If you do, you’re not alone. It’s an affliction that’s run rampant among a considerable percentage of the dentists in the United States and Canada.
“New Patient-itis” is (jokingly) defined as “an obsession or fixation on ‘New patients’ as the solution to all practice and profitability ills. It is usually accompanied by inefficient case acceptance (especially with comprehensive dentistry), a pitifully bad or non-existent recall/recare protocol and a general lack of focus on patients already in the practice.”
And… I’m not absolutely convinced that it hasn’t affected dentists everywhere.
Case in point:
In a 2017 survey of dentists that run their own practices in China, “New Patients Marketing and Acquisition” came up as the number one answer to the question:
“What do you think is stopping your practice from growing and making more income?”
In the many emails I’ve received from dentists all over the planet (Europe, India, the Middle East, etc.), the most common question I get is: “Do you have any marketing ideas that would help me get more new patients?”
So, I guess we could say that “New patient-itis” is a global dental problem…
The Etiology of New Patient-Itis. How it’s Caused:
A dental practice does need new patients. The amount you need depends on how aggressively you want your office to grow. And believe it or not, it’s this obvious need and desire for growth is what sets the affliction into motion.
At MGE, we’ve isolated six elements or “processes” in a dental practice that lead to consistent practice growth. Each must be present and working for growth to occur. These are:
- New Patient Inquiries (from marketing, referrals, etc.)
- New Patient Conversions (Converting callers into new patients)
- The New Patient Experience (Where a New Patient decides, “this is the practice for me”). Beyond the delivery of high quality dentistry, this would include general customer service, how friendly and personalized your office is and how quickly patients are seen and taken care of.
- Case Acceptance: (Patients accepting needed treatment without undue regard for insurance coverage)
- Recall/Reactivation: Would include a well maintained and continuously expanding Hygiene Department that keeps patients active and reactivates them when they fall off.
- Referrals: Assuming 1-5 above are working, patients refer their family and friends and the cycle begins anew at “1,” with that new person.
From our research, most offices have varying degrees of difficulty with any one of these points.
Lack of one or more of these Six Elements of Practice Growth above is what normally sparks the onset of “New Patient-itis”
How it starts varies. But here’s an example:
Facing declining collections and profitability, Dr. Smith knows she has to do something.
- Openings in her schedule,
- Trouble keeping the Hygiene Schedule full,
- Patients of record that need treatment but only want to do what insurance pays,
- Marketing that isn’t “working,”
- Low new patient numbers.
Dr. Smith figures that “More New Patients” will solve all of these problems – so voila that must be it! And to add a qualifier – she wants “High Quality New Patients,” that value their dental health and will accept and pay for the treatment they need.
And Dr. Smith isn’t all wrong here. She should get more new patients. For that matter, you don’t ever want to see any statistic in your practice declining over a period of time (unless it’s cancellations and no-shows).
What Dr. Smith doesn’t see is what begins her bout with “New Patient-it is.” She has no idea why her new patient numbers are low. And more importantly, what’s happening inside her practice when she actually does get a new patient! She wants to open the “front door” to her office, but unfortunately a large portion of her patient base is leaving through the back.
She doesn’t see that:
Her Marketing isn’t Working. And she’s not actively working to get more referrals.
Sure, she’s marketing. She has a website, sends out postcards and is doing some Google Ads, (which run at the wrong time of day and too far away from her practice). The problem is her spend versus response is pretty low.
And this is something we address directly at the MGE New Patient Workshop.
Her Call Conversion Rate is “Average” (Which is a Problem).
In an exhaustive 2012 study of over 10,000 dental new patient phone calls, Viva Concepts in Glendale California, found that the average new patient conversion rate was 23%.
Yes, that means out of 100 phone calls, 23 new patients actually schedule.
And yes, that means that out of 100 phone calls, 77 people did not schedule.
And let’s apply this to Dr. Smith’s situation. She already has a problem with poor response to her marketing. To add insult to injury, her receptionist loses almost 80% of these new patient inquires to other dental offices. They don’t schedule.
And the receptionist isn’t all that bad. They just don’t know how the Four Laws of Conversion and as a result have trouble converting new patent calls.
We cover these Four Laws of Conversion – along with how to put them to use at the MGE New Patient Workshop!
Smith’s New Patient Experience and Service is Mediocre.
From the get-go, and despite the openings the schedule a New Patient has to wait days – sometimes a week to see Dr. Smith. Some do. Some just call another office and don’t show for their appointment.
And the ones that do show? Due to a lack of solid customer service principles, patients spend too long waiting, the staff don’t add that extra “personal touch,” in their interactions with the patient and the schedule is so poorly managed that the doctor seems “rushed.”
The patient forms a “mixed” view of the office. And then it’s time to discuss treatment.
The sad part: Dr. Smith is an excellent clinician. If only that were enough to keep a patient in the practice…
The New Patient Experience and Customer Service are a critical part of case acceptance and KEEPING this new patient. We cover the key points of this subject at the MGE New Patient Workshop!
Smith’s Case Acceptance is worse than she thinks it is.
Like most dentists, Dr. Smith thinks her case acceptance is “pretty good.” And…it’s not.
The problem is in the definition. And before you think we’re going off topic here – let’s make something clear:
There is a proven link between comprehensive case acceptance and new patient referrals.
Patients who accept comprehensive treatment are more likely to refer. It’s a proven fact.
So, again, the problem with Dr. Smith’s viewpoint has to do with how “case acceptance” is defined.
Patient “A” needs six crowns. Dr. Smith informs him of this. He agrees to do two this year, two next and two the following to maximize his insurance. Dr. Smith considers this case “closed” or “accepted.”
In fact, we have three problems here:
- All Patient “A” has really accepted is 1/3 of the treatment plan – two crowns. After all, this is all that’s going to show up on Dr. Smith’s schedule next week.
- This happens with many patients – not just Patient “A,” which causes collections (and thereby profitability) to be diminished. Add to this that Dr. Smith does very little comprehensive treatment which affects her job/career satisfaction.
- And most important – Patient “A” didn’t get all the treatment they needed. And worse, what is Dr. Smith saying to patient “A,” when she backed the treatment plan down from six to two crowns. In effect, she told Patient “A” that those other four weren’t that important and could wait. Well, what do you think Patient “A” is thinking? I’ll tell you: “I wonder how important the two crowns I agreed to do actually are?”
Case acceptance is not only important for your patients. It’s important for your practice profitability and is a building block of patient trust and future referrals. We cover how to increase case acceptance with New Patients at the MGE New Patient Workshop!
Smith’s Hygiene Department is Declining
Dr. Smith has an Hygienist. The office has had three days of hygiene a week for close to five years. And despite new patients and over 2,500 charts, Dr. Smith has trouble keeping this three days of hygiene full.
She does schedule a patient’s next six month recall appointment, but patients who miss are rarely followed up. Or worse, if the patient isn’t reached, the chart is “deactivated” within two years and never called again.
Dr. Smith always finds it funny when one of these “deactivated” patients show back up for a checkup or emergency. They didn’t seem to know they were “deactivated.”
Dr. Smith looks at her Hygiene Department and can’t figure out why it’s not growing and doesn’t really know what to do about it. Unfortunately, this is the key to “shutting the back door.” Instead it remains open and patients go inactive or leave the practice.
Dr. Smith spends more than $300 to get a new patient. And less than $15 in an attempt to keep them. If she’d just dedicated a little more in the way of times and resources, she might keep more. Many more…
If you want to know how to keep patients active or how to get them back when they “fall through the cracks,” do the MGE New Patient Workshop!
Smith…Surprise Gets Few New Patient Referrals…
Dr. Smith knows she isn’t getting a lot of new patients. She fails to look closer and see that of the new patients she gets – only a few are referred by other patients.
And it’s no wonder.
Her customer service isn’t great, and neither is her case acceptance. And with her spotty Hygiene program she doesn’t keep all that many patients around long enough to even refer!
Add to this that there is no formal program in place to stimulate referrals and it’s a wonder she gets any at all!
With all of the above in play, Dr. Smith focuses on one thing: New Patients. More and more and more New Patients. The problem is between reception and the other issues in her practice she loses these people at almost the same rate as she brings them in! Which makes it look like the only solution is…more new patients! And now Dr. Smith has a full-blown case of “New Patient-itis”
I have a feeling there are many “Dr. Smith’s” out there. Maybe you identify with some of Dr. Smith’s issues. The good news? It’s easy to fix.
- Getting a steady, consistent flow of high quality new patients and
- Having the processes in place in your office (see 1-6 above) to keep these patients.
- The result – long-term practice growth!
All of which we teach you at the MGE New Patient Workshop!
New Patients are important, but if you don’t address these other issues while you get more new patients, you’re wasting tons of time and potential.
Let me make it simple. You’re thirsty. You want a glass of water. Would you pour water into a glass with a hole at the bottom? I guess you could…if you don’t mind getting wet. And if you did it continuously you might even get to drink a little bit.
Wouldn’t it be better to plug the hole and then pour?
The MGE New Patient Workshop does both at the same time. We teach you how to get more new patients while “plugging the holes” in your practice to keep who you get!
So, don’t live with “New Patient-itis.” Cure it with the New Patient Workshop!