Improving Patient Retention in a Dental Practice

Improving Patient Retention in a Dental Practice

July 17, 2019 - Arminco Inc.

While you may think you need new patients in your dental office, you would be surprised by how much you benefit from recall patients. Research shows that on average a standard dental office in the USA has just about 65% patient retention.

The first step is to calculate your current patient-retention in metrics. This is usually difficult because sometimes your practice may not be diligent enough to record patients. Once you can reasonably determine your retention percentage, you can start to improve.

If you realize you have a patient retention problem, you can work to understand what may be leading to this issue by asking these five questions:

Does your practice have a check-out protocol?

This protocol can be as simple as “every patient has to stop by the front desk before leaving the office.” Instruct your assistant to ask your patients “When do you want to schedule your next meeting?” or “Do you prefer morning or afternoon appointments?” Proper verbiage is important for success as simply asking “Do you want to schedule your next appointment?” allows for a “No” answer.

Who is responsible for scheduling the next appointments and why?

The most ideal person for this task is the hygienist because his or her advice will sound more appealing and reasonable to your patients. It is better if the hygienist says “I would like to see you here again in three months because of the bleeding in your upper-right quadrant.” This will cause your patient to take this advice seriously and come back.

Do you review if patients have their next appointments scheduled?

For every patient who visits your office, check to see if they have scheduled the next appointment regardless of service type. Try to discuss potential concerns and problems with the patients and compel them to visit you again. Additionally, protocols should be in place for following up with unscheduled patients.

Do you have appointment-confirmation processes in place?

Ask your patients how they would like to be contacted so you have the best chance of reaching them. In a time when every patient is accustomed to receiving automated texts and emails, many patients may just not respond or respond and miss their appointment anyway. Ask patients how they prefer to be contacted for appointments and take steps to not let them fall through the cracks.

Does your schedule offer appropriate patient access?

If you don’t get any available hygiene appointments for more than six months, it may be time to add a hygiene day. All dental plan provider agreements require patient access to routine patient care within a specified time frame.

Ultimately, the patient experience when they visit your practice will be what determines whether they will come back to your office. Most patients state that they want to avoid dentists because of cost and lack of insurance. However, they also dislike the lectures, the pain, the needle, the sounds, and the smells. While some cannot be avoided, most of these problems can be solved with simple solutions such as providing headphones, sunglasses, pillows, TV, or movies to enhance their experience.


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