Onboarding a new patient into your practice isn't an easy process. There's forms to fill out, insurance to verify, first impressions to make, and comprehensive treatment plans to prescribe. However, after it's all over, the initial work of new patient onboarding always seems justified, right? Well, until that patient just stops showing up, that is! Unfortunately, this is a scenario that dentists know all too well and the numbers behind this phenomenon illustrate a very big problem that most dentists never confront: every 5 years, a practice will lose about 50% of their patients (source).
Thankfully, understanding the factors behind this "patient exodus" empowers you to prevent it. Factors like your location, your office aesthetics, and even your charisma as a dentist all play a significant impact on your patient loyalty. However, the biggest factor that determines patient retention rate has really nothing to do with you and everything to do with your patient communication software.
Hard to believe? Just ask your office manager.
In this article, we'll be addressing the three worst mistakes a practice can make when it comes to keeping their patients coming back – and how it all ties back to the patient communication software that powers your practice.
1. Emails, Texts, or Phone Calls?
Some patients prefer emails, others might prefer phone calls or texts. Practices who don't employ multiple channels of communication for appointment reminders and scheduling confirmation significantly lower their patient retention rate – and raise their no-show rate.
Unfortunately, it's unlikely that your office manager has time to leave a voicemail, draft up an email, and shoot over a text message for every patient they're scheduling. That's why any dental consultant worth their salt will recommend a software that supports channel diversification and automated messaging.
2. Prioritizing Reactivation
There's a good reason dentists are known as "file cabinet millionaires". The hundreds of dormant patients in your patient communication system can often be resuscitated with a simple email – a low effort way to increase your practice revenue exponentially. Unfortunately, this task is usually listed as "low priority" by the office manager who has more urgent tasks to deal with. So how does software combat this problem?
Not only can a powerful patient communication system free up time for this task, it can also automate it.
For example, Lighthouse allows you to track exactly when a patient becomes inactive and automatically start contacting them with automated emails and postcards. If direct mail methods like postcards sound outdated, consider this – our clients that send reactivation postcards get 4 more patients to reactivate per month. That’s a lot of lifetime value.
Whether you're using Lighthouse or not, be sure to ask your office manager if your patient communication software supports automated reactivation. It's almost impossible to stress just how important this is for your bottom line.
3. Turning a Deaf Ear
Here's a reality check for some dentists: your front desk can diagnose issues in your practice long before they start to impact your bottom line.
Your office manager will be able to tell you where your communication strategy is falling short and advise you on the aspects of your practice that leave your patients unsatisfied.
Additionally, ensure that you're listening to the needs of your staff. What tasks could they be doing better? What tasks don't they have time for? As the owner of the practice, it's your job to empower them with the tools they need to do their job well.
So what's the takeaway?
Your practice communication software isn't just an item to check off your list.
Your software should be subjected to the same scrutiny as your equipment and your staff. Even if you haven't heard any complaints. Even if you've been using the same system for years.
On average, it will cost you 90% less to retain a patient than it does to get a new one (source). Investing a small amount of time in to auditing your patient communication software can prevent 50% of your hard-fought, hard-won patients from trickling out over time.
Need some light reading after all this information? Check out this relatable article about what you wish you knew before you became a dentist!