Are new patients the answer to growing your dental practice?

New patients are great for dental practices, but what about patients who are already visiting your practice? What are you doing to retain them? They, too, can provide steady business, especially when they refer you to family and friends.

Aug 13th, 2014
Donna Stoker Chart

When growing a practice, the focus is primarily on marketing to new patients, but what about patients who have already walked through your door? Retention is vital to the success of your practice, and it costs five times more to get a new patient than to keep the ones you have!

Statistically speaking, one hygienist working 32 hours a week can treat approximately 32 patients. Depending on the number of periodontal patients in your practice, this number could be lower due to lengthier appointments. Over a six-month time period, your hygienist treats 768 patients in one recare cycle, and these are the same people he or she will treat in future six-month recare cycles.

Take into consideration the number of new patients and patientswho appoint for comprehensive exams that you welcome into your practice each month. If you welcome 25 new patients into your practice and you keep at least 80% of them, you will need to add another full-time, 32-hour-per-week hygienist within three years. Of course, you don’t want to wait three years to add a full time hygienist; you want to accommodate your growth as needed. So every year you would add one to 1.5 days of hygiene each week to accommodate growth and patients’ needs.

How do you know if you are retaining your patients? During your monthly team meeting, review the new patients from 12 months ago. For example ­– This is August 2014. Print a report for patients who received a comprehensive exam D0150, in August 2013. Review those patients with your team and check for three key indicators:

1. a) The patient returned for hygiene appointments and currently has one scheduled for a later date. b) If periodontal treatment was diagnosed, all phases are complete and there is a future perio maintenance appointment. c) If the patient was referred to a periodontist, the patient is scheduled in your practice for a future perio maintenance appointment. (So many times patients are referred to a specialist and they never return!)
2. All diagnosed clinical treatment is complete. (Remember, this is 12 months later!)
3. The patient referred his or her friends and family members. (Is the person happy enough to sing your praises?)

Where does your practice stand with retention? If you are retaining at least 80% of your new patients, it’s time to create a plan for adding hygiene days. You must plan or you will find yourself with patients who need hygiene appointments and no appointments are available for a couple of months, a bittersweet situation. If you are retaining less than 80% of your new patients, focus on the systems you have in place for your new patients – from the first phone call to the treatment presentation. Are you sustaining the level of patient service to retain your patients? Using the chart below, what is your retention potential?

Each new patient appointment is approximately 90 minutes. By treating at least 25 new patients per month, you and your team spend over 37 hours each month with new patients. Hanging on to 80% of your patients lowers marketing overhead expense and creates significant growth in your practice. You will be planning to bring on an associate sooner than you thought!

Donna M. Stoker is President of Enjoy The Third. She inspires dentists and their teams to Enjoy The Third of their lives they spend in the practice every day. Donna’s passion is empowering dentists to create a vision and practice dentistry in the environment they’ve always wanted. No two practices are the same, but the challenges are alike. Using proven success strategies and increasing profitability, she travels throughout the U.S. coaching dentists and their teams with a hands-on approach. Donna has been in the dental field for 28 years, and looks forward to impacting dentist’s lives for another 28!

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