person with providing case presentations for every producer in the practice. Your Treatment Coordinator should take patients to a quiet place to go over all aspects of treatment, from cost to how long it will take to post-op care, and answer any questions patients have about the process. Follow up with patients two days after the initial presentation and address any concerns or perceived barriers they still have. This more personalized touch will not only go a long way in improving patient retention, it will also improve case acceptance and grow your bottom line.
4. Show patients you care. Don’t rush patients in and out of the chair as quickly as possible. Take the time to get to know them. Tell them about the services you offer and how you can help them improve their oral health. Listen to their concerns, and discuss how you and your team can help them achieve their dental health goals. Educate them about the value of dentistry, and they’ll start to develop a connection with your practice that will last for years to come.
If your practice is struggling with patient retention, it’s time to make some changes and increase your patient base. You’ll soon find you have more loyal patients who refer your practice to family and friends, ultimately growing your production numbers and your bottom line.
I know making any kind of change can seem intimidating. If you need more guidance, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m here to help.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email email@example.com
Questions and Answers
We receive many questions from current and potential clients, and we enjoy helping whenever possible. This article covers a few of the questions I have recently been asked that I believe other offices can benefit from.
This is not necessarily correct. Many offices will go ahead and diagnose the root planing and move forward with the cleaning appointment. This allows the hygienist to concentrate on the areas that are healthy and reinforce the need for root planing. Then the treatment plan can be reviewed with the Treatment Coordinator and the patient can be scheduled for root planing.
Now, there are patients who are very motivated or on a time schedule when it comes to utilizing and maximizing their insurance benefits, and these patients may prefer to begin root planing that day. It is critical for hygienists to be good at reading patients’ verbal and non-verbal communication to determine what is best.
2. But when a new patient is diagnosed with periodontal disease, they are no longer eligible for a 1110 prophylaxis – right?
This is not true either. They are not considered a periodontal maintenance patient by the insurance until having root planing or periodontal therapy of some type.
3. A debridement aides in assistance of diagnosis, so that doesn't necessarily qualify either. Often we do not need to debride the teeth in order to establish probings and a diagnosis.
You are totally accurate with this. In my 25+ years as a full-time clinical hygienist, I have only seen two patients who are truly a full mouth debridement. The rest of them should have been quadrants of root planing.
4. If a cleaning is not completed at the new patient visit, the patient is often unhappy that they didn't get their teeth cleaned.
This is true. If the doctor is not performing the new patient exam and the patient is expecting to have a “cleaning”, it is recommended that the hygienist clean the healthy areas of the mouth, and depending on the difficulty they may want to work a little in the deeper areas also.
5. I think cleaning at the first visit is fine assuming you have the time to start SRP.
This is partially true. Cleaning at the first visit is fine. If you don't have time to begin the root planing and perform the quality of work needed, it is better to only start the cleaning.
6. My hygienist is recommending that we do a prophylaxis and charge it out at the first visit, then have the patient return for scaling and root planing. Is it true that this starts the healing process and shows more favorable results following scaling and root planing?
Working in the periodontal pocket can be very controversial. Some believe it is better to not enter the pocket at all, some hygienists believe it starts the healing process and it’s better to do what you can, while others believe it is best to go ahead and only clean the areas that are healthy – which is what the cleaning appointment is for.
7. I am concerned about submitting a prophylaxis to insurance only to turn around a few weeks later to submit scaling and root planing.
As we know, all insurance benefits are different and this may or may not be a problem. There is no guarantee of benefits no matter what. It has been my experience that most dental insurance companies are alright with this. The most important thing as health care providers is for us to perform quality of care and inform the patient of all of their options when it comes to treatment. It is ultimately up to the patient.
Hopefully these are some of the issues you have wanted recommendations for. Of course, once we have analyzed your practice we are able to clarify these areas even more.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
Leadership Tips for Introverts
As all introverts know, extroversion is an ideal that is celebrated and promoted in our society. It starts at a young age, too. You might remember your parents very early on apologizing for your “shyness” or being asked by a teacher to “come out of your shell,” as if not being the most vocal kid in class meant you had retreated to your armored body suit. Extroversion is seen as a sign of success in many circles, and those for whom being outgoing comes naturally are the ones to whom people will generally gravitate. It is hard to dispute. Society says it is “the right way to be” and it is reinforced by people’s behavior. However, how do we explain that the majority of people are actually introverts? In fact, some of the greatest leaders throughout history have been introverts, for instance Mahatma Gandhi, Warren Buffet and Albert Einstein.
What we find is that introverts are often misunderstood, and leadership certainly does not always require vocal, social and charismatic individuals. In addition to the extroverted leaders we all know due their effectiveness at being seen and recognized, the world also needs leaders who show poise, exhibit great listening skills, analyze complex situations before making a decision, and exude calm in times of conflict. Here are 5 tips any introvert can use to become a better leader.
1. Listen first, talk second. This is something that comes naturally to introverts, and it is an often underutilized skill in the business world. One key to being viewed as a respected leader is to actively listen to your friends, family, staff and patients and then provide guidance and answers. According to Susan Cain, in her novel Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”
2. Step up during times of crisis. Crises, both at home and at work, are a part of life. It’s how you respond to these moments of adversity that matter. So step up and be the “voice of reason” when bad stuff happens. Where others might see a crisis, introverted leaders see an opportunity. As an exercise, think about what “crises” might arise in your practice, and then think about how you would naturally respond. Then imagine yourself stepping up and approaching the event or situation as an opportunity to showcase your talents.
3. Get out of your comfort zone. Introverts are generally more comfortable working alone than with people, yet as a dentist, you might say, “I’m working with people all the time!” However, as a medical provider, you may be helping people, but it is within a very strict dynamic in which you are the expert to whom the patient is coming for a specific purpose. There is not much interchange or give and take. In fact, extroverts might be jumping out of their skin within this dynamic.
You also may not like to speak in front of groups. But the reality is, working collaboratively with other people and getting in front of groups are things that all great leaders need to do sometimes. So force yourself to participate in “small talk” once in a while, even if you think it’s useless. Take a public speaking class, such as Toastmasters. Take the lead on overhauling your practice management solution at work, even though this might put you out of your comfort zone. Work on getting a little better at the things you’re not particularly great at each week.
4. Get into your comfort zone. Introverts spend a lot of time in their own heads. And we need this time. It’s how we recharge, reflect, and come up with great ideas. So set time aside every single day, even if it’s just 15 minutes. Find somewhere quiet to sit down and just be. Let the thoughts flow through your head like clouds. And when you’re done, jot down any new ideas that came to mind, which leads to our next tip.
5. Write it down. Introverts tend to be better at writing than speaking. That’s why you should put your ideas down on paper before you speak about them. And here’s a tip for making your key points “stick,” whether it’s during a business meeting or after speaking at a conference: Leave them with something. Create a simple 1-2 page document summing up your salient points, answering anticipated questions and objections, and offering to answer any additional questions.
You’ll probably notice a trend with most of these leadership tips. Most of them come naturally to introverts. So leverage your intrinsic strengths. Acknowledge, accept and improve upon your areas in which you struggle. And always remember this:
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Gandhi
Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at email@example.com
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