Getting patients into your dental practice may be going well. But how do you keep those patients coming back for regular checkups and cleanings? We’ve researched some of our highest growing clients and summarized the techniques fast growing dental clinics are using to retain patients.
The more new patients your practice acquires, the faster your dental practice will grow. At least, this is what many dentists expect. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. A competent patient acquisition strategy might bring patients through the door, but your business will suffer if these patients don’t keep coming back year after year.
If your clinic is struggling with patient retention using these following techniques will boost your monthly bookings without spending a fortune on marketing.
Think about the patient experience
Seven in 10 Americans feel rushed daily and believe they don’t have enough time to do the things they want to do. Therefore every appointment at your office means your patient is prioritizing time with you over something else important to them. If they feel like they’ve wasted their time after a visit, it’s unlikely they’ll return.
How can you make your practice convenient and your appointments more valuable?
• When choosing a location for a new clinic prioritize the availability of close free parking and proximity to a major roadway.
• Give patients 24/7 access to important information. Create a contact form on your website, or a live chat function front office staff can use to speak directly to potential patients. Provide a patient portal that gives patients the ability to schedule appointments, provide insurance information, and the ability to view statements and pay balances.
• Reduce waiting room times: Prioritize moving patients from waiting rooms to chairs as efficiently as possible, if a delay takes place, apologize to those in the waiting room. An patient portal integrated with your dental practice management software will help reduce these delays.
• Implement and enforce policies that ensure phones are answered promptly, phone calls sent to voicemail are lost opportunities for revenue and appointment requests that went unanswered.
• Ensure your staff are adequately trained on scheduling, have correct answers to typical patient questions, and billing questions. Patients expect accurate answers to questions over the phone.
• Consider your office hours outside the 9-5 Monday - Friday standard. Working professionals often find it easier to make appointments outside regular business hours. Either move your hours later in the day or consider changing the days of the week your office is open. Monday’s and Tuesdays are the hardest to book but Saturdays and Sundays can be quite busy. As an aside, your employees will appreciate the availability of services during days off.
• Ensure your practice has a responsive and fast website thats compatible with mobile devices. As the majority of internet traffic is mobile today there's no reason to maintain a site that's not mobile optimized.
• Provide free high speed Wi-Fi, this allows people to check their email and watch video while in your waiting room. Place wifi access information on the waiting room wall and any tables.
Show patients you care
By the time you see patients, they’ve already been in your office for a few minutes and had contact with your employees. They’ve already formed opinions about your firm based on the quality and features of the waiting room. Design your waiting room so that patients are comfortable and know they’re being appreciated for their time. Provide water gum table mounted games for small children.
Treat patients like you would a house guest
One of the most common complaints about modern medical care is being treated like a number. People often complain about doctors and dentists rushing through exams, diagnosing, and recommended treatments without actually listening to patients’ concerns. When a patient is explaining a problem to you, give the person your undivided attention, make a note of it, and follow up on their next check-up. Even if the person’s concerns are baseless, respond and discuss.
Let patients know they’re heard and remembered.
A few extra minutes spent with a patient can make a big difference. However, making the patient the center of your attention during the appointment can make an even bigger difference. Avoid side conversations during treatment. If you’re discussing a supply order with your assistant, the patient may feel like you’re not paying attention to the treatment you’re providing.
Stay in touch
Communication is the foundation of any good relationship, including the doctor-patient relationship. This starts in your office, but should not end there. If you’re trying to build a loyal friendship or business relationship, you probably don’t wait for the other person to contact you every time. The same applies to your patients.
Here’s some expert tips on keeping in touch with your patients:
• Making your website useful—Pay attention to the most commonly asked questions and most misunderstood oral health issues. Provide educational articles, videos, and images that make your website a trusted reference and exhibit your expertise.
• Get social—Your practice should be active on popular social media networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Encourage your patients to follow you and post content thats relevant to dentistry but also popular with followers. This humanizes your practice and helps to build an individual relationship with patients easing their fears.
• Start a newsletter—Email marketing in the health-care industry has an average open rate of 20%! Meaning that one in five subscribers will see your message. Use your email list as an opportunity to deliver promotional content, office updates, educational information, and special offers right to their inboxes.
• Follow up after treatment—Give the patient a call the day after a major procedure to ask how they’re feeling. This helps build your relationship with your patients and if the person is not happy, you have the opportunity to correct the problem promptly before you lose a patient and gain a bad review.
• Send seasonal greetings—Birthdays (available on patient id’s) and national holidays provide a great opportunity to email patients, demonstrating that you care, and add a bit of promotion. Send an ecard or physical card with a limited-time discount coupon for teeth whitening, or remind your patients about expiring insurance while wishing them a happy New Year.
When you think of growing your practice, you may think of initial patient acquisition. But according to the American Dental Association, retention of new patients averages a fairly low 41%, by focusing on building patient loyalty your practice will grow dramatically.