3 types of patients who hurt your practice

2016 05 24 14 35 52 802 Mc Kenzie Sally 2016 400

Attracting and keeping patients are vital parts of any dentist's success. It doesn't matter how talented you are clinically if you don't have any patients to treat. To meet your financial goals, you must build a strong base of loyal patients, but you also need to attract the right kind of patients.

Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management.Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management.

Unfortunately, some patients can actually hurt your practice. These are the ones who don't show up for appointments or who can't seem to pay their bills on time. Not only do their behaviors lead to extra stress for you and your team members, they also cost you money.

The good news is that these patients don't have to be a source of frustration. Here are three types of patients who often end up doing more harm than good, and the changes you can make to help them become the type of patients every dentist wants in their practice.

1. Patients who are late with their payments

This is a common problem that can hurt a practice's bottom line. Patients accept treatment, then forget they actually need to pay for services rendered. They usually pay, eventually, but only after team members spend valuable time sending reminders.

I recommend two methods to my clients to help them get patients to start paying on time:

  • Establish a clear financial policy. When patients make an appointment, make sure they understand when payment is expected. Don't leave any room for confusion.
  • Offer third-party financing. This enables patients to pay in small chunks each month, making the cost much more manageable. You get paid on time and patients are also more likely to go forward with expensive cases they otherwise couldn't afford.

2. Patients who don't value the dentistry you provide

When patients don't value dentistry, they don't make it a priority. If something else comes up that conflicts with their scheduled appointment time, they don't feel bad about canceling at the last minute or simply not showing up at all. But these broken appointments bring chaos to your day and may keep you from meeting your production goals.

“Once patients are in the chair, focus on building a rapport.”

Spend time educating patients about the value of the services you provide. This education can come in the form of images from an intraoral camera, radiographs, videos, and even brochures. Make sure patients understand what's going on in their mouths, why maintaining their oral health is important to their overall health, and the possible consequences of not going forward with recommended treatment.

It's also a good idea to give patients a rundown of everything that went into their appointment before they leave. Include any free products they're going home with. This will help them better understand what they actually get out of the visit, making them less likely to flake out next time.

When patients schedule an appointment, ask them to call at least two days in advance if they need to reschedule so another patient can see the doctor. I also suggest confirming with patients two days ahead of their visit, giving you time to fill open slots if they have to cancel.

3. Patients who show up only once

This is a frustrating scenario. Patients come in for their new-patient appointment, you think the visit goes great, but you never hear anything from the patient again. Patients don't come back for many reasons, but one of the most common is simply because they didn't have a good experience.

Focusing on customer service will help ensure patients have a great first visit, making them more likely to return. You want patients to feel a connection with you and your team members. This starts by offering them a warm welcome and then doing your best to put them at ease throughout the entire appointment.

Create a comfortable reception area, and offer patients a beverage as they wait. Keep all interactions friendly and positive. Once patients are in the chair, focus on building a rapport. Ask them about their families, their jobs, and their oral health goals. Making an effort to get to know your patients will make your job more fun and will help them feel the connection that will keep them coming back.

Patients are the lifeblood of your practice, but sometimes they can actually cost you money and create extra stress. Making the necessary changes will help turn these problem patients into the loyal patients your practice needs to thrive.

Sally McKenzie is the CEO of McKenzie Management, a full-service, nationwide dental practice management company. Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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