Welcome to the latest edition of “Ask Sabri” where MGE’s D/COO answers practice management and practice production questions from all over the US and Canada. Both questions today concern reaching out to your patients to get them back into the practice for hygiene or treatment.
Q: How important is it to do office newsletters for our patient base? And what should go in these newsletters?
Great question! You should absolutely be sending regular newsletters to your patients. It’s vital to keep continual contact with them. Many dentists are focused on new patients as a means of increasing production, but if you look at almost any successful business, they are built primarily on repeat customers. Starbucks isn’t putting all their attention on trying to convince non-coffee drinkers to start drinking coffee. McDonalds isn’t just trying to get new customers. They are trying to get their customers to come back and keep buying more coffee or burgers.
On average, at least 60% of a dentist’s charts contain outstanding treatment. Your purpose as a dental office is to help get people healthy (from a dental perspective) and the more people you help, the more production and income you will make as a result. Well, your first responsibility is to your existing patients – these are people that you already have a relationship with and have promised to help.
And the good news is: it’s actually much easier to stay in contact with your existing patients and get them to come back into the office than it is to advertise for new patients. I’m sure plenty of them have outstanding treatment or potential treatment that could be discussed during a hygiene visit, enough to keep you busy for quite a while. The key is continually being in contact with them, reminding them, and staying fresh in their mind.
A newsletter is a great way to do this (along with recall cards, reminders, special offers, birthday cards, etc.). So send a newsletter at least once a quarter, or ideally once a month. They should be both emailed and hard mailed.
These newsletters should include:
- Some news about the office with photos (announcements, community/charity work, new staff, babies born, etc.)
- An educational article (you can rotate through subjects like orthodontics, implants, cosmetic dentistry, invisalign whitening, gum disease, etc.)
- A special offer related to the subject of the article (could be a discount or simply a free consult for _____).
- Anything else you’d like to include (could be a column from the hygienist, requests for referrals, interesting tidbits, dental humor, etc.).
If you’d like to learn more about marketing to your patient base and patient retention, give us a call anytime at (800) 640-1140 or (727) 530-4277.
(Related: 8 Guidelines for Emailing your Patient Base)
Q: We have a number of patients with incomplete treatment, but the front desk hasn’t been able to contact them and get them scheduled. What can we do about this?
This has a lot to do with my answer to the other question above, and is an example of why it’s so important to reach out to your patients regularly and build a strong recall/hygiene program in your office.
Yes, of course you should be calling and writing to these patients to get them in for consults or checkups. These patients have issues in their mouth – active disease, cracked teeth, etc. – so they need to come in and see the doctor. If they’re due (or overdue) for a checkup, get them in. The doctor can talk to them then. If they’re not have them come in for a consultation with the doctor. They can present the treatment again, stress the importance of not letting these issues continue untreated and oftentimes they will now accept the treatment and get it done.
So yes, try to get them in for a checkup if due or for a consult as above…but the real reason you’re struggling with this is that you are failing at getting these patients onto a consistent recall program.
If your patients were coming in twice a year for hygiene, you would have plenty of opportunities to present the remaining treatment and get them scheduled for it.
I would say that underestimating the importance of an expanding hygiene department is the BIGGEST mistake that most dentists make, and it can make or break the success of your office and career going into the future.
There are a lot of excuses we can make like “People in our area just don’t come back for hygiene,” or “They have a low dental IQ,” but trust me, you can turn these patients into great long-term patients who come for regular hygiene visits. It starts with the way you educate them and the relationship you build on their first visit; and then how the hygienist continues their education during their visits, and generally how much you prioritize hygiene in your practice and get the importance of it across to the patient. And then once they leave the office you must stay in regular contact with them via email, mail, text, phone, social media, etc.
So again, yes, have someone contact these patients with outstanding treatment. Really assign this duty to a staff member and make that person accountable for it, not just “whoever is at the front desk works on it between patients” or else it will get forgotten about and never really get done. But ultimately the solution is to focus on building your hygiene department.
If this idea stresses you out, then it’s probably because most advice you hear in the industry about building a hygiene department or recall program actually steers you in the wrong direction. They flat out get it wrong and teach you to build a hygiene department that’s a headache instead of a profit center. We’ll teach you to do it right. Believe it or not, your hygiene department on its own can produce enough by itself to cover your overhead and make a profit before you (the doctor) even pick up a handpiece. If you want to find out how, come to the brand new seminar we’ll be holding for MGE clients in October that lays out the real blueprint for building a highly profitable hygiene department. More details will be coming shortly. Call us at (800) 640-1140 or (727) 530-4277 for more information.
I hope this helps!