Consumer behavior has shifted as the disruption of COVID-19 brought a greater awareness in how patients think about healthcare. Increased work-from-home opportunities interrupted routines, a greater understanding of infection control measures occurred, and less hesitancy to change healthcare providers has added to an annual patient attrition rate of 17%1.
A dental practice with 1,800 active patients can expect to lose over 300 patients each year. This statistic may be even higher for some practices as patients disengaged from routine oral care due to infection concerns. In fact, Dental Intel has reported an annual attrition rate as high as 25%. This challenge has increased the demand for internal systems to slow the rate of attrition, increase new patient influx, and keep existing patients happy — and loyal.
Create a personalized patient-centered experience that supports increased engagement and deeper connections between the patient, doctor, and team. Use a team meeting to outline the critical components of this strategy and hold each other accountable. Walk through the patient experience from the time they enter to exiting the practice. Analyze the communication and overall experience at each juncture of the appointment and outline a “perfect” experience.
Communication expectations have evolved. Many healthcare settings provide digital communication that is easy and convenient — patients want the same thing from their dental provider. They expect the ability to text, schedule appointments online, and have access to transparent, easy bill pay options. More than a third of patients surveyed have reported they would switch providers to have text capability.2
Patients know technology exists to make their appointment more efficient (less chair time) and more comfortable — digital impressions, same-day crowns, and clear aligners are a few examples. Keep up with technology to meet your patients’ expectations and provide some bragging rights to their friends!
Complex systems form barriers to care; effective systems are simplified and engage patients. This includes easy-to-understand treatment options, insurance, and scheduling. Confusing billing procedures and unclear treatment outcomes undermine patient loyalty.
Calls made by the doctor to check on a patient after a procedure can be the single best way to create loyalty. Even in a busy practice, we recommend that post-op calls come from the doctor rather than a dental auxiliary. A post-op call from the doctor makes the patient feel special.
Involve the patient in treatment planning. Patients want a voice in the decision-making as it affects their long-term care. Provide options and allow time to discuss outcomes to increase patient engagement.
Use the patient’s name frequently, highlight your infection control protocols, send handwritten thank-you notes frequently, do not overbook, find ways to ease anxiety, stay curious about your patients, and remain passionate about dentistry. Creating systems to enhance patient happiness and loyalty will bring long-term benefits for both patients and providers as deeper relationships form over the patient’s lifetime continuum of care.
- Patient Attrition: 3 Steps to Finding a Hidden Gold Mine (Dental Economics)
- HIMSS Survey Patient Communication Preferences (Solution Reach)
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