Are you the type of dentist that enrolls every patient that calls into your practice, those who “Just want a cleaning and do not care about their dental health all they way to the other end of the spectrum which would be those who want the best possible health for their mouth and want to be the most preventive possible?” “This is great and all, but how do you decipher theses patients and know who is who and what they are seeking?” How do you know what information you should provide to them? “If you under treatment plan the preventive patient then they will call screaming at you when they have a tooth ache, but if you over treatment plan the patient that does not want preventive care, then they will walk out the door if you present them a treatment plan.”
By enrolling every patient that calls the practice, then create a headache for your self and your team. You will probably drive yourself nuts and maybe even blame your team members for not getting the patient on the books for treatment. “Does this sound like a similar scenario that you have been involved?”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could enroll only the type of patient that you wanted into your practice? That would require you as the doctor to step back, create a vision for the dental care that you want to provide your patients in the practice;
“ A standard of care”
Many dental professionals promote that you enroll the patient into the exam process and then into the cleaning and by that time you have developed enough of a relationship with the patient to discuss their dental health and the cost associated with it. This is one way to treat new patient or consumer. But here are a few questions to consider before enrolling patients into your practice in this method.
- Do you want your patients to know up front, the benefit of your practice?
- What type of patients are you seeking to enroll into your practice?
- At what point do you decide if the patient meets your practice values
Another method to consider is to evaluate the patient through the consultation interview and listen to understand what the potential client may be seeking, engage them in their dental health through visual photographs, preliminary finding reports and be up front with them. Do not be afraid of what you provide. Of course there are no possible way to provide the patient with exact fees without X-rays, and other diagnostic information. The Consultation is to determine if the patient is a fit for the practice, if you can meet their expectations, if they have similar values about their health as you do. Then enroll them into care.
How many patients do you have in your practice that has had a comprehensive exam, cleaning, full X-rays and a treatment plan that have never returned? Is this because you weren’t good enough for them? Is it because you and the patient were not a good fit for each other? Were they not comfortable there? It could be a hundred different things, but ultimately this could have been prevented by a value’s screening process.
Vision: In order to enroll only the patients that value true comprehensive dental care you must develop your practice with the end result in mind as you start. I am talking about much more than a few ideas drafted to paper! It would require the entire plan written down and mapped out. This would include timelines, goals, budgets and scenarios. Once you have committed this to paper then you must then communicate this to your team and get everyone on the same page. Anyone not on the bus at this point needs to get another job elsewhere as you are not a “fix it” dentist anymore. Begin each day with your vision and you should eliminate everything that is not consistent with it.
Understanding Patients: The ideal patient is very different from the average dental patient. They know what they want, they are picky about their choices, they will research you before they make the first appointment, and they demand elevated service. . A highly trained treatment coordinator is needed not only for education but for providing special services. We create a “service profile” for all new patients that remind us what they want, how they want it and what little extras we can do to make their dental visit a positive event. Spend time trying to understand this “new” type of patient you want to be working with. It is not unusual for a new patient to walk in, talk to us for an hour, and write a check for $40K+ and get started. This happens when your systems align and the new patient knows intuitively that we are the right office for them.
Team: You have to have a great team. Invest heavily here. Hire people with the right attitudes and train for dental skills. One average player will pull down the whole team. You need to think about being slightly understaffed, because if you are overstaffed, especially in hygiene, the tendency will be for the extra staff to keep all the C patients in the practice to justify their existence. I am not saying fire people, but when someone moves away, just don’t replace them.
Skills and Systems: Your skills and systems for operation must be seamless. That requires systems to be written down so that there is no confusion to what the process and expectations are. How many times do you state a new policy or system that you have chosen to implement into the practice and a week or so later… You are like “what happened?” Where did the system go? Well if it isn’t on paper it does not exist. Having systems that are communicated well can make or break a practice. Skills, well if you are not staying on top and continuing to educate your self and your team then it will be hard to stay at the top. Your time prepping and delivering cases must be improving to increase you hourly rate. Spending so much wasted time in treatment because the doctor is on the phone, or a team member is in the break room is no longer acceptable when trying to niche out your practice to become unique to the services.
When is the right time to stop being everyone’s dentist and start choosing the types of patients that you are looking for? If you want to be an emergency dentist; then you should seek to take only patients that call with a broken tooth, tooth ache, walk in or cash pay. If you want to be the comprehensive dentist; then treatment planning comprehensively and seek out patients that are looking for that quality of care. Trying to force comprehensive treatment on a patient that does not want it only causes conflicts in your practice. It creates negative complaints and breeds negative PR in the community. Attract and accept the types of patient that you are seeking. Advertise for the patients that you want and filter them in through the phone interview. It might be time to start reviewing patient’s goals as they come into the practice, if they don’t fit the practice vision then let them filter their self out by not reappointing them, just send them a re-care card the month that they are due. Let them seek you out for service. This will open up your patient books for new clients that are attracted to the services that you can provide. It maybe time to stop being everyone’s dentist.
Decide what type of practice it is that you want; whether it be and emergency style practice, a compressive practice, an implant and restorative practice or even a cosmetic practice. This needs to be defined and your systems need to be created and formed around that vision. Once you decide… ACTION time… engage your team, your patients and yourself. STOP being everyone’s dentist. Its time to decide whose dentist you want to be.