Believe it or not, the most effective way that I’ve seen to get more referrals is to increase case acceptance! Why? MGE’s COO Jeff Blumberg explains in this blog post of New Patient Acquisition, Part III.
Now, assuming you have no problem in the case acceptance department, what can you do to get more referrals?
Well, the simplest thing you can do is ask for them. I’ve seen many instances where offices miss out on referrals simply because they don’t ask! When a patient comes in, you should have their chart (electronic or paper – doesn’t matter) to hand. Their chart will usually have a list of their immediate family members (spouse, etc.) Check to see if any of these family members are patients in your practice. When Joe Patient comes for a cleaning and you find his wife is not a patient, you’d ask Joe, “Hey, does your wife have a dentist?” If he says no, you’d work out getting her scheduled via Joe.
Many MGE clients have front desk staff who are masters at this. New patient comes in, they look at the patient information forms and ask about the patient’s family members (i.e. whether or not they have a dentist). If not, they get the new patient to refer his or her family, ending up with two or three more new patients with no cost whatsoever. You can do this with any new patient or patient of record.
In some cases, a patient is brought to the practice by a spouse or friend (who is not a patient) for an appointment. This friend or spouse then waits in reception. Well, there’s a potential patient! They could be getting (or be scheduled for) an exam right then and there.
Take this further: does your mail carrier have a dentist? How about the UPS delivery person? You get the general idea. You should always be on the lookout for new patients.
If anything, make sure you’re doing this while also running more elaborate referral campaigns, i.e. referral cards, new patient specials, and even a healthy family month, where you focus on getting your patient’s entire family into the practice as patients. For more information on all of this, I’d recommend you attend the MGE New Patient Workshop.
Q: Any tips on effective ways to present treatment to new patients?
Presenting treatment to a new patient versus a patient of record is essentially the same process.
The primary difference between the two is: the degree of familiarity. With a patient of record, you’ll have anywhere from a cordial to a great relationship. But with a new patients, you’ve never met them before. You don’t know them and they don’t know you. Therefore, your primary focus with these folks is building a good relationship as quickly as possible.
How do you do that? For starters, just be yourself. Listen to the patient and be interested in what they have to say. Explain the treatment in a way that the patient understands and take time to answer any questions.
Save some time in this process with a thorough review of the patient’s chart beforehand. Don’t just skim it for pertinent dental type information (i.e. last time they saw a dentist, etc.) If they were referred, know this ahead of time and by whom. It’s pretty embarrassing to meet a new patient not knowing who they are, only to find out you’ve met them before because they are married to another patient!
Q: What can I tell a patient who says their treatment plan is too expensive?
First off, this isn’t an uncommon objection. And not just in dentistry! Most people don’t like being “sold.” When a patient says the treatment is “too expensive,” it usually indicates the patient is not “closed” on why they need to the treatment. And by “closed,” I mean the patient both understands it and wants it.
If a patient isn’t closed, it normally comes back to something simple: they don’t understand something about the treatment plan, why they needed it, or the ramifications of not having the procedure done. Or, they may just hate needles and drills! And surprisingly, the percentage of people who honestly can’t afford treatment is actually much smaller than you think. This isn’t to say it is never the case. It does happen, but don’t immediately assume that someone saying “I can’t afford this” is always accurate. Many of these cases stem from lack of understanding , fears of the dentist, and so on.
Q: How much value should I place on experience when hiring front desk staff?
In my opinion, you don’t need to place a ton of value on experience. Why? You have no idea who trained them. The experience could be good, bad or horrible. The potential employee’s experience might have been in a practice that was tanking while the person training them embezzled from the doctor! The systems they learned might be completely different that yours. You never know what that potential hiree’s experience was actually like.
This is not to say that some dental experience isn’t helpful, i.e. knowing dental terminology, understanding the basics of how a dental office works, maybe some experience with your software, and so on. For providers and clinical positions (hygienist, assistant, etc.), this comes into play as a more valuable commodity – but again – they have no experience with you. How many times have you hired an assistant who said they could do “x,” “y,” and “z” only to find out it wasn’t the case?
When hiring someone, I’d place more value on:
- A friendly, upbeat attitude
- Quick assimilation of information/ability to learn or be trained.
- Willingness to do things the way you want them done in your practice
- Verifiable record of past productivity (as opposed to experience)
We cover how to hire personnel and find all of these things out with potential employees on the MGE Power Program.