A Dentist's Guide to Improving Patient Retention Rate

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The Connect the Doc Team
June 14, 2023
min. read

Dentists spend a lot of time thinking about ways to attract new patients to their dental practice. While there is nothing wrong with developing and implementing robust patient acquisition strategies, patient retention is just as necessary. Patient retention is a cost-effective and scalable dental marketing strategy. As such, it is essential to track and improve your dental practice’s patient retention rate. 

In this article, we will discuss key strategies to improve your patient retention rate. You will also learn about the value of patient retention and how to calculate your dental practice’s patient retention rate. 

What is Patient Retention for Dental Practices?

It can be tempting to focus your dental marketing strategy solely on acquiring new patients and scheduling more appointments. Yet, there is more to dental marketing than patient acquisition. You are 14 times more likely to book a new appointment with a current patient than with a prospective patient. So, it is essential to also focus on retaining more patients. To do this, you should pay close attention to your patient retention rate. 

Patient retention rate is the percentage of current patients in your dental practice compared to those who are no longer your patients. This metric is key to your dental practice’s longevity. It helps you assess your dental service and patient experience quality and understand analyze the long-term plans you have for your practice. 

How To Calculate Your Patient Retention Rate

To calculate your patient retention rate, you count the number of patients in your books at the end of a period compared to the number present at the beginning of that period. The goal here is to understand how many patients your dental practice is retaining over a period. A period could be a month, quarter, year, or however long you decide. 

The three numbers to keep in mind are the number of patients present at the end of a period (E), the number of patients acquired during the period (D), and the number of patients present at the beginning of the period (B).

  1. Start by subtracting the number of patients acquired during a period from the number of patients present at the end of that period: E-D
  2. Divide your result by the number of patients present at the start of the period: (E-D)/B
  3. Multiply your result by 100 to get your patient retention rate: [(E-D)/B] x 100

For example, if you have 300 patients on your books by the end of the year, acquired 100 patients during the year but started the year with 400 patients; your patient retention rate will be:

[(E-D)/B] x 100 = [(300-100]/400] = 50% 

This means you retained 50% of the patients you started that period with. 

How to Improve Your Patient Retention Rate

The American Dental Association reports the average dental practice retains 41% of its patients over a period. In other words, for every ten patients that a dental practice starts a period with, only four remain at the end of that period. As you can imagine, this isn’t ideal. You shouldn’t be losing that many patients. 

On average, each patient you lose costs about seven times more than it cost you to acquire that patient. Without doing the math, you can see that there is a lot to lose if your patient retention rate is low. A low patient retention rate impacts your revenue just as it negatively affects your dental practice’s reputation and ability to acquire new patients. The more patients you retain, the better your chances of turning patients into ambassadors who can share reviews and testimonials about your dental practice and, in the process, attract new patients. 

Fortunately, there are strategies you can start implementing today to improve your patient retention rate and position your dental practice to succeed in the long run. As you go over these strategies, you will find that the bulk of them involve having multiple positive touchpoints with your patients. The more positive interactions you have with your patients, the more likely they will stick with you. 

1. Give Your Patients The Support They Need

There’s no other way to say it: improving your patient retention rate is all about giving your patients what they need. The dentist who is most mindful of their patients, and makes the best effort to provide exceptional service to them, is the one who gets to retain the most patients. Take the time to improve your patient relationships and engage your team to provide a positive patient experience. 

You can start by gathering patient feedback to learn more about the dental-related challenges they may face and understand how you can better support them. More so, patient feedback will point out the aspects of your dental practice and service that patients most enjoy and how you can make their experience even better. 

2. Improve Your Dental Practice’s Online Presence

Your dental practice’s online presence is a measure of how conscientious you are about giving your patient the best possible experience. With a well-optimized and mobile-friendly dental website, and a working digital strategy, you can engage more patients online, support their dental needs at any time, and be a trusted source of credible dental-related information to them. Current and prospective patients will find the information and resources they need through your website when they need it. 

A vibrant online presence creates opportunities for multiple touchpoints between you and your patients. It is an opportunity for your patients to learn more about you, your team and your practice. Likewise, it allows you to connect with current patients and attract new patients. The more patients can easily assess you and trust the information you provide, the more likely they are to stick with your dental practice in the long run. 

3. Streamline Your Patient Communication

We’ve established the need to have multiple touchpoints with your patients. We know patient retention is possible if patients can easily assess you when they need to. To make this possible, you should analyze the process, mediums and tools you use to communicate with your patients. You need to find ways to streamline your patient communication. 

How straightforward or complicated is your patient communication process? How long do your patients have to wait before getting a callback, a reply to their emails, or confirm their scheduled appointment? What is the tone of your voice or your email when you respond to patients? How do patients feel after speaking with you or someone on your team? 

These are some questions to consider as you streamline your patient communication. Consider setting up a Live Chat service, like Connect the Doc’s Walter, on your website so patients can easily send a message or an inquiry or book an appointment right from your homepage. Walter is built to provide intelligent and thoughtful automated responses to patients, so they get the support they need at any time. 

4. Increase Patient Referrals 

Creating and running a dental referral program can go a long way to retaining more patients in your dental practice. Referral programs are great for attracting new patients, but in many ways, they are also useful for turning existing patients into ambassadors for your practice. As patients invite friends and family to book an appointment with you, they become personally invested in your dental practice’s success. They will surely want to stick around to ensure your practice continues to grow. 

Connect the Doc supports dentists from across North America to create, run and review their dental referral programs. We learn about their goals and recommend the best solutions to increase their referrals. If patients agree, our referral tool can tap into their social networks so that they can encourage their friends and family to learn more about or visit your dental practice. We don’t stop there; our referral tools assist dentists in converting, tracking and rewarding referrals. 

5. Gather More Patient Reviews 

Reviews are crucial to the growth of your dental practice for many reasons. They give you a better understanding of your patients’ needs and concerns, and if shared publicly, they help attract more new patients. However, in addition to these reasons, reviews — and the way you handle them — can also encourage disgruntled patients who are reconsidering leaving your practice.  

Patients want to be heard. They want to know that you care about their dental health, needs, concerns and queries. By encouraging and gathering reviews from patients, you allow them to share their comments and questions with you privately or publicly on different dental review platforms, including your Google My Business profile. As you respond to these reviews and implement the patient’s recommendations, your patients will know that you genuinely care about their wellbeing. As a result, they will be more willing to stick with you and support your practice. 

6. Improve Your Dental Service Delivery

Are you using tools that make your scheduling process easy? Do you have enough protective gear to help patients feel safe during appointments? Would you consider teledentistry as a means to improve your patient care and education? Think about different ways you can deliver a better and more efficient dental service to your patients. By improving the way you provide your dental service, you give patients more reasons to trust your expertise and stick with you. 

Patient Retention Is All About Relationships

The best way to start improving your patient retention rate is to focus on your patient-dentist relationships. Nurture the relationships you have with your patients and create a system and environment with your dental practice that makes patients feel safe and comfortable. Improve your online presence and become a trusted source of dental information to your patients. 
Adopt tools and services like Connect the Doc’s array of referral, review and Live Chat tools that ensure you’re providing the best possible services to your patients across multiple touchpoints. Contact a Connect the Doc specialist to learn how you can start improving your dental practice’s patient retention rate today.

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