Imagine if all we had to do was hang up our shingles and a line of patients showed up out the door. Those days are long gone. As business owners, we must plan how we will increase our numbers of active patients. This is not just a simple matter of attracting new patients with advertising, as you will see. Here are my four categories for increasing active patients
Increase Community Awareness
How do you get people who haven’t heard of your practice to hear about it and want to make an appointment? The most common strategies that come to mind are direct mail, traditional advertising (newspapers, radio, television, etc), and social media. But there are other tried and true methods that work extremely well. I have greatly benefited from joining networking groups (including Chambers of Commerce, Lion’s Clubs, etc) and throwing parties for local businesses. Another tactic we could put in this category is targeting a specific group, such as the food and beverage industry, and offering incentives. I’ll talk more about that next week.
Theoretically, having lower fees will attract more patients, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Let’s say there are five dentists in town. Prospective patients can’t easily see what everyone’s crown fee is; they would have to call the offices and ask. Not a lot of patients do this, nor would we want them to; it reduces our services into a commodity. So most patients won’t know that one dentist’s fees are less than the others. The major way this strategy works is by participating with a third-party payer. If I accept Metlife PPO then a whole bunch of potential patients see me listed as a provider and they have an incentive to see me over a dentist who is not.
Reactiving Existing Patients
Every practice has a percentage of patients who have fallen out of the continuing care cycle, not followed up after a consult, or won’t be returning for other reasons (moved, died, etc). Our goal is to constantly sift through this percentage and make it as low as possible. Reactivating existing patients costs less money and takes less time than acquiring brand new patients.
Offering New Services
Adding a new therapy to your practice can help attract new patients if you offer something other practices do not. It can also help reactivate existing patients. Sleep apnea, implant dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, dermal fillers, same-day crowns… the list goes on. It is important to note that one must still increase community awareness (as described above) about these new procedures.