Many dentists have been led to believe that to grow a successful dental practice the magic prescription is more new patients. In reality, we find something completely different.
We have seen practices with high new patient flow, and the profitability in practice diminished. We have also practices with a recent decline in new patients that saw improvement in profits. If you are trying to build the dental practice of your dreams, you should understand that “new patients” is not a statistic that tracks with profitability. In short, more new patients are not always the answer.
If you are trying to grow your practice, or are looking at transitioning sometime in the future, there is another area to focus on that doesn’t get much attention. Patient Retention. This is a statistic that DOES track with profitability. If practices were to focus on improving patient retention, they would see profits grow because this statistic is correlated with profitability.
Another reason this is so critical for dentists looking to transition is that practice valuation is based off of profitability. Not production or collections, but the profits generated from the practice.
How does one improve patient retention? Focus on providing a World Class Patient Experience. In today’s world, it is important that we are taking excellent care of our patients. They have many options, and they can easily find out how focused we are on patient care. A simple Google search, and a glance at dental practices reviews can tell prospective patients a lot about you. How well are we doing taking care of the patients we already have?
We have a process we teach that involves rating your Patient Experience in great detail. First impressions matter, and we defined 65 different points of contact in every patient encounter. Imagine what the difference could be if we focused on improving several of these touch points each month.
When patients come in for preventive exams and cleanings, another key to a World Class Experience is to be fiercely committed to taking excellent care of them. Today’s patients have a variety of needs; many are high risk for both decay and/or periodontal issues and have no sense of this. Drug induced dry mouth is more than just an annoyance for many of our patients; it can be a real threat to their overall health. Providing risk assessment, and having a menu of preventative services in hygiene that patients are offered consistently is another way practices differentiate themselves and truly provide World Class care.
Another way to improve patient retention is to focus on patient convenience. How often are we saying ‘NO’ to our patients? No, we don’t see patients in the evenings, or on weekends. No, we don’t accept that insurance. No, we don’t accept payments. Every time we must say no to patients, this creates a barrier. We have to focus on making it easier for patients to do business with us. They will choose to tolerate our office policy, or move along to another practice that has more convenient policies. If they move along, we lose these patients, and retention suffers.
We have seen practices that focus on these principles grow dramatically in a short period of time. Several have sold their practices a few years down the road, and sent thank you notes our way. When you focus on improving patient care, production improves at the same time. With careful systems and good management, profitability should also increase. This improves the value of the practice.
The practice of your dreams is possible, often it already exists right beneath your feet.