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How To Build Your Practice Without More New Patients

April 2016
Marketing Communication
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Kelly Schwartz* of Schwartz Consulting Group has consulted with hundreds of general dental clients during his 25-year career. He sends each new client a detailed practice evaluation form to uncover their top practice concerns. Invariably, doctors respond that they have openings in their schedules, need more new patients, and want to boost production. While Schwartz acknowledges that some practices do indeed need an increase in the number of new patients, most don’t - - they simply need to do a better job converting and retaining the patients they already have.

Schwartz says the first step is to “close the back door” by improving patient retention rates. Surveys show the number one reason patients leave a practice is due to an indifference, or lack of concern or follow-up, by the doctor and staff. Fortunately, solving that problem costs absolutely nothing. Acting genuinely concerned for your patients shows that you care, and implementing proper systems for retention will stop most of them from leaving. It’s as simple as making sure they are invited back. Also, be sure to sit down at the patient’s level during each visit, make direct eye contact, and spend one minute talking with the patient about what’s going on in their life by asking questions - - that’s what it takes. Schwartz calls this getting the FORM (Family Occupation Recreation Motivation) right - - connecting with the patient on their level.

The next step is to establish a program to reactivate and motivate inactive patients. A strong recall program can make or break a practice. While automated recall services such as Solution Reach or Lighthouse 360 are fine for confirming appointments, they’re not the best tool to reactivate patients. A protocol of making phone calls, sending emails, and leaving messages in specific sequence results in a huge payoff, since 60% of patients reached by phone will schedule, compared to only 10% from email efforts.

Once patients are reactivated, it’s important for the staff to properly educate them about their dental and periodontal needs. Properly training your staff to do so can improve patient care while also dramatically boosting hygiene department production. Dialogue training is a must – a system Schwartz calls the Total Care Interview.

Want to easily double your treatment acceptance rate? All you need to do is change your treatment presentation methodology. It starts in the reception area where you want to make the patient feel relaxed and welcome. Providing comfort like refreshment centers and charging stations are ways to make patients feel welcome. Next, make sure that the hygienist or assistant points out problem areas and potential treatment to patients before the doctor exam.

Always use the intraoral camera so the patients can see the concern, not just hear about it. In this situation, a picture truly is worth a thousand words! Since patients believe more of what they see than what they hear, point out the areas of concern by asking questions so the patient is involved in problem solving. This approach assures the patient is well educated about his or her dental needs before the doctor ever comes on the scene. When the doctor confirms the needs previously presented during his exam, the acceptance rate is easily doubled!

Here’s another profit booster that’s an absolute slam-dunk! Start following up with patients who have not yet accepted previously recommended treatment within two weeks. Send a letter and intraoral photo describing the treatment recommended and expressing your concern that the patient has delayed treatment. Schwartz has developed a standard letter that covers 90% of recommended treatment. Doctors can simply plug in the patient’s intraoral photo, making it easy to follow through. Schwartz has found that 20% of patients will accept the treatment previously presented, resulting in an additional two to three patients per week, and thousands of dollars in increased production.

* For more information on Schwartz’ consulting services, contact the Schwartz Consulting Group at 800.785.3004 or visit his website at www.kellyschwartz.com.

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