By this time, our practices have been re-opened at various levels for a while now. We may be used to some of the new procedures we have had to adopt and which may be with us for a while. Still, looking over an empty waiting room while wondering how this will all work when winter arrives may be puzzling to a number of us.
The good news is many offices reported being busier than they expected when they re-opened. Unfortunately, that may be about to change. Patients eager to get their oral health back on track have been seen once and may not be due back for some time.
That leaves you with the less eager patients…those you have not seen and, with no sign that we have Covid-19 under control, they may not be eager to return. That could mean a lot of open time this fall.
This thought is causing considerable stress for many dentists. The question is how to respond to it!
My first thought is to simply stop…take a deep breath…and assess things with a clear mind. On the one hand, Covid-19 has changed everything (as we have been told repeatedly)!
However, at its core, dentistry has not changed. It is still about healthcare. It is still about monitoring the link between oral health and systemic health. It is still about the patient!
Having “open time” in your schedule is not a new phenomenon. It is often a sign that your “net new patient flow” is too low, existing patients are not scheduling their next appointment in a timely manner, or some combination of the two.
Understanding your challenge has always required you to look at your data. Are you satisfied with the number of new patients you are attracting? And just to be clear…we do not stop trying to attract new patients just because we are in the middle of a pandemic!
If new patient flow looks good, you then need to consider if too many patients are leaving your practice as fast as new ones come in! Attracting new patients is great…but we also need to keep our existing ones. If too many of those patients are leaving, you need to find a way to plug that hole or you will always be stuck trying to attract new patients just to replace those you are losing. That is time consuming and costly!
Perhaps “net new patient flow” is not your weakness. Patients may like you and stay with you…they simply don’t schedule their next appointment when you recommend that they should. Could it be that you struggle with case acceptance? Is there an administrative issue standing in the way of getting patients scheduled?
Understanding why you may be looking at so much open time is critical to determining your course of corrective action.
Now, let’s not ignore the reality of being in the midst of a pandemic. If that is the reason patients are telling you they do not want to come in, then you need to develop the scripts and the skills to address that issue. Your script will need to emphasize i. the importance of continuing to look after their oral health; and ii. the steps you have taken to protect their health while they are in your office!
But discovering why some patients may not be returning means you need to identify them first. This process is not new. It is a core part of the fundamentals of operating a successful practice…a practice that puts patient care as its top priority.
So take that breath…and recognize that the first steps to addressing potential time in the Covid-19 era remain the same as they were before. You need to monitor all of the business aspects of your practice. When you see red flags, recognize what questions you may need to ask to find out what is really going on. Then develop a solution that puts the well-being of your patients first!
On that core, fundamental level, Covid-19 has not changed a thing!