4 mistakes your dental practice is making that is driving patients away

4 mistakes your dental practice is making that is driving patients away

Jan 25, 2024

man smiling in dental clair

The challenges of patient retention

For your practice to grow, you need new patients. But that's not all it takes. You also need to keep your current patients happy. The average lifetime value (LTV) of a patient can exceed $25,000. If your patients are only visiting once or twice and then disappearing, you're leaving thousands of dollars on the table.

Alarmingly, patient retention rates in Canada sit around 17%. What are clinics doing wrong? And what can you do to improve your patient retention rates and grow your dental practice?

Outdated contact options

While dentistry itself continues to make leaps and bounds in innovation, the patient experience has fallen behind. If your practice is relying on outdated methods like phone scheduling and pen-and-paper information collection, it won't be easy to keep up with clinics that have invested in digital. Modern patients require modern solutions to booking appointments, getting information, and managing their treatment.

Here's how you can improve:

  • Offer online booking so patients face less friction when scheduling appointments.

  • Optimize your website and Google Business profile to have policies and answers to common inquiries readily available online.

  • Various channels for patients to contact your clinic and have their questions answered, like SMS or Whatsapp.

  • Invest in software that allows you to collect patient information digitally. Perhaps using their own devices to scan a QR code or with iPads in your office.

Reducing the time patients spend calling your clinic not only improves the patient experience, it also saves time for your staff, allowing them to provide exceptional service to the patients already in your office.

Too-rigid policies

It's no secret that patient needs can vary drastically. While some patients may have expansive dental insurance coverage, others are paying out-of-pocket. For some, a deductible or waiting for reimbursement from their insurance is no problem, while others may not be able to afford it. When your clinic holds rigid policies that do not consider the needs of your patients, they will simply go to find a clinic that does.

How can your clinic improve accessibility?

  • Offer direct billing. Patients who are saved the hassle of filing claims are more likely to stay.

  • Offer payment plans. When patients aren't expected to pay thousands at once, it makes the potentially high cost of treatments less intimidating.

  • Offer flexibility and forgiveness in your cancellation policies. Patients who know they owe late-notice or no-show fees may never return.

Of course, the policies you set must make sense for you. Consider how you can offer flexibility and understanding while still prioritizing the growth, profitability, and needs of your clinic and its staff.

Lack of communication

It's very possible that your patients aren't coming back to your clinic because they simply… forgot. Busy lives mean that dentist visits may not be anywhere near the front of our minds until a toothache comes around to remind us. If your clinic relies on a single 24-hour-before email to remind your patients of their upcoming appointment or expects patients to call when they're due for a check-up, chances are you're missing business.

Consider the following:

  • Create a multi-touch process to remind patients of upcoming appointments and let them know when they're due for a visit.

  • Stop relying on outdated forms of communication. Modern consumers are happier to reply to a text than to answer an unexpected phone call.

  • Enlist an email marketing software to send branded emails to communicate booking reminders, promotions, offers, and other relevant information that puts patients back in your chair.

Not knowing your patients

Assuming that all your patients have the same goals for their teeth is not an effective strategy for making them happy. For patients, trusting a stranger with their health can be intimidating, especially when more than a third of people admit to experiencing dental anxiety.

How can you get to know your patients?

  • Ask them about their oral health history, their goals, any experiences they've had, or fears they feel about being in the dental chair. This allows an opportunity to calm anxieties, build trust, and help address goals.

  • Build friendly relationships with your patients. Make them feel welcome and like part of the family every time they come through the door.

  • Find your niche. Perhaps you work well with children or the elderly, make efforts to optimize your services to cater to them.

Not upselling your services

Patients often know less about their insurance and coverage than we do. In fact, millions of dollars in coverage and care go unused every year for lack of knowing what is available to policyholders. If you know your patients and you know what their oral health goals are, you should be upselling your services to achieve them.

Help your patients by doing this:

  • Understand their insurance benefits and help them to maximize their usage. Perhaps they never considered teeth-whitening, but you know they're covered for it. Your patient gets a brighter smile and you get to build a long-term treatment plan that equates to more visits and a higher LTV.

  • Explore with the patient to build short and long-term treatment plans that address their oral health goals, considering budget and accessibility.

More than just care

Modern patients require connection, trust, and most importantly, easy and personalized experiences. Take the time to consider what your patients like and how you can improve your practice to meet them where they are, with the messages they want to hear. snapsmile can help you find a steady stream of new patients, improve patient experiences, and increase retention rates by 74%. Learn how our automations and dashboard have helped over 50 clinics in the Toronto area to grow their practice by booking a free demo.

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