5 Reasons You Lost Patients in 2018
You know how vital building a loyal patient base is to your practice’s success. You don’t have much of a business without patients to treat – making it all the more frustrating when retention numbers drop and you have no idea why.
If you lost more patients than you care to admit in 2018, now is the time to make some changes so you can grow your practice in 2019. The first step? Figuring out why patients opted to find a new dental home.
Patients leave for many reasons, but usually don’t bother telling anyone what caused their change of heart. To help you nail down what’s driving patients away, I’ve put together a list of the top five reasons dentists lost patients in 2018, along with a little advice to help you earn their loyalty in the year ahead.
1. You made them wait. Your patients are busy people with plenty of family and work commitments to occupy their time. The last thing they want to do is spend an afternoon in your reception area waiting to be called back. If long waits become the norm in your practice, chances are patients will start looking into other options.
If it seems like you’re always running behind, there’s probably an issue with your schedule. Take a step back to determine what the problem is. It may be time to hire a Scheduling Coordinator who can streamline your days and ensure you’re meeting daily production goals.
2. They didn’t feel comfortable. These days, patients have high expectations when they walk into a dental practice. They want to be in a relaxed, comfortable environment and feel confident in your ability to handle their dental care. If they don’t, they likely won’t be back.
How can you put them at ease? I suggest you start by focusing on customer service. Train team members to greet every patient with a smile and be as helpful as possible. Create a relaxing environment in the reception area, which should feel more like a living room than a dentist’s office. Offer coffee or water as they wait and assurance that they’re in good hands. This will help even your most nervous patients to relax, as well as make them feel more connected to your practice.
3. They felt tension. When conflict is brewing in a dental practice, your patients notice. They might overhear snide remarks from a team member, or see the assistant roll her eyes at something the Office Manager said. This type of behavior creates a negative environment that most patients would rather avoid, so they call the practice down the street next time they’re ready to make an appointment.
To keep this from happening in your practice, I suggest you deal with conflict as soon as you notice it. Don’t assume team members will work out their issues on their own, because they won’t. Sit down with the parties involved and find a solution that makes everyone happy.
4. There isn’t enough education. If patients aren’t educated about the importance of maintaining their oral health or how the services you provide can help them reach their goals, they’re probably not going to accept the treatment you recommend. Taking the time to provide patients with education will make them feel more connected to your practice, as well as help them understand why they can’t ignore any issues you’ve identified. Without that connection, patients may opt to put off treatment or look to another practice for a second opinion.
5. No one ever followed up. After treatment presentations, most patients want to take some time to consider their options. They often leave without scheduling, making it vital for someone from the practice to follow up with them. If no one ever does, chances are they’re not going to call back on their own.
I suggest you follow up with every patient two days after their initial case presentation – that way everything is still fresh in their minds. The team member who calls, ideally your Treatment Coordinator, should be ready to provide education and talk with patients about how they can overcome any perceived barriers to care. When you follow up, you’ll find more patients will return for treatment and become loyal to your practice.
Losing patients can be pretty frustrating – but if you know why they don’t come back, you can start making changes that will boost retention numbers and help grow your practice. You can move on from those lackluster 2018 retention rates and start building a loyal base of patients who accept treatment and might even refer.
Next week: How to boost patient retention in 2019.
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Dos and Don’ts for Patient Chart Documentation
I work for a couple of offices that have some very unprofessional comments about their patients on their pop-up alerts. I am the Insurance Coordinator, not the Office Manager. I know this is not appropriate, but I don’t want to start trouble by bringing it up. How should I handle this issue?
The intent of the comments should be a guide to whether they are inappropriate. Is the comment meant to help the patient during the course of treatment, such as “has neck problems”, which would indicate being very careful when adjusting the head pillow or providing extra support for the neck? Or is the comment something like “is a pain in the neck”, which is derogatory and unnecessary.
It would be prudent, in defense of your position as Insurance Coordinator, that you ask to speak to the Office Manager privately and provide the following information:
• If the patient sees the negative comment, or if someone who knows the patient sees the comment and tells the patient, this could result in a loss of patients and possibly a litigious situation, depending on the comment. It could be scathing on social media, which is where this type of problem often ends up.
• If and when records are subpoenaed for a court case, the inappropriate comments may bias the legal outcome – not in your favor.
Before we look any further into what is or isn’t appropriate in the patient chart notes, let’s look at the reasons why we must have proper chart notes.
Chart notes are like an insurance policy against accusations of wrongdoing, such as what might happen in an insurance audit or defending treatment provided or not provided in front of a legal entity as in a lawsuit. Good chart notes support the necessity for treatment when billing insurance and communicating with other providers for care of the patient. Good chart notes also support the existence of diagnosed treatment and the manner of delivery in details. In the world of insurance, if it’s not in the chart, it didn’t happen.
1. Health History is current and updated each recall or before any treatment. Post alerts in computer for special needs such as Pre-Med for joint replacement or HBP (high blood pressure).
2. Date and details of examination, not just the word “exam”. Include the doctor’s findings.
3. Doctor’s reasons for requesting which type and number of radiographs (what you need to look at).
4. Diagnosis for each tooth that needs treatment such as #3 MOD Composite Restoration (deep caries undermining existing MO amalgam).
5. Date and description of treatment rendered for each tooth separately and length of time necessary to complete the treatment such as 60 minutes for 2 quads SRP.
6. Date and description of any complications encountered (patient reaction to anesthesia).
7. Date and reason for ordering all diagnostic tests and procedures. Objective observations.
8. Date and name, quantity and strength of all drugs or medicaments prescribed to patient.
9. Date of cancelled or missed appointments and attempts to reach patient.
10. Date of patient refusal of treatment and reason or date of patient accepting treatment.
11. Details of next recommended treatment appointment and time necessary to treat to completion.
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