Successful Strategies for Improving Patient Retention

graphic with a dentist in his office on the computer

When it comes to ensuring a dental practice maintains and improves on the number of chair hours you have scheduled, focusing on patient retention is an absolute must. No practice enjoys losing a patient, especially if the patient simply leaves your practice for the competition. Most practices spend so much of their marketing budgets on attracting new patients that failing to maintain those patients proves incredibly costly, as you lose a lot of your return on that initial marketing investment.

Fortunately, a state-of-the-art practice management system can help your practice identify which patients are in danger of leaving and even enable you to bring some of them back. Here are a few strategies your practice can use to steer former patients back and prevent other patients from ever leaving to begin with.

Ask for Feedback from Fleeing Patients

In cases where a patient calls your practice to ask for medical records and inform you of their departure, instruct your front office staff to ask whether your practice can do anything to change the patient’s mind.

If the patient expresses a disinterest in returning, have your staff specifically ask for a reason why they’re leaving. Perhaps the patient found your chairside manner cold, didn’t like their hygienist, or found the front office staff difficult to work with. Unless asked you won’t know what motivated the patient to find alternative dental care. Even if you don’t agree with their answer, you’ll still gain a better understanding of how you might be able to improve your practice.

Some patients won’t give you a heads up that they’ve decided to move on. This is where a dental practice management system proves invaluable at easily identifying patients who are overdue for an appointment. Once you identify patients that need to be reached out to, you can send them a follow up email or phone call asking if they’d like to schedule an appointment. If the patient responds by saying they’ve moved on, consider sending them a survey to gather feedback on why they decided to leave.

Online tools such as SurveyMonkey and Google Forms make it easy to create a professional looking survey you can send to patients. To encourage more patients to take the time to fill out your survey it’s important to keep them short and to-the-point. A good starting point; ask your patients to select a reason for their departure from a list you’ve provided. These reasons you could list include:

  • Did you move out of the area?
  • Did you change insurance providers?
  • Did issues – such as limited parking or hours of operation – made vising inconvenient?
  • Did you have trouble scheduling an appointment by phone or online?
  • Did you experience dissatisfaction with the service and of level of care provided?
  • Did you experience trouble with billing or working with the front office staff?
  • Other (please explain)

Continue the survey by asking patients for more information on why they decided to leave. The answers you receive to this kind of feedback can prove invaluable.

Use the Feedback to Make Changes to Your Practice

Once you gain a better understanding of why patients are leaving, make the determination of whether you can make the changes necessary to bring those patients back. If you get a lot of feedback about your office hours being inconvenient, consider expanding appointment times. If patients express their dissatisfaction with the available parking, consider renting a nearby lot or offer a valet service.

While you won’t be able to resolve every complaint you receive, you can prioritize those changes that can be made easily in order to attract back the most former patients possible.

Let Your Former Patients Know About Any Changes Made

If you decide to change your practice based on patient feedback, you need to let patients know their voices have been heard. Take the time to inform patients about the changes you made and that their concerns have been addressed. To boost the chances of a patient returning, try offering a gift, such as a free consultation or teeth whitening should they return.

Don’t forget to let your current patients know about the changes you’ve made. Just because they haven’t yet left doesn’t mean they weren’t frustrated about something and were considering leaving. Letting them know you’ve address an issue also demonstrates to patients that you take their feedback and satisfaction seriously.