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Practice Management for Dentists - Why Your Patients Leave

Jun 10, 2008
I just finished reading an article in an old issue of Dental Economics regarding building trust in your patients.

The article cited a survey of 1000 consumers in which 25% of the respondents said they stopped seeing a physician due to communication problems.

You say, "But I talk to my patients all the time, my communication with them is great!"

Okay, point taken, but we have to remember, (and your spouse will tell you) communication is a two way street. It does not mean just talking, but LISTENING.

Case in point, this morning I was at the dentist, and had just began a prophy when my worst fears came to realization...

Grape flavored prophy paste... YUCK!!!

Now, I have been going to the same dental office for the last 3 years, and every time I experience this little bit of discomfort. I am not a big fan of these "flavored" pastes at all, and prefer either the regular mint, or the No Flavor paste. (Who taste tests these anyway?)

I have let the office know this every time I have been there, and yet every time I go in it seems I have to tell them again. And, usually I am the one left with a bad taste in my mouth.

Being in the industry, I know there are places in the practice management software, or special "alert" stickers that can be placed on a file. These are usually reserved to alert the dentist to any allergies, or special conditions. In other words, the best interest of the practice.

Now, in my case, there is no alert sticker, note in my file, or even a yellow sticky note alerting the hygienist to my request for flavorless paste.

It is almost as if my likes/needs have not been documented for sake of practice efficiency.

All it takes in this instance is a little extra step from the hygienist or dentist (who also noted my flavor choice aloud) to write this in or on my patient file, or make a note in the fancy computer system, and next time I won't be surprised by the newest sensation in flavored prophy paste.

It's small things like this that make people leave the dentist. You may have done your cleaning and checkup to perfection, but when I taste grape in my mouth by surprise, that is what I (the patient) will note.

So, when communicating with your patients, make sure the patient gets a chance to talk, and make sure you take the opportunity to listen.

Don't leave a bad taste in their mouth.

Action-To-Take Tip: Implement a system that allows for easy documentation of your patients' needs, as well as their likes and dislikes. Put a small piece of paper on the front of each patient's file. Even if the paper remains blank, at least it is there for you to be able to quickly jot down any comments that the patient may make regarding their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with your processes.
About the Author
James Erickson is the President of EMC Dental Marketing which gives Dentists a resource for turn-key dental marketing programs and dental practice marketing education including new patient attraction, and internal marketing systems. Visit www.EMCdental.com and get a free practice
building kit sent directly to your home or office.
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