How to Stop Losing Patients and Minimize Patient Attrition
Patient attrition refers to the loss of patients from a dental practice. The more patients leave your dental practice and opt for an alternative option, the higher your patient attrition rate. Although there are several reasons patients change dentists and dental practices, you can reduce your chances of losing patients by prioritizing your patient relationship, engagement and communication strategies.
Amongst several factors that can negatively affect the growth of a dental practice, patient attrition is one of the least talked-about. While it is great to establish and implement marketing strategies that result in new leads and more patients for your dental practice, it is even more beneficial to have a system in place for retaining your current patients. A study by Lewin Group shows that one of the main secrets of the dental practices with production in the top 10% is their lower patient attrition rate. Most dental practices lose about 15% of their patients each year but the most successful dental practices lose only 7%.
In this article, you will learn the key steps that successful dental practices take to keep their patients engaged and reduce their patient attrition rate. More so, you will learn how Connect the Doc’s line of software and marketing solutions can support your efforts to retain your current patients.
Why Are Patients Leaving Your Dental Practice?
About 1 in 5 patients change dentists every year. From job relocation, negative online reviews about the dental practice, conflict with staff or a team member at the practice, billing or insurance issues to a complete loss of confidence in the dentist’s expertise, there are so many reasons patients leave dental practices.
For the sake of your time, this article doesn’t address every possible reason patients leave dental practices. Instead, it highlights some of the common factors that can easily be tackled by implementing better patient relationship, engagement and communication strategies.
- Miscommunication or Lack of Clear Communications
The relationship between a patient and their dental practice is vital to the sustained wellbeing of the patient. Every good relationship should have a clear line of communication. If patients are constantly hitting a wall when they contact your dental practice or search for information about your practice and services, it will only be a matter of time before they move on to a dental practice that is easily accessible to them.
You should have an easy-to-use system in place for sharing updates with your patients, tracking missed calls and emails, sending reminders about missed appointments and collecting payments. With powerful automated tools like Connect the Doc’s Live Chat, your patients can be just a text message away from getting the updates and reassurance they need from you.
- Long Wait Times
Patients do not like to wait. Now and then, things get busy and you realize you have no immediate openings for patients that need appointments. Sometimes, wait times have nothing to do with appointments - your patients may simply need clear guidance and answers to pressing questions and concerns but yet they have to wait long periods before you can attend to them. These scenarios can be frustrating for your patients and as a result, they may consider looking around for other dental practices with better availability.
Although it can be difficult to fit several patients into your busy schedule, you must find ways to keep them engaged even when you attend to them right away. With Live Chat, an informative website and a patient-centric email marketing strategy, your patients can stay engaged through fast responses and quality content as they prepare for their appointments. Alternatively, if the situation permits, you can consider extending your hours to fit in more patients. The goal here is to ensure your patients understand that you value and prioritize their relationship with you and your dental practice.
- Negative Reviews
Chances are you have a handful of patients who chose your dental practice and services because of a review they read or heard from a friend/family member. Referrals from friends and family as well as online reviews are the two of the strongest drivers of lead generation in dental practices today. This means that the more your current patients write positive online reviews about your services, the higher your chances of increasing your patient base - but what happens if your current patients leave negative online reviews?
Negative online reviews are detrimental to the growth of your dental practice. They discourage prospective patients from choosing your dental practice. Even worse, they can cause your current patients to lose confidence in you and your services. More and more prospective patients are learning about your dental practice online and reading reviews before making an appointment with you. Now is the time to optimize your online reputation management strategy and address negative reviews that may exist about your dental practice. As you do so, you should read the article we recently shared about how to respond to online reviews while maintaining Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance.
- Aggressive Marketing/Sales Approach
At Connect the Doc, we provide tools and solutions that support the dental marketing strategies of dentists and dental practices across North America. We know how crucial it is to implement results-driven marketing strategies consistently. As important as it is to market your dental services, it is even more important to be empathetic in your approach.
Avoid any paid marketing campaigns and other digital marketing strategies that focus on bombarding your patients with too much information over short blocks of time. The messaging or marketing copy in your paid ads, newsletter or on your website should be empathetic, authentic, factual and reassuring. Minimize the frequency of your newsletter communications to at least once a week - or biweekly. Monitor your ads cycles and make sure you make updates as needed.
How to Stop Losing Patients at your Dental Practice
We have addressed some of the common reasons patients have for leaving dental practices and the steps you can take to combat those specific reasons. In this section, we will discuss measures you should be implementing regularly in your dental practice to reduce your patient attrition rate.
- After each Appointment, Schedule the Next Appointment
As much as possible, you and your team members should encourage patients to schedule their next appointment as soon as they are wrapping up their current appointment. It is easier to convince a patient to schedule their next appointment before they walk out of your door. The more appointments you don’t schedule, the more likely you are to lose that patient in the long run. This simple practice - of scheduling appointments promptly - can go a long way to helping you retain your patients.
- Implement the 24-hour Rule
When a patient misses an appointment, make it a point to contact them within 24 hours to reschedule. Similarly, when a patient concludes their appointment, follow up with them to get their feedback about their experience within 24 hours. This is the 24-hour rule. The goal of this rule is to reduce the lapse in communication between you and your patients. It allows you to be proactive about rescheduling missed appointments and gathering feedback/reviews. With Connect the Doc’s Live Chat integration, you can automate the process of sending reminders, making appointments and gathering reviews about your dental practice promptly.
- Stay in touch with your Patients
The patient-dentist relationship doesn’t end after an appointment. Even after an appointment, your patients should continue enjoying the benefits of your service. Establish a system for communicating with your patients over time. Send weekly, biweekly or monthly newsletters, publish blog articles on your website that address dental healthcare topics, engage with patients using social media and continue to keep the line of communication open using tools like Live Chat.
- Have an FAQ section on your website
The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section or page of a website allows web visitors to find answers to their most pressing questions. In the case of a dental practice’s website, the FAQ section should address questions patients have about the dental practice’s services, safety standards, appointments, dental hygiene and tips for maintaining one’s dental wellbeing. Many at times, before patients contact their dentists, they spend time perusing through the dental practice’s website. With a FAQ section on your website, you can continue to be the go-to solution to your patients’ dental health care concerns.
- Have a system for gathering feedback and reviews
Your patients want to know that dental health care is your priority. One way to assure patients that you value them is by gathering their feedback and reviews from time to time. The best time to get a patient’s feedback is right after an appointment. As you gather feedback, you learn more about your patients but most importantly, you learn more about your dental practices. Feedback allows you to identify the areas of your dental practice that need improvement. The more you gather feedback and make the necessary changes, the happier your patients become and the more likely you are to retain them. With Connect the Doc’s review tool, you can easily gather feedback and reviews from your patients. This tool allows you to maximize your workflow by automating your dental practice’s system for gathering feedback and reviews.
The most successful dental practices do not take their patient attrition rate for granted. You shouldn’t either. Start taking the necessary steps to keep your patients engaged while enhancing your dental practice’s brand reputation and production. From our machine learning-powered Live Chat tool, automated review-gathering tool, website development service to our results-oriented paid ads management service, Connect the Doc empowers you to reach your marketing goals and stops your dental practice from, needlessly, losing more patients. Contact us to reduce your patient attrition rate today.