Perhaps the biggest challenge we have in dentistry is creating value for the care provided. People will pay for things they value and likewise, patients will keep appointments for the things they value. While there can be many reasons for cancellations and no-shows, at the most fundamental level the reason patients cancel or no-show appointments is that they really don’t value the care they receive.
I know this sounds harsh, but it is a fundamental truth. Creating value should be a continuous exercise in your practice where you and your team members are constantly striving to help patients understand the value of great oral health.
One of the ways you can create value with patients is a clear communication of expectations. Below is a way to help patients understand what is unique about your office upon their very first visit to your practice. You will notice that we also use this as an opportunity to explain what we expect of them. I like to think of this as the ‘What’s In It For You’ discussion.
At the end of the Patient Tour (see Sept 13 Blog post http://bit.ly/oq300h) we escort the patient into the new patient treatment room and our Patient Coordinator has the following discussion with the patient:
Patient Coordinator: “Linda, before we get started today I would like to tell you a little about our approach here at LifeSmiles Dental Care. We love seeing new patients and you are at the right office! There are many benefits to being a patient in our office and I’d like to point out four very specific benefits:
1) You can be expected to be treated like family. We like to think of our office as a big extended family. As a patient here you can expect Dr. Nielson to treat you exactly as he would treat any of his family and loved ones.
2) We provide state-of-the-art care. Dr. Nielson uses the highest quality materials, dental laboratories, equipment, and he prides himself and the team on taking the latest courses on dental advancements so that you can receive the highest quality dental care available today. The quality of care you receive here is our highest priority and you will be thrilled with the care you receive here.
3) We stand behind our treatment. Should you require any treatment, we will provide you with a written warranty of that treatment. If anything does not meet your standards or our standards we will happily replace it at no cost to you. If any treatment is recommended I will go over the warranty with you.
4) As an active patient of our office you can expect to reach Dr. Nielson after hours. We hand the patient a business card with the practice cell phone highlighted and explain that if they ever need to reach Dr. Nielson after hours they are welcome to call him at that cell number. We explain that if it is not urgent they can call the office phone and leave a message, but if they ever feel like they urgently need to speak with Dr. Nielson they can call the cell number.”
After this discussion, our Patient Coordinator then continues:
Patient Coordinator: “Now that you know what you can expect from us, I’d like to take a moment to explain what we expect from you. It’s very simple, really. Just one thing. If you make an appointment, we expect you to show up……………..Now, we fully understand that things can happen and if it ever happens that you need to reschedule and appointment we kindly ask that you give us at least 48 hours notice so that we can schedule another deserving patient. Does that sound fair to you?”
This exercise is an excellent way to build value and politely communicate your expectations about keeping their appointments. The exercise is carefully crafted. You explain four very specific benefits to them, and ask for only one expectation in return. Give it a try, it has worked well for us! Keep Smiling!