5 reasons emergency patients never come back

By Sally McKenzie, DrBicuspid.com contributing writer

April 27, 2015 -- When you agree to see an emergency patient, it throws your entire schedule out of whack and adds stress to your day. You do your best to get these panicked patients out of pain as soon as possible, yet you know you'll likely never see them again.

These patients rarely come back for comprehensive exams, let alone become loyal patients. That's why your team members cringe every time they take a call from someone with a dental emergency.

Sally McKenzie
Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management.

If that's how you view emergency patients, it's no wonder they never come back. Trust me, these patients can tell when they're not wanted. Even if their dental emergency has convinced them it's time to find a dental home, they're going to cross your practice off their list of contenders if you don't make them feel welcome.

It's time to start looking at emergency patients for what they are -- an opportunity for growth. According to the industry standard, 80% of all emergency patients you treat should be converted into a comprehensive exam. That's right, 80%. Just imagine what that could do for your bottom line.

But before you can convert emergency patients into loyal patients, you have to understand why they don't come back. Here are five reasons you never see emergency patients again and tips to help you win their loyalty.

You don't have a script

When an emergency patient calls, it's often seen as a disruption. The team member who answers the phone sighs and tells the patient that although the doctor is very busy, she'll do her best to find an opening in the schedule -- and then reminds the patient payment is expected upfront.

Not exactly a warm greeting. From the start, patients feel like a nuisance and that the practice cares more about collecting payment than fixing their problem.

Instead of making patients feel like they're bothering you, greet them with a warm welcome and show them you want to help. To ensure this happens, create a script. When team members have a script, they'll know exactly how to handle these calls, from the caring tone they should take to the information they need to gather from the patient.

You don't educate

“Slow down and take the time to educate emergency patients.”

Most practices want to get emergency patients in and out as quickly as possible. Sure, that will help you get back to your day faster, but it will also guarantee you never see these patients again.

Slow down and take the time to educate emergency patients. Find out about their dental health goals, their concerns, and what's kept them from seeing a dentist for so long. Then tailor your education to address their fears. Talk with them about the importance of maintaining their oral health and scheduling a comprehensive exam. This will make them more likely to connect with your practice and schedule that exam before they leave.

You don't plan for emergencies

If you don't leave openings in your schedule for emergency patients, it's going to be difficult for your scheduling coordinator to fit them in when they call. Identify where these patients should be placed in your schedule, and it will be much easier for the coordinator to happily welcome them to your practice.

It's also important to reserve time in the schedule for emergency patients who are ready to make appointments. Your scheduling coordinator should know to schedule these patients for comprehensive exams as soon as possible -- and I'm talking within a week of their emergency visit.

You don't put them at ease

When emergency patients walk into your practice, they're likely scared and in a lot of pain. Train team members to do everything they can to help these patients relax, from helping them fill out their paperwork to taking them to a private consultation room to wait for the doctor. Let them know how long it will be before they can see the doctor and assure them they're in good hands.

You don't follow up

After emergency patients leave, follow up with a phone call to see how they're doing and thank them for allowing your team to provide care -- even if they've already scheduled a comprehensive exam. Then mail them a packet with information about your practice and include a personalized, handwritten note. Let them know you're looking forward to seeing them at their next appointment and to call or visit the practice website with any questions.

Emergency patients shouldn't be seen as a disruption. They should be seen as an opportunity for growth. If you follow these tips, you'll reap the many benefits these patients can bring, from a larger patient base to increased production and a more robust bottom line.

Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, which offers educational and management products available at www.mckenziemgmt.com. 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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