In this guest post, Trish Jorgensen of Elevate Team Solutions shows us how to get new dental patients into the door by eliminating barriers to entry.
Whenever patients call your office, it is so important to get them in the door in a very timely fashion. Many practices spend thousands of dollars on marketing to bring very specific types of patients to their practices (such as patients needing implant services). Practices create flyers, make commercials, buy radio ads, run promotions, utilize services, and employ plenty of other marketing techniques.
It baffles me, then, when I see practices failing to respond quickly (or not at all) to these patients and not promptly getting them on the schedule. The same patients they paid so much to acquire! It's also not just the investment from the dental practice. Many times it takes a lot of strength for the patient to even call your office! After all, there are two primary reasons why patients don’t come to the dentist: fear and money.
Eliminating barriers is key when trying to get new dental patients to move from a marketing campaign to a phone call to an appointment. I am a big advocate on building relationships on the phone; however, sometimes it’s in excess with the questions we ask. Today, people just want to make an appointment and get off the phone. Yes, we need to ask some very important questions in order to identify the type of caller and to communicate clearly what is going to take place. But the clock is ticking.
With that in mind, here are some potential barriers you may encounter while on the phone that could keep a patient from getting in the door.
Get your new dental patients in the day of. If that doesn't work, schedule them for the next day. And if that doesn't work, make a point to get them in within a week. Do not sleep on a motivated patient. If they're ready to act, then accommodate them! If you don't get to them scheduled in a timely fashion, eager patients will lose their determination or get irritated and go somewhere else.
Enact a rule in your practice: the only person allowed to diagnose is the doctor. Too many times a well-intended scheduler attempts to diagnose the patient. While the scheduler's heart is in the right place, going into detail could scare the patient. Even worse, their diagnosis might be wrong. Remember, fear is one of the top two reasons why patients do not call. When they're on the phone, let’s not intensify it.
It may be embarrassing for a potential new patient to call their previous practice to get x-rays. If they do, it also gives the other practice an opportunity to bring the patient back. As for the x-rays, how many times have you been unable to even read them when you finally do get them from the other office? Discuss with your doctor the value of just taking the x-rays you need at no charge. Doing this will get the patient in and eliminate a barrier so the dentist can diagnose treatment. Don’t trip over pennies to get to the production!
What are the odds a patient has their insurance handy when they call? Maybe they're in the car. Or perhaps they're on a lunch break. Prolonging a phone call results in possibly missing other calls or irritating the patient. Don't force the issue and drill down into detailed insurance info.* You may ask the patient if there is any insurance you should be aware of. This helps you discover what you need to know without asking directly, which could be insulting if they have no insurance at all or think you won't see them without insurance.
*Disclaimer: you may need to find out if they have Medicaid or an HMO, as the practice may or may not take those insurances unlike out of network PPOs you can still accept. If you are very limited on coverage at the front office, you may need to verify day before the appointment for a time issue.
Unless they ask about the fee, I recommend not mentioning money at all. If you first talk about what you require, a patient may think that you're all about money. Money will be a barrier for many, many patients. They will ask you if they are concerned, so don’t assume that money is a problem. If you are fee-for-service (FFS), then, yes, tell them the fee for that first appointment over the phone.
Consider having a flat fee for an emergency visit regardless if they have insurance. In doing this, also consider what is reasonable in your area. This would include any diagnostic, such as a problem-focused exam and a periapical x-ray, and possibly a sedative filling. However, never restorative treatment — that comes after the doctor has diagnosed exactly what needs to be done. Again, if a patient is concerned about money, they will, more often than not, ask. These can be difficult conversations and barriers to scheduling — do not initiate.
When the patient picks your practice, you pick them back! Never assume what patients can afford. Don't assume what type of dentistry they will want or if they will only go to an in-network provider. With the correct dialogue and resources, your patients will love you. Be empathetic and understanding, but never assumptive.
If you are going to gather contact info when they arrive, why be repetitive on the phone? Unless it is pertinent for your situation, such as sending pre-appointment information or communication, gather the information when they come in. This cuts down on your time on the phone, and shows the patient that you do things efficiently. That said, it is crucial to take down any information they volunteer to you so it is available during the appointment. This helps build the relationship and shows the patient that you listen.
Now, I know many of you may say, "Not in our office!" or "That won’t work for us!" Instead, say, “Why not for us?!”Many things we do in the dental office are a result of one or two bad experiences. They then led to a reactive overall decision that hurts the practice. Policies and procedures made from false information or fear are not only ineffective, but inefficient. Stay positive and look for solutions. Having the words and skills will expedite the process, help you get new dental patients, and ensure that they choose you and not your competitor.
Learn more about how RevenueWell improves case acceptance and creates more close-knit relationships between dentists and their patients.