How to Deliver Total Patient Service AND Keep Your Schedule Under Control
Building the Foundation
Why the Problem is Not the Problem…
Like so many things in life and in dentistry, cancellations are not a problem! They are just a symptom.
Don’t think of cancellations as a problem. They’re not! The problem lies with the overall system you have in place to help patients accept and stay committed to treatment.
If you have a lot of cancellations, don’t try fixing the symptom, try going back and taking a look at the cause – the case acceptance system you have in place.
The foundation of a solid case acceptance system, which helps patients commit and stay committed to treatment, starts with every team member having a clear understanding of the purpose of the practice. If you don’t know why you are there in the first place, it is not likely you’ll do a very good job of it. So start asking your team the tough questions. The next time you have a team meeting, ask them what the purpose of the practice is and then just shut up and listen! At first, the silence may be deafening!
In short, everyone’s purpose should be to create happy, paying patients who pay more that it costs to serve him or her and repeats and refers. Imagine the difference it would make to focus on patient commitment – not just “appointmentbook control” at the front desk. Or how about every clinical assistant focusing on long-term patient relationships with the practice, not just organizing instruments and taking x-rays. How you view your job causes behavior that creates results with patients.
A Fundamental Philosophy
What’s your system?
Once everyone on the team understands their purpose, then you better wake up to the next fact: your patients don’t come trained when they show up to your office!
Most patients have experienced so much abuse of their time, and have been treated so much like a number or health insurance policy instead of as a person, that they have subconsciously come to expect something similar everywhere they go in healthcare. Because of that, everyone on the team needs to understand that you have to teach your patients how to treat you.
It starts by treating them with respect and courtesy, and asking for and expecting the same in return. You communicate those expectations every moment you interact with them, from the first conversation on the phone to the last good-bye as they walk out the door.
It is a funny thing in life: we often get what we expect, because our expectations influence our behavior and our behavior creates results.
Creating a committed patient who follows through and doesn’t cancel is more than just a grab bag of miscellaneous tactics. It is about having a comprehensive system that you and your team use every day to get consistent, predictable results with your patients.
So what’s your system? If cancellations flair up, do you just look at your administrative team and “tell” them to pull it together? Or do you look at the entire system you have created with your team to keep patients committed to treatment, and see where the breakdown is?
If you don’t have a system, then you are totally dependant on the people in your practice to make it up as they go along every day, and do the best they can.
That’s not good for your practice. It’s not fair to your team. And it is only frustrating to everyone involved.
What’s your system?
1. Discuss and define the purpose your practice with your team. Until everyone on the team is saying the same thing, you won’t have any hope of seeing them doing what it takes to get and keep committed patients.
2. What do you need to do to “teach your patients how to treat you?” How are you training them today? What are your real expectations and how do you communicate with them verbally and non-verbally?
3. What’s your system? Start working with your team today to define and fine-tune the system everyone will use to gain and retain happy, healthy, committed patients.
Who’s Most At Risk?
Hygiene Patients: They may think: “It’s just a cleaning.”
New Patients: They may feel anonymous, and say to themselves: “No one knows me.”
“Financial Flu” Patients: Patients who get “sick” the day of treatment because of payments due.
We teach patients how to treat us.
That is accomplished in a positive way. Reward good behavior and set positive expectations of your patients in advance.
Stop Cancellations Rule: Patients place as much importance on their appointment time as YOU do.
80% of the solution comes from preventing the problem in the first place. Set your patients up to succeed in your practice.
(This does not replace the “Appointment Commitment Call” that is placed by the administrative team two days before the scheduled appointment.)
For a detailed solution to preventing patient cancellation, download the FREE e-book, Stop Cancellation: How to Deliver Total Patient Service AND Keep Your Schedule Under Control, by Steven J. Anderson, from which this article is condensed. Supercharge your morning meetings with FREE daily Action Thoughts!