In this article, we discuss the tips, tools, and strategies for growing your dental practice. While this article focuses on shifting away from PPOs and towards fee for service practices, the strategies are useful for any practice that wants to grow.
Post-op text, emails or phones calls following an invasive procedure.
This is especially important if you’re serious about getting out of PPO. If you want to differentiate yourself and retain fee-for-service patients call, text or email your patients the evening following an invasive procedure. (And no, this doesn’t mean you can have an administrative team member do it for you.) We cannot stress this enough. When a doctor calls, emails or texts the patient appreciates this personal touch more than you know. If the patient has had a difficult prophy or periodontal treatment; the doctor or the hygienist may make the post-op communication.
This shows that you care about your patient’s comfort.
Calling, emailing or texting your patients following an invasive procedure shows them you care about their comfort. This is the kind of positive information that will spread rapidly. Why? Because very few dentists take the time to do it. Your patients will be telling everyone that you personally followed up with them; which brings in referrals and assists in retention.
If you want to get out of PPO or remain in fee-for-service (non-insurance dependent), you must focus on patient experience. Calling, emailing or texting your patient will set you apart from other practices.
Remember, the communication must come from the doctor unless the patient had a difficult periodontal procedure; the dentists or the hygienist should check in on hygiene patients who received invasive treatment that could cause discomfort or concern.
When growing your practice, this is the number one tip.
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Your patient’s initial impression should be a top priority.
You get one chance to make a first impression. It’s imperative that phones and emails are answered correctly. By correctly, we mean cheerfully and with focus. The initial phone call gives the patient a foreshadowing of what they will experience if they come to your practice.
Tip: Ask team members to smile when answering the phone. It’s impossible to sound grumpy when you’re smiling. Remember, comfort is crucial and many people fear the dentist in the first place. If a potential patient has even an ounce of doubt, they will do one of three things, not book an appointment, not show up for the appointment, or cancel completely.
This is why you should invest in your team to make sure they’re well-trained to handle a fee for service patient experience. What we mean by this is a PPO team is usually juggling many jobs and the administrative team’s goal is to obtain the patient’s medical, HIPAA, financial and insurance information, have them be treated and out the door. We call this assembly line dentistry. The patient is treated but no relationship is formed. Therefore no loyalty exists. Not all PPOs are like this. However, to do well as a PPO dentist, you must see more patients in an hour/day/year than the typical fee for service dentist.
Can’t answer the phones? Ask yourself, “What hours are the busiest?”
How often does your phone go unanswered, patients have to wait while your administrative team is on the phone, patients aren’t checked in on time because the phones are ringing and other patients are waiting to be checked out? If you notice that your patients aren’t getting the full attention they deserve, how can you free up your administrative team’s time to provide a better experience? Figure out what hours are the busiest and consider hiring a part-time second office team member or outsource insurance confirmation, and follow up, billing, and marketing.
In a PPO practice, if you’re producing $960,000, you may really be collecting $670,000. Therefore, you have less money to spend, and might not be able to hire a second person. A viable option would be to outsource your Billing, Insurance, Marketing etc., to free up some time for your administrative team to manage the patient experience and eventually step back from PPO’s that are less profitable.
In a fee-for-service practice, you should collect nearly 100% of your production. Allowing more time for creating a great patient experience.
If you want to create a better experience, hire what we call a “patient greeter.” (think concierge) These folks may be retired and the expected rate of pay would be minimum. Their job is to essentially greet patients, check them in at the front desk, make sure the patient waiting area and entrance are clean and tidy. The responsibilities don’t have to stop there. They can answer phones, take messages and take care of any lightweight tasks to free up your front desk’s time too; as long as they are available to greet your patients and help them have a good experience in your office.
Have Up-to-Date Technology
If you want to have a fee for service practice and are trying to grow your practice, it’s crucial to have up-to-date technology. Patients know about the advancements in technology. They see it on the internet, on commercials, and have likely seen it in other dentist offices. They know that they receive less radiation with a digital radiograph than a film x-ray.
It’s important to have advanced technology for oral cancer screening.
The number of patients who are diagnosed with oral cancer continues to rise yearly. Unfortunately, the number of patients who die from oral cancer continues to increase as well. It is a well-proven fact that early detection saves lives.
We know that in years past, the demographic of patient we were most concerned about was the middle-aged man who drank heavily and smoked, while this demographic is still a concern. The rapid occurrence of the HPV virus has directed our attention to a new demographic - the 18 to 38 year old man. The incidence of HPV virus continues to rise and is the reason more young people, especially young Men are receiving a diagnosis of Oropharyngeal cancer at alarming rates.
Offer your patients an advanced oral cancer screening utilizing advanced technology.
It doesn’t have to be the newest device on the market, but it does have to have up-to-date technology. Most often the argument is that advanced technology is not proven to detect all oral cancers and it may cause unnecessary fear (as do mammograms). If the technology saves one life isn’t it worth it?
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At the end of the day, growing your practice is made possible by a positive patient experience.
It starts with the initial phone call and continues through treatment, the perception of concern of the dentist and clarity in financial policies. What other strategies do you implement to grow your dental practice? Tell us in a comment below.
Need any help? Contact JPA Dental Transitions and we can set you up with the right consultants to help you grow your practice.