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Turning 'wants' into realities: New patients come to your dental practice ready to be wowed, but can you deliver?

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DrAnil's picture
Joined: 12 Nov 2011

 So, you want more new patients. You reason that you’ve done your part. After all, you’ve begged, cajoled, pleaded, and in some cases bribed them to come to your practice and yours alone. You have promised in all your marketing that their experience in your practice will be the best ever! And then what happens? They show up in your practice ready to be wowed — but can you deliver? 

Delivering the excellent experience that patients expect begins long before they are seated in your treatment chair; it begins when they call your practice to schedule the appointment. If your staff members are not trained to expertly communicate with prospective as well as current patients, you are losing money. You are losing patients. And you are losing control of your reputation. I guarantee it. Consider the situation we recently encountered in a practice in which the doctor could not understand why his new-patient marketing efforts were not delivering more new patients.

“Kelly” the scheduling coordinator believed that the manner in which she was handling patient calls was perfectly fine. After all, no one had told her otherwise. She answered the phone, determined why the person was calling, and did her best to assist them. A typical new-patient exchange went something like this: Doctor’s office, this is Kelly. May I help you?The prospective patient usually responded: Yes, I am calling to schedule a teeth cleaning. Kelly then asked the caller if he or she was an existing patient. When the new-patient callers indicated that they were not, Kelly responded with her standard answer: Sure, no problem. We have a few openings in about five to six months. How does April 15th look for your schedule?

These telephone exchanges commonly ended with the stunned callers simply saying, Six months to get an appointment? OK. Thank you. Click. And they were gone. Kelly has worked in the practice for nearly a year. She is a competent and personable individual who, in the nicest possible way, consistently sent prospective new patients to other practices. But don’t blame Kelly. The scheduling systems were poor. She was given no professional training. There were no protocols or scripts in place to guide her. Yet the doctor could not understand why his marketing efforts weren’t paying off with bigger numbers.

Eventually, Kelly received much-needed professional training. The practice incorporated carefully developed scripts for various patient exchanges, including new-patient calls, and the office revisited its scheduling procedures to accommodate new patients. The next step was determining if the practice delivered the type of experience that marketing efforts promised. It didn’t. When patients arrived, they were expected to complete a variety of forms and necessary paperwork, putting a strain on the schedule. Consequently, new-patient appointments were often stressful experiences because the doctor and/or hygienist felt rushed.

Send all new patients a practice “Welcome Packet” the day they schedule their first appointment. This includes a brief welcome letter from the doctor indicating his/her commitment to providing the best possible care for patients. The letter also emphasizes specific qualities about the practice that set it apart from others, such as the extremely high infection-control standards, dentistry for the entire family, painless dentistry techniques, etc. Additionally, the letter should direct patients to the practice website where they can learn more about the practice and the staff and complete necessary forms and paperwork in advance of the appointment. The Welcome Packet also should include a business card, a New Patient Information form, and a map to the practice with the office phone number on it.

Finally, when new patients arrive, they should feel like the most important person in your office. If possible, the treatment coordinator should promptly escort the patient to a consult room where necessary paperwork can be reviewed to ensure everything has been completed, and most importantly, the coordinator can discuss the excellent quality care available in the practice — again according to a well-developed and rehearsed script. Take the new patient on a brief tour of the office, and pay attention to the questions he or she asks and the comments the individual makes. These provide insight into the patient’s own oral health goals, objectives, and possible concerns.

The patient should leave the appointment feeling very positive about the experience and the dental team, and excited about the potential opportunities this new practice offers for them to achieve their dental wants and needs.

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drsnehamaheshwari's picture
Joined: 16 Mar 2013
Turning 'wants' into realities: New patients come to your dental practice ready to be wowed, but can you deliver?


The first thing you should realize is that most patients don't make decisions about their dental treatment based on education. 

People will always find a way to do what they want, but not necessarily what they need. I'm sure you've had this happen 100 times. You educate your patient about some dental treatment he or she needs and you hear, "I need to talk to my husband first," or "I'll check my schedule and get back with you." These statements really mean, "I may need it, but I don't want it." The reason education kills case acceptance is because patients decide to do dental treatment based on emotion, not education or intellect. In fact, most buying decisions are emotionally based.

When you bought your last car, was it an emotional decision or an intellectual one? For most of us this was an emotional decision. We imagined how it was going to feel driving this new car down the road. We felt good as we envisioned others seeing us in this car. We fell in love with the color and the smell of the leather.

Why do women spend $1,000 on a designer purse? Why do men buy $10,000 watches? These are not intellectual decisions based on education and need. These are buying decisions based on emotion and want.

When you try to educate and teach patients dentistry, you are accessing the thinking and analytical part (left) of their brains. You should be accessing the emotional and feeling part (right) of their brains. This is also the part of the brain that changes behavior. When you look into a patient's mouth and when you examine someone's radiographs, you are analytically processing a lot of information to come up with the appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan. You're thinking about occlusion, vertical dimension, perio, endo, ortho, onlays, crowns, implants, cosmetics, and more.

You then communicate these concepts to your patients in an analytical and educational way, because this is the part of your brain that you're accessing to come up with the treatment plan. We dentists are very analytical people, so this is how we feel most comfortable communicating with patients.

Most dentists have a case acceptance rate of around 20% to 30%, which means that seven or eight out of 10 patients don't follow through with treatment. If you and your team learn how to connect with patients on an emotional level, your case acceptance will go up to around 60% to 70%. This means you double your revenue with the same number of new patients! So, how do we present treatment in a way that impacts patients on an emotional level? Tell your patients what is going to happen if they don't fix the problem. Anytime you tell them a particular treatment they need, follow that immediately by talking about how not fixing the problem will negatively impact their life - pain, more expense, inconvenience, more involved treatment, etc.

What dentists typically talk about is how they are going to fix the problem. They do this because fixing the problem is the part they like to do and talk about. But this is also the part that is usually boring, confusing, or scary to patients.

Explain to patients, how life will be pain free, eating all kind of foods will be fun, appearance will be youthful, good smile and looks etc etc

Helping your patients say "yes" to the treatment they need is important for their health, and important to your financial success. Learning how to improve your treatment acceptance is a win/win situation for everyone. When your practice is financially successful everyone wins - the patient, your team, you, and your family.


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