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Debbie Seidel-Bittke, RDH, BS is known as a top dental consultant by Dentistry Today.

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Dental Practice Solutions - Debbie Bittke

Important Points to Understand and Increase Your Net Production

By: Debbie Seidel-Bittke, RDH, BS

October 20, 2012

Most Dentists today tell me their primary concern is to increase New Patient numbers. Do you know how much it costs you to market and then capture a new patient? What is the cost to you if you can reactivate a current patient of record?

Many dental offices are eager to spend money on external marketing efforts to capture new patients when in fact they are cutting back on dollars spent on building patient loyalty and getting patients back to the office. What makes you think that a new patient will be better than a patient you have not seen in the past year?

If you have limited dollars in your practice today, the best way to spend any money to raise patient numbers is spend any money available on your existing patient base. How much does it cost you to lose an employee? This is the same when you lose a patient of record. A lot of time and money is lost!

 Benefits of Retaining Patients

 Increasing your patient retention numbers will boost your profits and minimize other costs such as marketing for new patients.

Not only does retaining your current patients boost your profits just by having then visit the hygienist on a regular basis but imagine the dollars the current patients will spend when you offer various services such as:

  • Oral Cancer Screening technology/tests
  • CAMBRA (Caries Management by Risk Assessment)
  • Non-surgical periodontal services, adjuncts, lasers, etc.
  • Same-day services (Such as Whitening, fluoride, night guards, etc.)
  • Home-care products
  • Cosmetic dentistry
  • Implants
  • Six-month Smiles, Invisalign
  • Etc.

Your long term patients most likely have a great rapport with you and the team. Their trust factor is high. They are most likely to accept your treatment recommendations.

Do you know the average money spent from your current patients per visit? The longer the history for the patient of record the more comfortable they will be spending money in your office.

Statistics tell us that in dentistry we have a 70% chance that our patients will accept treatment but only 20-25% of patients schedule an appointment to complete treatment and pay for this.

The average dental practice loses 10-15% of their patient base annually due to patients moving, dying or just because they changed insurance providers. This means that if you have an active patient base of 1500 patients you will lose 150-180 patients annually. During this current economic climate case acceptance in general is low and with many practices gaining less than 20 New Patients per month, your revenue is very low!

The company New Patients, Inc. did a study in 2003 and found that the lifetime value of a patient is $1,502.27. When you adjust the rate of inflation you have a lifetime value of at least $2,000.00, as of 2011.

You can estimate the loss of value with the inactive patients by multiplying the total number of inactive patients by $2,000.00 –the current lifetime value of your patient.

Imagine that if you lose just 150 patients in 2012, your lost revenues will equal $300,000.00. Now that can hurt!

But let’s get to the bottom of this challenge and create solutions.

1. Count the active patients in the practice
a. This is the # of patients who have been to the office in the past 12 months
b. Not a surprise when you see this # is different that the number of patients in your database
c. Review these numbers each month at the team meeting and
d. Create systems to grow your patient post

2. Survey your patients
a. Ask patients about their recent visit
b. Did you meet their expectations?
i. Did they enjoy their experience?
ii. Did they have to wait?
iii. Do they feel comfortable referring their friends and family?
iv. Do they have frustrations? Any challenges?
v. Are there services they wish to have but you did not offer?
c. You can use www.surveymonkey and email to those patients who informed you that it is ok to contact them by email.
d. Offer a gift, something of value from your office, in return for their response
e. Once you have 75-100 responses discuss these at your next team meeting
i. Any frustrated patients or needs you have not met, be sure to correct these and let the patients know you have addressed their frustration or need

3. Create a WOW experience. One like no other office in your area!
Many patients will come to your office because of your fees but there will be many who come to your office because of the team, their personal relationship and the specific culture of your dental office.

Each patient is different. Their needs vary and so do their personalities. Make sure that everyone on the team is able to effectively communicate with the various personality types. You can go here to update your skills and assessment of personality types: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp

Treat your patients with honesty. If you say you will call them back, call them back at the time promised. If the fees change explain why and show them where this was projected to change. Be sincere in everything you do, say and stand for.

This is how you will continue to keep their trust and remain credible.

When you know your patients expectations and over deliver you will have them at WOW and create raving fans!

Meet with you team and discuss one thing that you can do now to create more fans and WOW them even more.

4. Communicate
a. Your website is a great place to communicate with current and New Patients
b. Does your website have an area to submit questions?
c. Do you use social media to keep patients up-to-date with happenings in your office?
d. How will you communicate special offers to your patients?
i. And/or New Services?
e. Email patients and/or post on social media about courses you and the team are completing
f. Post and communicate about any changes in the office
i. New employees
ii. New equipment, chairs, services, etc
iii. Tell them interesting health facts
g. Find various communication methods to keep patients in the loop between their dental appointments
i. Social media
ii.Newsletters
iii. Email
iv. Educate, educate, educate
v. Etc.

5. Reactivation tips
a. Call patients who cancel an appointment and don’t reschedule within the next 48 hrs
i. Ask when they cancel and don’t reschedule if you can call them to reschedule at X date at Y time
ii.Make a point to call and reschedule at this scheduled time!
b. Plan to have a reactivation system in place and use this every 3 months to send post cards, various letters at specific times, etc.
i. Just like collections: the longer the person owes money, the less likely you will receive payment
* Same thing with reactivating patients – don’t delay the process!
ii. Run reports to reactivate overdue patients every month and send the various letters approximately every 90 days
iii. Add the date of last appointment
iv. Make the letter directly from the doctor showing concern
v. Follow up with a  live phone call from the team when there is no response to the letter
* Goal of call is to schedule the patient

The key factor to the success of every dental practice is reactivating patients. If your patients can experience a sense of loyalty you will experience higher profits and practice growth. You need to implement a strong reactivation system to prevent the loss of 10% or higher in your patient base.

Reactivation of patients can be complex but in the long run this will cost you less money than finding a new patient to replace a lost patient. Imgaine if you can cut back to losing 50 patients this year vs. 150 patients. This is worth it’s weight in gold!