How to Stop Losing Patients

Roger Levin, DDS
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Are you losing patience with losing patients? If you are, you’re not alone.

Research from the Levin Group Data Center indicates that practices on average lose approximately 15% of their patients per year due to factors such as increased competition and changing insurance plans. This can translate to a conservative estimate of $2 million in lost revenue over the course of a typical dentist’s 30-year career. 

Watching your patient base and revenue dwindle can be very frustrating, but take heart. You can decrease the number of patients lost due to outside influences by concentrating on three key areas: branding, scheduling, and incentives. 

Branding 

Most dentists go to work every day with the sole objective of providing excellent clinical care. While this is admirable, it’s not the main reason why patients stay with their dentists. In fact, it’s arguable that most patients don’t really know the quality of clinical care they are receiving and believe they can get similar care from other offices. You can break through this type of thinking by building strong value for your practice through branding.

You must be intentional and deliberate about communicating the value of your services, cutting-edge technology, highly educated team, and compassionate customer service to every patient. Always take the opportunity to deliver effective branding messages about your practice in the first phone call with every new patient, during hygiene visits with current patients, and in all marketing communications.

Scheduling

Keep in mind that patients who are overdue for appointments are being given the opportunity to think about moving to new offices and often do. Never give them that choice. When people do have appointments, there is strong momentum to stay with the practice because the decision has been made and all they have to do is show up. 

Implement a regular system to encourage patients to make appointments that includes contact by phone, email, texts, and, when appropriate, even snail mail. Also remember that it’s critical to track patient retention rates monthly and annually. If you see a downtrend, act on it immediately because once patients are lost it’s difficult to get them back.

Incentives

Create incentives for patients who are overdue or inactive to make their appointments. Offer highly convenient times for people who need specific appointments, or provide gift certificates or courtesy discounts. You can also help patients to understand that the ultimate incentive for keeping their appointment is that regular preventive care keeps their mouth in great shape for a lifetime.

Summary

Patient retention is a critical issue in dentistry as the profession becomes more and more competitive. Smart businesses do everything possible to retain their customers, and smart practices should do the same with their patients. By concentrating on branding, scheduling, and incentives, you can maintain your patient base for years to come.

Dr. Levin is a third-generation general dentist and the chairman and CEO of Levin Group Inc, a leading dental management and marketing consulting firm. To learn more about the company’s training and consulting services, visit levingroup.com, or contact him at roger.levin@levingroup.com.

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