While your staff’s razor-sharp focus on bringing in new patients is important for practice growth, their efforts to keep your current patients happy is even more crucial to your long-term success, as that is a bigger contributor to your revenue. Recognizing and implementing patient retention strategies calls for teamwork, which could be the difference between skyrocketing your practice growth or shutting down your business.
This article will help you see the importance of improving patient retention that can be tracked with multiple touchpoints that are periodically monitored.
- Why is patient retention so important?
- Why dental patients leave your practice
- 20 strategies for retaining patients
Before we dive into dental patient retention strategies, let us examine the cause and importance of delving into this problem.
Why is patient retention so important?
Your patients are walking testimonials of your practice and skills as a dental professional. Their experience under your care will determine how your dental practice is being perceived by potential patients. The reality is, if you are able to successfully retain your current patients and keep them happy, your efforts to acquire new patients will yield positive results.
In your efforts to bring in more revenue, upselling your services to your existing patients is much easier than convincing someone new about your excellent care. The cost of acquiring a new patient is 25x more than retaining an existing one, making your patient retention efforts a higher priority than acquisition.
Why dental patients leave your practice
Convincing a discontented patient to continue care with you may be a lost cause, but is nevertheless important to understand what went wrong. As a practice you must analyze the circumstances under which they left and if there is something you can do to make sure your other patients don’t follow suit. Ultimately, to ensure patients stay and implement strategies that work towards this end, you’ll need to understand why patients are abandoning your practice.
- Difficult to schedule appointments: If you offer limited modes to book an appointment, then it will most definitely reflect in your retention numbers. Especially when your peers are providing self-scheduling tools in addition to email, text messaging, and phone calls.
- Treatment is too expensive: It is no secret that dental treatments can run your patients a sizable invoice, which can burn a large hole in their pocket and discourage them from continuing their care with you.
- Care is unprofessional: Sitting in a dentist’s chair is not a pleasant experience for anyone and when your teeth are not treated with the care that they deserve, you can’t expect your patients to leave with a smile on their faces.
- Inefficiency in day-to-day operations: If your staff is visibly struggling to get patient files and their treatment details in order, then they are going to be concerned about the overall management of your practice.
- Wait time is too long: Even after having a scheduled appointment, if your patient sees themselves waiting for too long, then it reflects on your practice’s poor time management skills, which is unacceptable.
- Your concerns are left unheard: As a customer-facing business, if you don’t value your patients’ voice and give them multiple touchpoints to share their feedback, you will never get the opportunity to improve - nor will your patients feel like you are listening.
- Uncomfortable office seating and set up: From the time your patient comes through your door to when they proceed to sit in your chair for their treatment, there can be a number of things that can go wrong. This includes uncomfortable seats in the waiting room, poor standards of cleanliness and hygiene, unavailability of clean drinking water and restrooms, and an unpleasant ambiance that adds to their anxiety about the dental procedure.
- Inconvenient office hours: Keeping your office open only during normal work hours (9-5 PM) will mean that your patients have to take time off work which is not something that you can expect of them.
- Unfriendly staff: If your patients are greeted with staff who are unpleasant, rude, and arrogant, would you expect them to come back to your office? Ensure that any patient-facing staff properly represent your practice.
- Office location: There are some things that are beyond your control, like patient relocation. If your office location isn’t easily accessible via public transport or doesn’t have ample parking space, your patients may not stick around.
Now that you understand how many things can go wrong and can cause patients to leave your care, we have strategies that will help you combat this issue.
20 strategies for retaining patients
Patient retention is made up of two key components - great dental care and excellent patient experience. While your dental school education equips you with the right skills to deliver good quality care for your patients, you still need the right tools to manage their care and provide a satisfactory patient experience to run a successful business.
The following patient retention ideas can help you achieve the growth that you are aiming for:
1. Offer real-time patient self-scheduling
Studies have shown that patients hate calling your office to schedule their appointment. The only way to ensure that your patients don’t walk across to your competitor is by offering the convenience of self-scheduling.
With NexHealth’s online scheduling feature your patients can check your availability in real-time and book their appointment from anywhere on their device. Appointments instantly sync with your calendar, making it extremely convenient for both your patients and your practice.
2. Offer 1-Click Booking
Once you have your patient’s information already in the system, you don’t need to ask the same redundant questions every time they want to schedule an appointment. NexHealth’s 1-Click Booking feature allows you to send embedded time slots to your patients that come with pre-filled information that synchronizes with your practice management system as soon as your patient hits the Book Now button. This brings the entire appointment scheduling process down from 15 minutes to just one tap!
3. Schedule their next appointment before they leave
As your patients complete their appointment, you have their undivided attention for the next 60 seconds before they step out of your office, making it the best time to book a follow-up. At this point, your patients still prioritize their oral hygiene over other commitments and also have access to their personal schedule, allowing you to swoop in with multiple dates and time options that are convenient to book their next visit.
4. Discover innovative ways to confirm your appointments
If your patient left without scheduling their next visit, there are multiple ways you can get creative with the communication you send out to confirm their next visit. You could send them a ‘Thank You’ to express your gratitude with a link to book their follow-up, state a dental hygiene fact that creates urgency to click on the booking link, or inform them of your new office hours that gets them to think about when they can schedule their care with you.
5. Follow-up with timely reminders appointments
If you expect your calendars to be full, it’s not unfair to also expect that your patients lead busy lives themselves. To make sure that your patients keep their appointments, all you have to do is send timely reminders that help them plan for their visit. Your communication can go out with reminders about things that they need to bring, any special prep they need to do, or notes about what to expect before or after their procedure.
6. Ask for feedback to let your patients know that you are listening
Sending out feedback surveys at the end of every visit shows your desire to constantly improve and deliver an exemplary patient experience. While you may not want to put your patients on the spot by asking them for their opinion face-to-face, allowing them to respond in their own time from their device will yield an honest review.
NexHealth helps you manage your online reputation and patient surveys with automated feedback outreach that helps you gain more insight into patient satisfaction.
7. Be quick at responding to your patients
When you return a patient’s call or promptly reply to their text or email, you are letting them know how valuable they are to your practice. If they don’t get a timely response from you, they may look for other alternatives, especially if it is a medical emergency.
NexHealth’s secure messaging solution allows you to reach your patients via text messages that is cost-effective and contributes to better patient engagement numbers.
8. Offer a seamless payment process
Making online payments is second nature to your patients who use it in all other aspects of their lives. By offering the convenience of making payments online, you will be able to serve and get patients in and out of the office quicker. Integrating payments with insurance claims can be easily facilitated for the best patient experience - and to ensure you get prompt payment.
With NexHealth you can send out automated text and email messages for patients to submit their payments securely without the need to create any login or password.
9. Offer payment options to ensure continued care
Many people put dental visits off; in fact, 40% of Americans don’t visit the dentist regularly, with affordability being the leading reason. Instead of handing your patients a hefty bill at the end of their treatment, you can draw up a payment plan that charges them small installments every month or quarter, making it economically viable without causing a dent in their household budget. Along with this, you sign your patients up for regular visits that positively contribute to your retention numbers.
10. Build a professional website that allows easy navigation
Today, more patients check out your practice online before deciding to walk through your door. This makes it extremely critical that you mention your contact details, location, and office hours very clearly so that it is easy for your (new and existing) patients to find. Not all existing patients will save your contact info in a safe and easily accessible place either; by providing an easy way to find this on your website, you ensure your customers can rebook with your practice.
11. Digitize your paperwork
Offering the convenience of digital onboarding and other forms that will be required across the patient’s care cycle saves your staff time and effort from maintaining a complicated paper filing system. By presenting your practice as a modern establishment that keeps up with the digital age, you are letting your patients know that you speak the same language as them and value their experience to be as important as their care.
Using NexHealth’s digital form builder, you can convert existing forms or create new forms that are HIPAA compliant and can be filled up by your patients on their smart device.
12. Extend your office hours to offer convenience
Your patients may not be able to take time from their working hours to pay you a visit, but they would certainly appreciate it if you kept your office open before or after hours. By doing this, you will definitely see a rise in the number of appointments scheduled during these hours, giving you the opportunity to fit in more patients.
13. Offer additional resources to let them know that you care
To maintain engagement levels with your patient when they are not sitting in your chair, you can create and share learning material or DIY tips to help them upkeep their oral hygiene. By leveraging social media to connect with your patients and show them the additional value that they receive apart from their treatment, your brand value as a practice and as a dental professional increases, motivating your patients to stay loyal to your care.
14. Track and analyze your retention efforts from time to time
Your staff may already have multiple retention efforts underway, but measuring their success rate from time to time is important for making better business decisions. When you study and analyze this information to answer questions like why they leave, where they go, and what their preferred communication method is, it will help you make improvements to your process to close any gaps.
With NexHealth’s powerful dashboard, you can gain better insights into patient satisfaction and optimize analytics for your practice performance.
15. Keep an open line of communication about their care and treatment
When you talk your patients through their procedure and what to expect, it gives them a sense of calm and better prepares them for their treatment. Along with this, it also reinforces their confidence in your skills as a dentist, which is critical if you want your patients to stick around.
16. Provide virtual waiting room facility
It can be hard to fit in urgent requests and fill cancelled appointments. With NexHealth’s ASAP List feature, your patients are automatically sent alerts that sync with your calendar to fill up open slots if they are interested. This lets you fill missed and cancelled appointments, and give a patient an opportunity to get their treatment done earlier.
17. Be courteous and provide extraordinary customer service
When you treat your patients with respect, the more likely they are to return. Train your staff to go above and beyond to make your patient feel like their oral care is in the right hands by greeting them with a smile, offering a comfortable space, or offering them cold water while they wait for their turn.
From time to time, you can remind your patients about the various touchpoints, like booking appointments or giving feedback, that will encourage them to engage with your practice. This shows your eagerness to serve them better and your commitment to ensuring your patients are happy and satisfied.
18. Go the extra mile with little things
Patient loyalty is built over time with the great experience you deliver and how far you will go to keep them happy. These gestures don’t have to be big or expensive, but must show the intent that you care enough to make your patient’s experience special. This could include squeezing them in after-hours due to a medical emergency, sending them a birthday wish, or offering them a free dental cleaning procedure.
19. Calmly respond to negative criticism
While your patients understand that to err is human, all they want you to do is to acknowledge the mistake and find a solution to rectify it. If your patient has been inconvenienced by inefficiency in your operation, you can own up to oversight and offer them a refund, a free cleaning, or a discount in their treatment to ensure that they return to your care.
20. Celebrate their milestone with them
An improvement in your patient’s oral health is a testament to your work, giving you an opportunity to celebrate with them. Sharing achievements and joys together like getting braces removed, successful teeth whitening, or straightening treatments not only solidify their faith in your care but also results in stronger patient loyalty.
Bring them back with NexHealth!
When your staff puts in rigorous efforts to make your patients feel welcome and cared for, it shows and creates a strong foundation to grow your relationship. Monetary benefits aside, you stand apart from your competition, which sets your practice up for long-term success.
To increase your patient retention numbers, schedule a demo with NexHealth today!