Heraclitus, a pre-Socractic Greek philosopher, said the only constant in life is change. A little over 2,400 years later, that insight couldn’t be more true, especially in a busy dental practice. Even when the doctor delivers clinical care that is exceptional and the team creates a patient experience that is delightful, there will be patient attrition. Patients will move out of the area or get new insurance that is out of insurance networks you accept.
Attracting new patients is critical to the health of a practice, especially if it’s in a growth phase. There are traditional ways to attract new patients, such as flyers and radio advertising, and there are newer mediums like social media and online reviews. Often it is not just “one thing” that results in strong new patient flow, but a combination of investments and initiatives that produce the best results. The key is to measure each effort individually to find what works best to attract the right patients from the community you serve.
Referrals from existing patients remain one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to fill the new patient funnel. Plus, these patients come to the practice with a pre-established level of trust and familiarity, which may make them more receptive to treatment recommendations. But it takes highly satisfied patients to advocate for the practice to their circle of influence. A patient advocate is someone who has enjoyed their time in the practice and has been enabled to get the care they want and need. They are grateful for the services you provide and the way it was delivered. And they tell you so with compliments. It is at this exact moment, or this “magic moment,” to proactively ask for referrals.
“Thank you so much. That was one of the easiest dental appointments I’ve ever had.” “We’re so glad you’re happy! We work hard to make sure we make your time with us as positive as possible. And, we’d love to do the same for your friends and family. Would you be willing to refer our practice to someone you know who could use a great dentist?”
Your reputation matters
One of the newest ways to attract new patients is having a positive, but not perfect, online reputation. According to results from a survey conducted by DentaVox, 86% of patients checked online reviews before choosing their last dentist. Unfortunately, third party sites like Yelp and Healthgrades may attract more negative than positive comments. Similarly to proactively asking for referrals, asking and enabling happy patients to post an online review and rating is important.
“Mrs. Jones, you’ve been a patient of ours for more than eight years! And we are so glad we are able to exceed your expectations. We would like potential new patients to know the type of practice we are, and the best person to hear that from is a happy patient like you. If I send you a link by email, would you take a few minutes to leave a review and rating?”
Be more social
There are different ways to project your practice “brand” through social media. One of the most powerful is to become a source of education and inspiration. You and your team have a lot of knowledge you can share with current and potential patients. Focusing on helping patients instead of “selling” them will make you much more attractive.
Your content should be authentic, personal and personable. Create short content–think tips–on topics you and your team believe are of interest to patients. People like to consume information in bite-sized pieces, so keep it short and sweet. Be personable to show that you are humans first, dental professionals second. And again, proactively ask your happy patients to “like” you, “follow” you and share your tips with friends and family.
New patients from unexpected sources
Make it a habit to ask new patients how they found you. You may uncover unexpected referral sources. For example, there are more than 11 million people who have the CareCredit credit card and another 22,000 approved each month, on average. Many initially use CareCredit at their veterinarian, ophthalmologist or another of the hundreds of thousands of locations that accept the card. Then they seek to use it again for additional healthcare services, including dentistry. (Each month 1.2 million people use the online Acceptance Locator to find a provider who accepts CareCredit. )
Attracting new patients is not a one and done project; it is an ongoing commitment to sharing your skills and services with people in your community who want to achieve oral health. Create a strategy, assign a champion, test the waters and measure and monitor the success. With time, you’ll find those methods, traditional or new, that will help you turn the tap on and increase new patient flow.
makes it easier for patients to access care by providing a healthcare credit card that helps families manage out-of-pocket expenses for dental procedures. For more information, you can call 800-300-3046 x 4519.