The Real Reason Patients Are Actually Leaving Your Practice

In this guest post, Kelly Lynch of Platinum Practice Solutions explains the real reason why some of your patients are leaving your practice.

The dawn of spring is upon us here in southern Maine. The air is crisp and the sun beckons to the crocuses and daffodils to reach for the warmth and display their colors for our winter weary eyes to enjoy.

I reached out to a longtime friend to meet for coffee and to catch up on all that has been going on in our lives over the last few months. It’s crazy how time go by so quickly when we are immersed in our day to day lives. As we chatted over coffee and muffins it didn’t take long for our conversation to turn to dentistry. Being in this business as long as I have, it never fails that the topic of inevitably comes up, at least briefly, in my conversations.

My friend Meg shared with me her need to find a new dentist, which surprised me. I thought she loved the doctor she was seeing, so I asked her why she was leaving. Deep down I was expecting to hear something like she was moving. Maybe her insurance had changed, or she lost her insurance. Or even that she had problems with the practice's scheduling or billing. Those are the comments I often hear when patients want to leave an office.

Exceptional communication ... is the only way to overcome a patient's concern

Imagine my shock when she said to me that she felt the doctor wasn’t listening to her! The crown she had done a few months ago hurt for many weeks after being permanently cemented. She couldn’t bite all the way down on her right side, so she just didn’t chew on it. Meg even went on to say she had developed aching on the left side. She attributed the ache to her having to chew everything on that side.

I was more surprised to hear that her doctor simply said that it would settle in as she chewed. He adjusted the bite and sent her on her way. Now, I’ve been in this business long enough to know that when a patient describes something to us it is usually a roundabout version of exactly what happened.

Rather than feed her frustration, I made a suggestion. Meg should request a time to go in and talk with the doctor. Express her concerns before she left an office that she otherwise loved. She later went on to tell me this: at her recent hygiene appointment, the hygienist, who was wearing loupes, noticed a large piece of cement that was keeping Meg from correctly biting on the right side. During the exam, the hygienist brought this to the doctor’s attention. He couldn’t see or feel the cement. When the hygienist handed his loupes to him, guess what he saw? Cement! It was only then that he corrected the problem and Meg was able to bite correctly for the first time in months.

Could it be this doctor, whose personality is very welcoming and friendly, is choosing to forgo loupes because he doesn’t like them and doesn’t see the need to wear them unless he is drilling a tooth? Why? Why would he not want to be the best he could be throughout the entire day and wear the loupes? Is he too proud to say that his eyesight isn’t what it used to be? And if eyesight isn’t the problem then why, when working in such a confined area day in and day out, wouldn’t you want to make your job easier by wearing loupes for exams, cementations, and other procedures that don’t require drilling?

Create an atmosphere of caring and consistency, and commit to getting it right for every patient

I had to wonder how many other patients have left the practice with issues like this before. How many never told anyone in the office the real reason they were leaving. As a dental practice team member and manager for over 25 years, I have seen a lot and heard many reasons why patients leave an otherwise wonderful office.

The ones I absolutely regret hearing involve the doctor or the perceived quality of the work performed by the doctor. These reasons call for nothing short of exceptional communication skills. That is the only way overcome a patient's concern and get them back into the practice so the doctor can address it.

I am happy Meg went back and was able to get her problem corrected. She has great admiration for her dental practice and the entire team. She speaks very highly of them. Think for a moment what could have happened had she not gone back and proceeded to find another provider! What would the new provider have thought when they saw the cement left behind? Would they have said something to Meg about the less-than-acceptable work? Now consider this for a moment: has your reputation ever been tarnished by these comments?

In conclusion, always remember that patients are looking for a long-term dental home. Patients want a dental family that knows what it is doing. One that works well as a team, and has providers that really listen to their concerns and questions. Private practices are all looking for the happy, loyal, paying patients to choose their practice!

In return, the private practices that thrive, and will survive, are the ones that raise their bar far above the competition. The ones that create an atmosphere of caring and consistency, and commit to getting it right for every patient, every time!

Learn more about how RevenueWell improves case acceptance and creates more close-knit relationships between dentists and their patients.