Acquiring new patients can be costly. Retaining your existing patients usually takes much less effort and can also be a huge benefit to the growth and continuity of your practice. Here are some easy ways to help improve patient retention in your dental practice.
Get to Know Your Patients
Patients want to have a personal relationship with their dentist; it tends to make them feel as though they are receiving more thorough, individualized care. At each appointment, take a few minutes to chat about your patient's family, work, or hobbies. Jot down a note or two on their chart for next time, and make sure to ask about it at their follow up appointment or annual exam.
Creating a strong rapport with your patients can help boost your retention. Patients want to experience continuity of care and enjoy giving repeat business to dentists who know and care about them.
Evaluate Patient Hand-Offs
Few things are more frustrating for patients who have to repeat their chief complaint to multiple staff, or who get "lost" in between hand-offs and are forgotten about. Make sure your staff are introducing the patient and repeating the reason for their visit at each hand-off.
Even if staff are well aware of the patient's situation, reiterating their chief complaint or treatment plan helps patients feel inherently valued. You can also consider how you might be able to reduce the number of hand-offs in your office overall.
Make Sure You're Giving Patients One-on-One Time
Patients need to have a certain amount of one-on-one time with the dentist to feel as though they're receiving quality dental care. If you don't give enough distraction-free time to your patients, it can make them feel devalued and less important than your other patients. This leads to a reduction in patient retention because patients are less eager to come back to a practice where they don't see the dentist for but a minute or two. Spend several minutes with each of your patients without charting, reading over notes, or doing anything but focusing on the patient.
Don't Overbook Your Schedule
Another common frustration that patients have with dental offices is their wait time. If patients have to spend twenty minutes in the waiting room, ten minutes for an x-ray, and another twenty minutes for the dentist, they've spent almost an hour doing nothing but waiting.
Extended wait times are often caused by dentists whose schedules are overbooked, leading to patients being shuffled around and spending more time being idle than being treated. When extended wait times are the norm at a dental practice, patients tend to start looking elsewhere for care.
Make It Easy for Patients to Talk to Someone At Your Dental Office
When patients leave your dental office, they may realize that they have more questions that they forgot to ask during their appointment. Or perhaps they can't remember the instructions you gave them on how to clean their partial. Either way, patients need to be able to easily reach someone at your office.
Make sure patients don't have to go through an automated system only to get funneled directly to a voicemail. Even if your front desk staff is simply taking notes and leaving messages for your dental associates and hygienists, your patients will appreciate being able to speak with a live person.
Ensure Staff Greets Patients Within a Few Seconds of Their Arrival
When a patient walks into your dental practice, it's important that your front desk staff greets them within just a few seconds of their arrival. If staff is on the phone, they can acknowledge the patient with a smile and a wave; patients are usually happy to wait a few minutes for staff to end a call if they know that they were seen and will be attended to next. Make sure your staff opens the office doors a little early to allow patients to get checked in. Patients can become easily frustrated if they have to wait outside until the last minute for the staff to unlock the door.
Are You Losing More Patients Than You Retain? Step Into Their Shoes
If your patient retention rate is going down, look critically at the experience your patients have. Hire a "secret shopper" to book a new patient appointment and tell you about their experience checking in, having x-rays done, working with the hygienist and dental assistant, and discussing their treatment plan. This can help you identify areas of weakness in your patient experience so you can address them.
For example, if your patients are frequently waiting over an hour for their appointments or are having to repeat themselves to each new staff member that handles their chart, this can create an extremely negative experience. Look for ways to improve the experience your patients have from the time they enter your office to the time they leave; your retention rate likely will thank you.
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Treloar & Heisel is a premier financial services provider to dental and medical professionals across the country. We assist thousands of clients from residency to practice and through retirement with a comprehensive suite of financial services, custom-tailored advice, and a strong national network focused on delivering the highest level of service.
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