Patients are the heart of your practice. They are why you do the things you do. However, according to the Journal of the American Dental Association, the average practitioner keeps only four out of ten new patients beyond their first appointment. Improving this retention rate by even 10 percent could add thousands to your bottom line every year.
In addition, the average patient comes in every 11 months, meaning your practice is only seeing patients half as often as the recommended rate. Improving your cleaning rate by just a few months is also a big revenue opportunity.
The key to getting new and existing patients back into your office is a superb patient experience. Satisfied patients are more likely to take treatment suggestions, take an active role in their care and stay with the same provider. Making your patients feel like family can pay big dividends.
The Online First Impression
Building a good relationship with patients starts before they set foot in your office. The first interaction your patients are likely to have with your practice is online. Your website should be easy to navigate and contain relevant information about the procedures you provide. Present your information in plain, easy to understand terms, avoiding clinical phrasing and terminology. The goal is to provide a clear understanding of the care you can deliver and the benefits the patient can gain by coming to your practice.
Small conveniences can go a long way toward patient satisfaction. Make patient history forms available online so new patients can print it and fill it out ahead of time. This can save valuable time. Sending a welcome email before the appointment can make patients feel like a member of a community rather than just a customer. Have your staff get insurance information ahead of time to avoid misunderstandings and complications. Nothing is more frustrating to patients than traveling to your office and then finding out you don’t take their insurance.
Visiting the Office
Once the patient arrives in your office, your office staff should be trained to make them feel welcome. Make each person that interacts with a patient introduces themselves to the patients and calls them by name. Don’t underestimate the role of small talk in making patients feel at ease and cared for. You want your patients to feel like they are seeing a friend.
Have all members of your practice take a patient walk through to understand what the patient experience is. Look for inefficiencies and opportunities to make the patients feel cared for.
Take a good look at your waiting room. Excessive wait time is given as one of the biggest reasons for patients to forgo dental care. A patient satisfaction from a survey administered by Software Advice, an Austin, Texas-based software consultation group found 40 percent said they would see another practitioner if it would cut their wait time. However, 80 percent of respondents said being told the wait time would either completely or somewhat minimize their frustration 70 percent said a personal apology would completely or somewhat minimize their frustration.
Take steps to mitigate wait time and to make the experience more enjoyable. For 60 percent of respondents, free internet in the waiting room would completely or somewhat minimize their frustration. A well designed waiting room experience can reduce patient anxiety, enhance perception about the quality of your care, generate positive word of mouth, and actually make the wait feel shorter than it is.
Make sure your waiting room is up to date and caters to your patient demographics. Do you serve children, families, working adults or senior citizens. Make sure your waiting room is designed with community information, updated reading materials, and activities they care about and arranged in a way to make them feel comfortable. Offering drinks or snacks is a simple or inexpensive thing that can make a huge difference for patient comfort.
Plan for Positive Interactions
Make plans for positive patient interaction. A smile is a universal sign of friendliness. Smiles from you and your staff will signal to your patients that you are happy they are there and that you are happy to serve them.
If needed, create scripts for your staff to help them deal with potentially frustrating situations with patients. This will help them be able to stay friendly and professional when dealing with difficult patients in a way that will protect your name and future business.
Taking time before treatment to talk with your patients and explain all of the things that you will be doing can help put them at ease and increase their understanding of the importance and value of what you will be doing at their appointment. Just listening to your patients and asking about their concerns will go a long way in making them feel like you care. This will ultimately lead to them being more comfortable with you and satisfied with the care they receive, ultimately leading to a continued relationship.
If you want your relationships to feel like family, your care should extend beyond the time your patients spend at the office. A good practice is to call or send an email follow-up with instructions for many common procedures that will answer patient questions and address concerns. Sending out personalized holiday or birthday cards can also add an that extra something toward making your patients feel like a part of the community rather than just a customers. Encourage your patients to give you feedback, reviews, or post their experiences on social media.
When you see your patients as family, you will treat them differently. It will affect their experience from booking the appointment through the office experience, and beyond. When patients feel like family, they will come back again and again and recommend you to friends and family. There is no more effective way of ensuring a healthy practice now and into the future.