Patients Who Do Your Practice More Harm Than Good
You dread seeing certain patient names show up on the schedule. First there’s Mrs. Jones, who just can’t seem to get to her appointments on time (if she shows up at all). Then you have Mr. Fletcher, who likes to argue with your front office about the cost of treatment and is always late with his payment.
These types of patients are just about guaranteed to bring stress to your day, and in most cases are actually doing your practice more harm than good. That’s why it’s so important to attract the right patients to your practice. You want patients who accept treatment and refer you to family and friends; they’re the ones who will help your practice grow and get you closer to reaching your goals.
Ready to build that loyal patient base? Here’s a list of the types of patients who can damage your practice, and advice on how to turn these problem patients into loyal patients.
Patients who never come back. It costs five times more to attract new patients to your practice than it does to keep the ones you already have – so make sure your marketing efforts don’t go to waste. But if new patients don’t feel a connection to your practice after that first visit, chances are they won’t come back. You not only lose out on any undiagnosed treatment those patients have, but any referrals they might have made to family and friends.
How can you help new patients feel a connection? Focus on providing an exceptional experience. Make them feel welcome from the moment they walk through the door. Talk with them about their oral health goals, and what services can help them meet those goals. Ask about their families and jobs. When you educate patients and start building a rapport, they’ll want to call your practice their dental home.
Patient retention is key to your practice’s success and should be at about 95%. Not sure where your practice falls? Click here to take my free Patient Retention Assessment.
Patients who blow off their appointments. Broken appointments are a huge problem in many dental practices. When patients cancel at the last minute or don’t show up at all, it wreaks havoc on your schedule and costs you money – lots of money. In fact, if your practice averages two cancellations/no-shows a day, at a value of about $100-$125 each, you’re losing more than $40,000 a year. You read that right. Forty thousand dollars a year!
You probably want to know how to reduce these costly broken appointments. You can start by making sure patients understand the value of their appointment and maintaining their oral health. This goes back to focusing on patient education. Educated patients are much more likely to accept treatment and show up at their scheduled time.
I also suggest you confirm all appointments two days in advance. This serves as a reminder to your patients, and if they’re not able to make their appointment, it gives your Scheduling Coordinator time to fill the open slot.
Patients who never pay on time. Some patients put off paying for treatment for as long as possible. They always seem to have some excuse, or promise that the check is in the mail. Unfortunately, collection is something many practices struggle with, and if yours is one of them, it’s killing your bottom line.
To help ensure patients pay on time, I suggest you establish a clear financial policy. Make sure patients understand when payment is expected; don’t leave any room for confusion. Another tip? Consider offering third party financing from a company like CareCredit. This will ensure you get paid for what you produce, while giving patients an affordable, interest-free way to pay for larger cases. And keep in mind third party financing not only helps you get paid on time, it also makes patients more comfortable going forward with expensive treatment. Instead of writing one big check, they can break up the cost into more manageable monthly payments.
As much as I hate to say it, there are certain types of patients who do your practice more harm than good. But with a few changes, you can turn these problem patients into the loyal patients your practice needs – ultimately boosting productivity and your bottom line.
Next week: How to attract (and keep!) the best patients
For additional 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
Are You Practicing Dentistry with One Foot Out the Door?
CEO Training Case #CEO236
“Dr. James” (names have been changed) signed up to attend the 2-day Dentist CEO Training course offered by McKenzie Management. He had been in private practice over 15 years ago, sold the practice, and became an associate in another practice. He wasn’t happy in either role and decided to update his skills and start over again.
“It’s too late to switch to another profession, so I have to do it right this time,” Dr. James confided. We discussed why he had sold his practice. “I wasn’t a good leader; mentally I just wasn’t there. The overhead got out of control. New patient numbers fell off and retention was very low. I couldn’t afford to practice so I sold it.”
“Are you committed to making it work this time?” I asked. “Yes” he said. I feel with the right tools, I can make it happen. Quitting is not an option now.”
The two-day course is custom and comprehensive, and for a dentist like Dr. James who never had formal business training, it was at times confusing. Dr. James asked many questions and acknowledged that he now understood how each business system connected to the success of the practice.
“I never managed my employees, I didn’t look at reports, I didn’t control my expenses…”
We started with the basics of the Mission Statement and Vision for the practice, and his leadership capabilities. It wasn’t just about how Dr. James felt in these areas – his team needed to be on board too.
It is critical to recruit and retain only those who are fully committed to the vision of the practice. Everyone must be a team player. A team player can be defined as a staff member who understands and fully embraces the vision, seeks to always meet the exacting standards and expectations of the practice, and views his or her role as more of a mission than a job.
If you have any conflict amongst your staff, you must quickly move to resolve it. If team members cannot resolve their conflicts and move beyond them, you may need to find new employees. Conflict within staff is often sensed by patients, creating an environment of hostility and tension. There is no room for this kind of conflict in a health care facility.
Solid business systems are necessary for everything that happens in the practice. Consistency in follow-through builds patient respect and loyalty. Regularly audit each system to ensure they are effective and remain true to established expectations. Everything from how to answer the phone to how to present treatment becomes part of the system, and every team member is fully trained with the process. Good systems create a practice where you can, at any time, see problems developing in time to correct them before the bottom falls out.
Learning to generate practice management reports from the computer software should not be left up to business staff only. As the dentist CEO, the reports must be viewed weekly, monthly and yearly. Overhead can quickly get out of control if you don’t watch and manage the numbers.
Lab costs should be kept to 10%. Shop around to get the best cost and remember to analyze your fees to make sure this expense isn’t eating your profits.
Dental Supply expenses must remain at no more than 5% of total expenses. Again, shop around to maintain quality at a fair price.
Facility expenses should not exceed 5%.
Dr. James is now prepared to put his foot back in the door of practicing dentistry. He is confident but also knows that if he needs help, McKenzie Management will be there for him every step of the way.
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