One of the sad things that I see in my travels is the constant pursuit by dental offices of more and more New Patients.
This pursuit of the New Patient is often made at the obvious expense of rectifying some significant major shortcomings within the Dental Practice.
We’re all aware of the Acres of Diamonds story. A story of a South African farmer, with a successful farm, who goes off to search the continent for this newfound wealth, called diamonds. After exhausting all his assets and time, he returns to his now neglected farm, where he sadly passes.
For some reason, at his moment of death, a stone is dislodged and guess what appears? The richest diamond deposit ever found, right there under his very nose, all that time….
This story or parable is related back in dentistry to the *Fortune in the Filing Cabinet*.
There is always, without a doubt, incomplete treatment and unexplained treatment plans and delayed treatment plans just sitting there in your Office Patient files.
While this undone work just sits there, Dentists and Dental Office owners are often seen chasing after more and more new patients. For some reason they prefer to attract new patients rather than to call and reactivate patients of record.
Now mathematically, as well as financially, this makes very little sense indeed.
I’ve read the figures time and time again that it costs three or four or five times more to attract a new customer to a business as it does to keep in touch with and nurture an existing client or patient.
So with all that incomplete treatment just sitting there in your filing drawers, it makes very little sense to be increasing your marketing spend by four or five times when you have already acquired those customers who know you already?
Now, there are always many reasons why clients and patients do not complete all their necessary and diagnosed treatment:
- Perceived lack of urgency or priority.
- Lack of complete trust
- Insufficient funds or affordability
The overcoming of each of these four parameters is indeed a topic for discussion in itself for each of these categories, and I will explore each of them individually in future blogs.
Suffice to say, there are many avenues of “neglect”, or neglect of information that leads to a mountain of incomplete treatment just sitting there in our office filing cabinets.
Sadly, we have team members who would rather not deal with the reasons why existing patients of record are not completing treatment.
And it all comes down to belief.
If you have team members who don’t believe in the importance of dentistry, and the removal of dental decay and the removal and reduction of periodontal diseases and the benefits of smile enhancement through cosmetic procedures and that everybody should be given the *best* dental treatment options all the time and every time: if you have team members who aren’t on the bus with you, then these will be the team members who are always asking for more new patients…
Because new patients will always have some percentage of treatment acceptance, and if you have *some* percentage, then provided you have enough quantity of new patient, then you will still fill your appointment book with treatment.
But at what expense?
At the expense of filling the filing cabinet with more and more treatment plans that are never completed.
In my own office, where I’ve been treating dental patients for twenty seven years straight, I’ve found that patients of long standing record, of six or seven or ten plus years or more are far more willing to accept treatment diagnosed there and then than are new patients to the office who are yet to buy me and accept me.
Again, another topic for future discussion…the benefits of long term single office location vs. practice hopping.
[As an aside, I had a dental student buddy who following graduation, worked two part time dentist jobs and rolled them over and moved on every two years. In effect, he was never around long enough to see whether his dental work survived the test of time….]
So when it comes to the Acres of Diamonds sitting in our filing cabinets, what is the best manner or way in dealing with these patients?
The answer is simply, *Systems*!
Your office must have systems for regular and routine contact of patients that have failed to schedule or reschedule treatment.
Otherwise patients are just falling through the cracks and out of your office never to return again.
One thing or phrase that I learned from another non-dental business is this:
“The purpose of an appointment id to make another appointment”
Coupled with something I learned from a real estate agent:
“It’s easier to change an appointment than it is to call and create a new appointment”
So applying these into dentistry is simple: Every patient needs to leave your dental office with a future scheduled appointment.
A daily list of patients leaving without an appointment, paired with the name of the team member who allowed the patient to do so, needs to be furnished to the doctor and practice manager every day.
A daily tracker needs to be also presented showing that each patient treated or attending that day has made an ongoing appointment, and the nature of that appointment needs to be noted.
On top of this, a second list of patients ringing and calling to cancel already made appointments needs to be furnished each day.
Finally, a third list of patients calling to reschedule and move already made appointments needs to be recorded.
Now I’ve heard team members complain that this is a lot of paperwork, but the aim of the daily task is to create blank lists. Lists where no patient leaves without an appointment. A list where no patient calls to cancel treatment scheduled. And a list where no patient rings to reschedule.
When these lists are blank, it means we have a dental office and team in control of their appointment book. When these lists are long we have an appointment book that is in control of the dental office.
And guess which of these two offices is the more stressful environment to work in?
In future blogs I’ll be discussing the best ways of reactivating patients from those acres of diamonds sitting in your filing cabinet drawers.
And I’ll also discuss the systems your office needs to have in place and operating so that reactivation is never an onerous task.
The Ultimate Patient Experience is a simple easy to implement system I developed that allowed me to build an extraordinary dental office in an ordinary Sydney suburb. If you’d like to know more, ask me about my free special report.
Email me: david@theUPE.com
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