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Patient attrition is a natural part of dentistry. In order to stay ahead of the game, however, your practice must be adding new patients each month. If you’re not, you’re moving backward. Here’s how to win the new patient game:
Track. How many new patients are you seeing each month? A healthy practice should be seeing 25 new patients per month per doctor. (It’s icing on the cake if these are fee-for-service patients!) How does your office compare with that number?
Assess. What’s keeping new patients from your office? Since of word-of-mouth referrals are the most effective form of marketing, take a look at your current patient experience. If current patients aren’t getting stellar service, they are not likely to refer you. To assess, ask these questions:
Ask. After addressing the issues in the above list, develop a system for asking for patient referrals. It can be as simple as a sign that says, “We welcome patient referrals of family and friends” or a more proactive approach that includes inviting patients to refer others to your practice. Be sure to check your state’s dental act for rules and regulations regarding referrals so that you’re in compliance with the law.
Thank. Be sure to thank patients who refer new patients to your practice. A handwritten note is sufficient although many practices offer a small token of appreciation such as a gift card or movie tickets as part of their thank you. Again, check with your practice act to make sure you are in compliance.
Reassess. Continue to track new patients on a monthly basis. Is the number growing? If not, go back to steps two and three and continue to fine-tune your process and policies until you’re satisfied with new first-time patient flow.
Survey. If the number of new patients you are seeing isn’t growing as you’d like, use a brief electronic email survey after first-time visits to measure patient experience. Though not all first-time patients will participate, you may be surprised at what you learn. This is a cost-effective way to learn about problems you might not even know you have. It also sends a signal to patients that you truly care about their experience in your office. And finally, in cases where patients haven’t had an optimal experience, it gives you a chance to reach out and connect with them after the fact in hopes of ensuring a second visit to your practice.
CDS presents Front Desk, a column addressing problems dentists and staff members experience in the office. Front Desk is prepared by Mary M. Byers, CAE, a professional speaker and freelance writer. Email Ms. Byers or visit www.marybyers.com. Suggestions? Email suggestions for topics to be covered to the Chicago Dental Society.
A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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