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The Complete New Patient Experience
A proven approach to maximizing patients’ introduction to your practice
New patients typically provide much higher average production and contribute more to overall practice profitability than existing patients, so how they are introduced to the practice can make a significant difference. The “New Patient Experience” is one of the “9 Areas of Expertise” in the Levin Group Practice Performance Matrix™ that the author teaches dental practices to master to run efficiently and profitably. The process for initiating a new patient into the practice consists of these three stages: the New Patient Phone Call, the New Patient Orientation, and the New Patient Examination.
The ultimate goal of the New Patient Experience is to instill confidence and trust in the practice. Once a foundation of trust has been established, case presentations are accepted more frequently, patients are more likely to keep their appointments and pay on time, and there’s a greater probability of creating loyal patients who refer family and friends.
Stage 1: The New Patient Phone Call
The New Patient Experience begins before the individual sets foot in the office, during the initial phone call. While dental practices and front desk areas tend to stay busy, the new patient must be given a positive first impression. Calls that are answered quickly suggest a well-run organization with an interest in serving patients. That’s why every time the phone rings, front desk staff members should be prepared to pick up promptly and speak to potential patients using value-based scripting.
The New Patient Phone Call extends a warm welcome from the practice. Everyone who answers the phone should be pleasant, sound enthusiastic, and demonstrate a desire to be helpful: Good morning, this is Stephanie at Simply Smiles. How may I help you? Once the callers identify themselves as new patients, the team member should say something like, I am delighted you called; we love meeting new patients!
Sharing information with the caller can go a long way toward creating confidence in the practice. The more patients know about the practice, the more confidence they will have in the practice. A good place to start is with the dentist—Let me tell you a little bit about Dr. Smith. Have this material carefully scripted to describe the doctor in the best possible light. The conversation should also touch on the staff, services, technologies, or any other innovative or unique aspects of the office. Practices that engage in these types of first phone calls typically have higher case acceptance rates and higher average production per new patient.
After building value and confidence, the next step is to schedule the caller’s appointment. The patient should be offered two time slots. If neither is ideal, the patient will nevertheless try to pick one of the two that work for the practice.
The desired result of the initial phone contact is to schedule 98% of new callers within 7 to 10 days. This ensures that the patients still feel the warmth established in the first call and still have interest in having their oral health needs met by the practice.
Stage 2: The New Patient Orientation
The first visit builds on the relationship that was established in the New Patient Phone Call. Through a combination of excellent scripting and systems that guide new patient interactions, staff members can help new patients feel at home from the time they arrive until they walk out the door.
When new patients first enter the office, front desk staff should come out from behind the desk and greet them with a handshake. They should offer visitors a beverage and show them to a seat before any paperwork gets handled. If the new patient has email access, the practice should send forms and brochures ahead of time. Reading information about the practice will educate patients about the doctor and available services, and better-educated patients are more likely to accept treatment as the relationship progresses.
The next person to meet new patients will likely be the dental assistant. The assistant should also offer a warm-hearted welcome to patients and lead them on a tour of the office. During the conversation, the dental assistant should follow scripting that highlights the best characteristics of the practice and the accomplishments of the doctor. The dental assistant also needs to establish the “Golden Ten” by trying to learn 10 personal things about each new patient. When the doctor is introduced, a few personal details about the patient can be shared to initiate the conversation.
The desired result of the orientation is to make new patients active members of the practice family.
Stage 3: The New Patient Examination
During the new patient examination, the dentist builds on the pleasant relationship established by the team. The Five Phase Exam™ provides doctors with an effective method for engaging new patients in positive conversations about their oral health and the wide range of treatment options offered by the practice. Such an approach builds on most dentists’ analytical nature, turning case presentation into a step-by-step process. Even a quick check-up in each of these areas can identify thousands of dollars in future production.
The New Patient Exam should include all of the following components:
• Periodontal Exam—Can lead to a sizeable number of treatment options, including scaling and root planing, the sale of powered toothbrushes, and more frequent periodontal maintenance.
• Tooth-by-Tooth Exam—Informs patients in layperson’s terms about any issues found in this phase, which allows them to more fully participate in the discussion about their oral health, comprehend the level of care being offered, and gain a better understanding of what the dentist sees.
• Cosmetic Exam—Provides patients an awareness of their current cosmetic condition and how they can benefit from the treatment options offered. The dentist should demonstrate results with before-and-after pictures or digital imaging that show patients how their appearance could be enhanced.
• Implant Exam—Increases patient awareness about this beneficial service. With edentulous patients, dentists should explain that implants are the closest thing to natural dentition, preventing bone loss, restoring chewing efficiency, and permanently replacing missing teeth.
• Occlusal Exam―Shows patients how their teeth actually fit together. Even if the occlusion requires no intervention, the patient will appreciate learning that. This exam represents another way to differentiate the practice and build value for the services, quality, and fees.
By providing a five-step comprehensive exam as outlined above, doctors establish that their practice will go the extra mile to provide the best oral healthcare for its patients.
The desired results are to initiate the patient-doctor relationship, discover the patient’s condition, explain how the practice can meet the patient’s needs, and subtly introduce treatments that may be recommended in the future.
Practices must not only sustain a steady flow of new patients, but must also “wow” every new patient who calls or comes through the door. Patients should be so impressed by the service they receive at every level—the team’s courtesy and appearance, the doctor’s caring demeanor, the staff’s overall attentiveness, and the attractiveness of the office—that they could not imagine going elsewhere for their dental needs. A comprehensive, step-by-step New Patient Experience is designed to persuade people to think of your practice as their dental home.
About the Author
Roger P. Levin, DDS, is a third-generation general dentist and the chairman and chief executive officer of Levin Group, Inc. If you are interested in upgrading your practice’s performance as a business, an analysis of where your practice stands is the place to start. Find out about Levin Group’s Practice Performance Analysis™ at www.levingroup.com/practiceanalysis. You can also connect with Levin Group on Facebook and Twitter (@Levin_Group) to learn strategies and share ideas.