5 Patient retention ideas for dentists and doctors

As a dentist or doctor you know better than anyone else that patient retention is very important to overall success of your practice. After all, your client base isn’t permanent, though it’s tempting to imagine that it is. If you’re worried about losing customers, try using these five tips to better your chances of retaining patients and lowering your attrition rates.

1. Caring is Key.
In the business world, it’s known that 70% of customers take their business elsewhere because of perceived indifference. Approaching the customer with a caring attitude is especially important in health and dental care. Instill in your staff the importance of treating each patient with respect, and truly listening to their needs and concerns.

Keeping patients waiting is a big part of this. Few things are so annoying as going to a doctor’s office on time, then enduring a long waiting period to see them. One way to avoid making your patients wait is to stay on schedule. No office is perfect, but sticking as closely to your patient schedule as possible can help things run smoothly.

Work on building a repertoire with patients to put them at ease. Leave no room for patients to feel like they’re intruding on a busy office environment. Instead, make them feel like you’re there because of them.

2. Give the Right Welcome.
The way a patient is greeted when they arrive for their appointment can also make them feel like they’re intruding. Planning ahead is key in making sure your patient sees a doctor as soon as possible. The receptionist should also greet each patient with an open-ended questions such as “Hello, how can I help you today?” Avoid leading with directives like “sign in and have a seat.” Allow the patient to answer before giving them directions. Be sure to listen and answer their questions fully so that they don’t need to keep returning to the reception desk.

3. Telephone Matters
When a patient calls your office, do they reach a real live person who sounds welcoming and ready to listen? This could make all the difference in a patient’s perception of your practice. Consider replacing your automated call service with an actual person who is trained to handle each call with attentiveness and care. Other good telephone practices to increase retention are:

• Calling patients the day before and appoint to confirm and make sure they’ll be there.
• Following up with patients to make sure they’re taken care of (more on that below)
• Reaching out to patients when they are overdue for an appointment. For example, for a yearly mammogram or a missed follow-up appointment.

As you may have noticed, a few of the improvements are sales-related. You can educate yourself by reading articles like this online about best sales and retention practices but you can also hire professional dental and medical marketing companies such as Solution21 to help you for training your staff as well as other areas of sales and marketing.

4. Survey Your Patients
If your attrition rate is high, you have to get to the root of the problem. The only way to do that is to ask your patients. Perhaps they feel that the staff isn’t friendly enough, or that the doctors don’t spend enough time with the patients. You can collect feedback by leaving feedback cards in the waiting room, or issuing a telephone or email survey. Offering incentives like discounts and gift cards will encourage people to take the survey. This is a small price to pay when you can possibly avoid losing several thousands of dollars each year.

5. Following Up
This step is key. A follow-up call about three days after the visit let’s you:

• Check in with your patient and see how they’re feeling.
• Make sure they understood the instructions given by the doctor or staff.
• Make sure they had any necessary medications filled.

This is also a good time to ask if they’ll participate in a short phone survey, or to let them know that you’ll follow up with an email survey to see how the office did overall.

Retaining patients comes down to seeing each of them as people who have options when it comes to healthcare, and they chose you. Make their choice worth their while by showing them that you see them and care about them. Make several points of contact with your patients, both before and after their visits. Take time to make them feel welcomed, and listen to their needs. If something seems wrong, ask your patients what you could be doing better. Taking this approach in your dental or medical practice, and making it reflect in your operations, can make all the difference in your retention rates.

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