Mine the diamonds in your own backyard
Practices are increasingly nervous about losing new patients to the competition, especially when they see their competitors marketing aggressively. However, while obtaining new patients is essential for all practices to grow, there is a bundle of growth opportunity within your own practice just waiting to be harvested.
It is a well-known fact that it takes a lot more money to obtain a new patient than to retain an existing one, and it is easiest to market to your existing patients—they already trust you.
Why then is this revenue source untapped?
It starts with a lack of awareness. There is a wealth of information in your practice management (PM) software; however, the correct reports are often not generated or are infrequently reviewed. Reports from your PM software will show how many patients are coming only once per year versus twice, or are leaving without scheduling their next visit. Review this information monthly. Develop systems and procedures to ensure that as many patients as possible schedule their next appointment before leaving. Follow an aggressive recall system for those who do leave without booking.
How many unscheduled treatment plans (with large dollar amounts!) do you have?
This is treatment that has been recommended to a patient—treatment the patient needs, but has not scheduled. As with booking recall appointments, dentists and staff need to make every effort to have patients schedule the treatment at the time of presentation. If treatment is not immediately scheduled, create follow-up processes so that these dollars are not left on the table.
In addition, monitor and “work” the accounts receivable (A/R) aging report. This tells you the amount of services performed for which payment has not yet been received. It also shows the number of days (30, 60, 90 or 120) that have passed since the procedure was billed. A/R balances can build due to slow insurance and/or patient payments. Every delay in payment costs the practice money, so make a concerted effort to collect all fees as soon as possible and keep A/R balances low.
In addition to lack of awareness, there is often a lack of training and comfort. Often staff are reluctant to follow up with patients regarding scheduling treatment and even less comfortable asking for payment. Training and scripting (which Schenck can help with) are useful to help overcome these concerns.
Consider how referrals impact your revenue stream
Finally, your existing patients can also be an excellent source for new patients. Generally, the highest number—and often the best— new patients come from word-of-mouth referrals. Treat every patient well and truly make their experience remarkable so that they are excited to refer their friends. Your patients like you, and would be willing to refer, but they may not think about it or even realize that you want more patients. You need to ask for their referrals. Consider incentives such as gas or gift cards for every referral an existing patient makes.
So, rather than fretting about the marketing the competition is doing (which may or may not even be working), concentrate first on your own practice. There is a lot of revenue growth opportunity with your patients, and they are an excellent and inexpensive source of new referrals as well!
For assistance looking at potential revenue growth opportunities in your practice, contact Nancy Streck or any member of the Dental Advisory Group at Schenck at 800-236-2246.
Nancy Streck, CPA, CFP®, CVA, is a senior practice consultant and member of Schenck’s Health Service team. She focuses on assisting dentists, physicians and other health care providers, providing guidance in practice management, practice analysis and tax planning for both the owners and their practices.