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How To Retain Your Patients

Jan. 16, 2012
There are a lot of reasons why patients become inactive, and it is crucial that dentists respond to these situations properly.
by Elliot PearsonPart of running a successful dental practice is not just attracting new patients, but also keeping existing patients coming back for preventive care. However, this can be a very complicated task for any dental practice. There are cases where practices have amassed so many patient files, yet struggle with the actual number of active patients. Every dental practice should have a working recall system, especially since it is very difficult to reactivate patients. There are a lot of reasons why patients become inactive, and it is crucial that dentists respond to these situations properly.Breaking appointmentsAll practices have experienced no-show patients who break appointments without notice. This can be costly as well as frustrating. To keep these patients from making a habit of this, there should be consequences. After the first two violations, a letter should be sent pointing out the problem and explaining how suddenly missing appointments affects everyone — the dentist who prepared for the visit, the other patients who could have been scheduled for that time, and the patient in question who missed out on dental care. After the third violation, the dentist should send a letter stating it would be best for both parties if the professional relationship is terminated, and asking the patient where his or her office records should be transferred. The best thing about this approach is that patients are motivated to respond instead of just disappearing out of the blue. Some practices charge a fee for broken appointments to provide compensation for the wasted time of the dentist and hygienist. However, this fee can create ill will and irritate a patient, turning him or her into a negative missionary for the practice.Cancelled appointments due to staff absencesAbsent dentists and hygienists can make any busy patient furious, and cause him or her to switch dentists. To prevent this from happening, the dentist should consider hiring a temporary hygienist to fill in for the absent employee. If this is not possible, inform the patient ahead of time and schedule a make-up day. Better still, leave one day unscheduled when you are prescheduling your patients. This one day can help tremendously when you need to reappoint a patient.
Elliot Pearson is a writing specialist for Dentist Identity, which supplies dental marketing solutions and dental office SEO services to top dentists in the U.S. View more of his work at