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Welcoming the New Patient

Welcoming the New Patient

Welcoming the New Patient

There are entire businesses that revolve around a new patient and how to “wow” and retain them, so our industry will never stop talking about it. It’s hard enough to find the right marketing strategies to get the patients in your office, but then there is the challenge of creating an exceptional experience and making sure we have strong retention! Here are few points to keep it simple, yet effective:

The new patient call doesn’t have to be 10-15 minutes long. Most patients don’t want to spend that much time making an appointment anyway! Establish what information your office needs to effectively be prepared for them when they come in. I suggest the following and no more:

  • Reason for call,
  • Name and date of birth,
  • Email so you can send them their paperwork and remind them of their appointment,
  • Best daytime contact number, and,
  • Insurance information (including the subscriber ID.)

And don’t forget to personalize this call. If they just moved ask them where they moved from and suggest a local hotspot they should visit – “Welcome to the area! You should check out this great restaurant down the street”. If they are calling because of a tooth ache, empathize with their needs and assure them you will take good care of them – “Let’s get you in as soon as possible so we can make you more comfortable”. Even if it’s just to schedule their recall – “We’re looking forward to seeing you again Mrs. Smith!”

I recommend talking about insurance last. You want to get this information because you don’t want any surprises when they come in, but you also don’t want it to take over the conversation. Make a connection with them first then talk about insurance. “Now that we have an appointment for you, I just want to verify your insurance information real quick so we are prepared for your appointment. What can you tell me about your dental plan?” You’d be amazed at how this approach makes the patient more at ease and more cooperative with the overall process.

When they are in the office, please, please, please SMILE and make eye contact. They won’t bite, and you don’t want to appear as if you will either. I have asked some of my clients to practice smiling at each other and then start smiling as soon as they hear the front door open so they see your smiling face first thing! Let’s be real about how to greet them as well – “How can I help you?” It’s safe to say that 99% of the time they are here for an appointment. If you are diligently watching the schedule, you will have a good idea of who that patient is and even better, have a picture in the chart. The chances of having 10 new patients on the schedule at the same time are slim, so you when they come in try this instead – “Are you Robert? Welcome to the practice – thanks for doing your paperwork online!”

Returning patients are easier, but you still need to smile! “It’s good to see you again Mrs. Jones!”. If you are not sure about how to say their last name, use their first name. Knowing that staff turnover can sometimes be high at the front desk is another reason to make sure you have pictures in the chart. Just about every software company can accommodate this feature so start now! If the clinical team says they don’t have enough time to do it in the back (which is where I would recommend that you do it) have a camera at the front desk or use a tablet securely connected to your office’s private network. It’s that easy!

Eye contact throughout the appointment is crucial! It’s a lot easier to make that first impression in the beginning, the challenge is keeping the energy throughout the appointment. Clinical team members should not walk into the waiting room and “roll call” their patient. Again, you have pictures and another team member that already knows who they are.

Our reliance on the digital world at home and at work means we are often looking at a computer screen. Don’t forget about your patient’s faces! If you have wireless keyboards but need to make notes while you talk to your patient, just grab that keyboard, put it in your lap, roll the chair to face your patient and make notes as you chat. Not that great of a typist? There are free programs on the internet that can help you improve your keyboard skills. And you can always edit that note for grammar and spelling corrections later.

New patient parting gifts can be inexpensive, fun and you can change them often depending on the season. It’s always better to give the new patient “gift” at the end of their appointment so they don’t have to carry it around with them in the office. Not all offices feel this step is necessary, so figure out if you have room in your marketing budget. I have never seen a high referral source from new patient gift bags, so you don’t have to go overboard. It’s just a nice gesture and gives you another reason to smile and make conversation.

The content of these gifts should always include a referral card for friends and family and at least one item with your office’s logo and contact information on them. Here are a few ideas:

  • Umbrellas,
  • A packet of wild flower seeds during the spring,
  • Insulated sports bottles,
  • A Frisbee during the summer,
  • Stadium chairs or cushions for the fall, and,
  • Ice scrapers or ear muffs during the winter (if you your area has a need for them).

Play on the local events and community and check out sites like 4imprint or your local embroidery companies.

Say more than just “Goodbye”. You never want to assume you are not going to see them again, so welcome them back, make a returning appointment, wish them well on their vacation or remind them you will call them next week to follow up.

Speaking of follow up, you must have a good system for this. If the patient leaves and doesn’t schedule a returning appointment, keep their routing slip in a separate pile or have a list next to your phone at the front desk to keep track. You can easily create a form or I can provide one for you (just email me and ask!). Your patient communication software is important, too. Make sure it is set up to send out reminders about treatment or hygiene reminders. Keep a healthy short-call list for last minute openings on your schedule and when you get to the point where you need to get the patient on the phone, personalize the call. Reference the chart and don’t sound scripted.

All of this information will help you with systems and services that make your new patients feel warm and remind you that you are there to do more than collect their money. Having a high new patient count is great, but it’s more important to make sure they become returning patients. This is one of my favorite subjects to talk about, so please reach out to me if you have any questions!

Bridget Fay, BBA
Senior Consultant
Odyssey Management

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