When we talk about taking control of someone, it sounds almost sinister, but in this case it is meant to create 5-star customer service. What we have learned after working with thousands of practices is that patients, unless gently and intentionally directed otherwise, generally will pick options that are not in the best interest of the practice and its protocols (like wanting to schedule a second molar root canal at 4:30 in the afternoon). Controlling the patient experience starts by defining the protocols for the office.
- Creating a schedule where certain cases, such as all complex cases, should always be in the morning when the doctor and team are fresh, and allow the day to become easier and easier as it progresses along, which decreases fatigue and burn out.
- Appointment confirmations should be based on proven research and not left only to patient choice. Text messaging three times at two weeks, two days, and two hours is our current recommendation to decrease no-shows and last-minute cancellations. And we estimate that no-shows cost a practice between $3,000,000 and $5,000,000 in lost production over a typical 36-year career.
- Scheduling appropriately for follow-up appointments. An increasing number of offices are handling follow-up appointments for post-ops virtually or forgoing them completely. Practices often clog up schedules with hundreds of follow-up visits per year (many of which no show) that reduce production time.
- Levin Group recommends that all new patients be seen within five to seven days. This increases the number of new patients who present for the appointment and level of case acceptance. It also means that blocks must be placed strategically in the schedule based on mathematical analysis to accomplish this goal. However, if you merely ask a new patient on the phone when they would like to schedule they may say three or four weeks out. If you explain that as a service to all new patients you try to bring them into the practice within five to seven days the entire new patient experience is accelerated. Once again, by trying to “control” the patient coming in within five to seven days it is in everyone’s best interest. However, if the front desk staff ignores this protocol then new patients will be all over the schedule and the schedule will be chaotic with lower overall practice production.
At first, it may seem manipulative to attempt to control the patient experience. However, practices that take the time to develop excellent systems find that they must also encourage patients to work within the practice protocols. In most cases, patients will not only follow the protocols as recommended, but they will be appreciative of the attention, focus, and customer service.
The above recommendations can help any practice to create less chaos and stress daily, weekly, and monthly. They will also increase overall practice production.
Controlling the patient experience is both an art and a science.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Roger P. Levin, DDS is the CEO and founder of Levin Group, a leading practice management consulting firm that has worked with over 30,000 clients to increase production. A recognized expert on dental practice management and marketing, he has written more than 60 books and over 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the U.S. and around the world.
To contact Dr. Levin or to join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit www.levingroup.com or email email@example.com.
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