Richard Scarborough explores ways to ensure you can improve your service while increasing your profits…
From a business point of view, each patient is a source of income for your practice. Of course they are also a valued member of your practice and your focus will always be on doing what’s right for their dental health.
But you can still do that, while also ensuring you maximise the opportunity each patient brings to your practice, helping to keep it financially viable and sustainable.
In the day-to-day running of the practice it can be easy to lose sight of this fact, but a patient that stays with your practice in the long-term, and recommends family and friends, or a patient who opts to have treatment and follow the plan you prescribe, is invaluable.
Below are some of the ways you can increase the average amount your patients are spending in your practice…
If you have the technology to be able to scan some of your patients, why not consider making it routine to offer it as part of a standard new patient examination and at appropriate intervals for existing patients?
After all, you’ve invested into having this equipment into practice so it makes sense to try and get the most out of it.
This is an approach taken by Marcos White, owner of Courtyard Dental, who has discussed his passion for digital dentistry and the way it can transform a practice.
By running orthodontic simulations on new and existing patients, for example, you can provide them with a clear way of visualising what problems may be in the mouth and also, crucially, the outcomes that can be achieved.
A scan of their mouth gives patients an easy way to see what the outcome of treatment could be, even if they only came to the practice for a check-up. And that is a very powerful way of helping them to understand the difference it could make to them and makes it even easier for them to want to go ahead.Digital dentistry
Drop the check-up assumption
This is linked to the above idea of making that extra effort to scan all patients. It is not uncommon to assume that new patients coming into the practice or calling up to make an appointment are only interested in a check-up.
However, there may be other issues they are interested in when it comes to their dental health, such as whitening or straightening, but they may expect to be asked about that.
Likewise, as the member of the practice team dealing with the patient, you may expect the patient to bring it up in the first place.
This assumption on both sides can often lead to a patient, who may want more than just a check-up, never mentioning it. This is a lost opportunity to strengthen the bond between that patient and your practice, and it is lost revenue from treatment that may not be carried out.
With new patients it can be worthwhile having a set of questions you ask about how they are feeling about their dental health/their smile, etc. which can then provide a springboard for further conversation and exploration of treatments.
This could be a face-to-face discussion or a questionnaire that they complete in the waiting room, and it can be something you do on a relatively regular basis for existing patients as their needs/wants may change over time.
Offer different ways to pay
The cost of some treatments can be a barrier to patient uptake. One way to combat this obstacle is to offer patient finance, which will allow them to spread the cost over several months.
Often, we, including both clinicians and patients, can shy away from talking about money out of awkwardness or embarrassment. But if patient finance is included as a step in your patient journey and part and parcel of your treatment plans, then it simply becomes part of the usual conversation.
For example, rather than discussing patient finance at the end of the journey when the patient may well have already decided they are having the treatment, bringing it up earlier when different treatment options are being discussed will give those who may well have dismissed it due to being too costly, a chance to understand that there is a way for them to proceed.
Similarly, if you have posters in your reception or outside the practice about treatments such as teeth whitening or straightening, it can be a good idea to include the finance options you offer as well.
That way, anyone who sees the poster and might be thinking about taking it up will know that they have the ability to spread the cost, which could just make the difference in them enquiring and taking up the treatment.
Offering patient finance can enable patients to go for a more comprehensive package of treatment or combine treatments that they could not otherwise afford.
Remind patients about all your treatments
A lot of the time, dentists are reluctant to ask more than once whether someone is interested in a particular treatment. However, as we’ve noted above, feelings may change over time and they may not necessarily bring it up without any encouragement.
Asking every now and then ‘are you still happy with your smile?’, or ‘how do you feel about your oral health generally?’ can open up new opportunities and avoid one of the most frustrating experiences in a practice – a patient going to another dentist for a treatment that you provide.
Often, that experience is due to them not realising that you offer that treatment, and it is up to the dental team to make sure each patient knows your full offering. It is not enough to simply hand out a leaflet in a welcome pack, the only way to be sure your patient understands everything you offer is to tell them in person, and more than once.
If they understand your full offering, they will be more likely to take up that treatment with you – as a dentist they know and trust – than visit another that they are unfamiliar with.
With these ideas, you can make sure you are offering the best service available to your patients by exploring all the options with them, while maximising the opportunity they present to your practice. It’s a win-win.
About Richard Scarborough
Richard is the Head of Medenta.