Continuing Care is the Lifeblood of Your Dental Practice

When I was presenting to a group of doctors during a large dental meeting, I remember one gentleman in the back row asked me, “Are new patients or existing patients more important to the practice?” The reason he was asking me that question is because we were talking about practice numbers and one of my top five KPIs is patient retention. I answered him by saying that new patients are necessary because you will always have natural attrition in the practice. However, your continuing care patients are the lifeblood of the practice. Your recare patients already have a relationship with you. They trust you. They refer their friends and family to you.

It is so easy to track your patient retention in your Dentrix software. However, if someone is stuck on tracking new patients, I then flip the patient retention around and ask, “What is your net new patient number?” That person usually looks at me like I have three heads and thinks I am from a different planet.

The net new patient number would be the total number of new patients less your patient attrition. If you have 30 new patients in a month but your attrition rate is 30%, then you need consider this when looking at your systems.

Acquiring new patients is, for the most part, an external marketing process, but the patient retention is primarily an internal marketing process. Now you might be asking, “Marketing? How is managing your recare marketing?” One of my favorite dental industry books is Fred Joyal’s book, “Everything is Marketing” and I give it out to all my clients. After you read it, you will understand how everything you do in the dental practice is marketing.

You can find your patient retention number in Dentrix on the Practice Advisor Report. I use this report to perform assessments for all my offices before I go in for an in-office consulting/training session so I can see where we can celebrate systems that are working well and where we need to make improvements. Specifically, the patient retention number is on the continuing care page and it calculates it based on the number of patients who have had a regular hygiene visit compared to your total active patients. This percentage should be in the high 80%/low 90%. The highest I have ever seen it with one of my offices is 94% and the lowest I have seen it is 66%.

Now there are many factors that might go into a low patient retention. However, in this article, I am going to focus on what you can do in your Dentrix software to help keep your hygiene schedule full and not let people fall through the cracks. You can read my blog on being proactive with your schedule that will give you more tools to help improve your patient retention by CLICKING HERE

  • Make sure you are managing your Unscheduled List and keeping it current and up-to-date. This list is a great resource for following up with patients and filling your schedule so don’t ignore it. Appointments should not sit on this list for more than 6-12 weeks.
  • Use one of the two continuing care reports for finding patients who are overdue. Remember that if you are using an automated system to reach out to your patients by text or email, they cannot reach 100% of your patients. You must supplement your automated system with some phone calls or manual follow up.
  • Have a system in place to inactivate patients. At some point, you might have to let the patient go and, when I worked in a dental practice, I would send out a letter letting my patients know that we were inactivating the patient’s record because of lack of communication. I sent this letter out with a last visit date of 18 months and, in many cases, I had patients call to schedule because they didn’t realize it had been so long. Sometimes patient respond to mail instead of technology.

With all these tips above, it is important that your team is always making follow-up notes in the same place so everyone is on the same page. My recommendation is to always make notes in the Dentrix Office Journal. The Office Journal is a central place your admin team can find notes with patients, letters sent, and other pertinent information.

This article is a great tool to help bring awareness of the tools in Dentrix to keep your schedule full and improve your patient retention number. If you want to dive deeper in this topic or other topics, make sure to download our free resource guide or join our membership.

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