Q: Over time, I’ve added several new services to my practice, including Invisalign and implants, but I’m not doing as many cases as I’d hoped. Any ideas?
Great question! And I know this can be frustrating. You have a new skill-set, you can do wonderful things for your patients and really help them. But, you’re not getting the opportunity! Well, generally speaking, this problem breaks down into a mix of three issues:
- You have patients that could benefit from these procedures, have presented them, but are having trouble with case acceptance, or
- Your patients don’t know that you offer any of these procedures (such as Invisalign) and lastly,
- You haven’t run into many patients that warrant these procedures in your practice.
If it’s a case acceptance problem…well you need to improve your case presentation skill-set and this is an area where MGE can definitely help. If you want to try us out, come to our free one-day Effective Case Acceptance Seminar. If you already know about us, or know someone who does, I’d say take the plunge and master the subject by coming to the MGE Communication and Sales Seminars Series for the Professional.
Now, to handle “2” patients don’t know you offer these services or “3” you haven’t seen many patients that are candidates, you don’t want to just sit and wait for these procedures to show up in your chair. You need to be proactive about it, and here’s how I’d suggest going about this:
1. The first thing you should do is comb through ALL of your charts (even patients that you haven’t seen in the last 18-24 months). Make a list of every patient that could be a candidate—I’d bet that this list will be pretty lengthy.
Then give this list to the front desk to schedule to all of these patients and schedule them for cleanings or consultations (if they’re not overdue for a cleaning). Once they’re in the chair you can bring this up to them.
This sounds overly simple, but I’ll tell you where it tends to go wrong. You give the list to the front desk and they make a few calls and then forget about it the next day because they’re busy and it never really gets done.
It takes a little organization and follow-up.
Be smart about who you’re giving this project to—what is their workload like? Can they do it? Do they have a proven track record of scheduling patients over the phone?
Give them a target or goal for how many phone calls and how many patients you want scheduled each day or week. These goals should be realistic, and then you (or the office manager) should follow up on it regularly to see that it’s actually being done. Otherwise, being a new action, it usually gets forgotten.
2. Make sure patients know that you offer these procedures.
I remember one dentist who had a long-term patient come in for a cleaning and tell him that they’d gone to an orthodontist and started Invisalign treatment. The dentist asked her why she didn’t do it in his office and she said, “I had no idea you did Invisalign! I thought I had to see an orthodontist!” This should never happen to you! There are many ways to let your patients know about these services:
- You can tell them verbally
- Place signs in the office, “Ask us about ____ (Invisalign, implants, whitening, etc.).”
- Direct mail, emails, newsletters to your patients
- Make it prominent on your website
- Mention it on social media
- Include it in your phone’s “On Hold” message, etc.
3. Have special offers and include them in your marketing to existing patients.
You should be sending monthly (or quarterly at the very least) newsletters to your patient base. These can be both mailed and emailed. Each newsletter should have an article from the doctor, and every once in a while this article could center around these services. You can also include an “ad” for it in the newsletter, along with a special offer.
The special offer could be a free consultation for the applicable service or a discounted price (i.e. for whitening).
This special offer can also be promoted on social media, your website, emails and on postcards or letters to your patients.
4. Get more new patients!
As you get new patients, these procedures will show up here and there—even if you aren’t advertising them heavily to new patients.
In fact, if you’re doing direct mail or ads to your local community for new patients, I don’t particularly recommend centering the marketing around one of these services. I generally find it’s more effective to offer a cleaning and exam (as that’s what most new patients are looking for) if you’re doing a broad advertisement to the whole community.
With online advertising, you might have some more options to target a more specific group of people with ads for these services.
Generally, however, you just want to see more new patients. The procedures will show up. Just make sure they’re mentioned on your website and it’s made clear in your office that you offer them.
Add all of the above to effective case presentation skills and you’ll find you’re helping plenty of patients with these procedures in no time!
(Related: Five Ways to Get More New Patients)
Q: Should I have a “suggestion box” for employees in my practice?
Sure, a suggestion box is a good thing—BUT it’s not a replacement for having real communication with your staff and regular staff meetings where staff can voice their input.
In a smaller office, I would not see as much of a need for a suggestion box. It’s easy to communicate with a small number of staff and you should be holding a weekly staff meeting where you review patient care, overall expansion, what you can improve, how to give patients a better experience and make the practice more productive. During this meeting, suggestions should be coming from our staff. This is the proper venue for it.
Don’t pull a: “I’m too lazy to figure out the time for a weekly staff meeting, so here’s a box.”
Now, as the practice gets larger and the number of staff grows, it becomes more and more unwieldy to allow every staff member to voice their opinion, suggestions or changes they think should be made. This meeting would start to get way too long. So you need a little more organization.
You would need structure, where employees can communicate with the manager in charge of their area of the organization, who would then report to the senior manager or practice owner. And the weekly staff meetings would be streamlined so they don’t take too long.
In a larger practice like this, it can happen where you (the practice owner) can get a little out of touch with your staff because there are so many of them. Certainly a suggestion box is a great way for every staff member to be able to communicate directly with you. This way they can voice things directly and you won’t miss things that didn’t make it up the chain of managers for whatever reason.
As far as how I define a “smaller” or “larger” practice for these purposes, it really depends on whether or not you still have regular or routine communication with each of your staff. The limit here may be eight staff, or ten, or fifteen depending on your situation. The point is that as soon as you feel you aren’t able to communicate with all of your staff and know what is going on with them, you need to take some organizational measures and then a suggestion box would be useful. But it is still not a replacement for real communication and organizational structure.
Hope all this helps and feel free to ask me anything you like!