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Dental Practice Consultant - 3 Steps You Must Take to Protect Your Practice's No.1 Asset

Jul 24, 2008
As a service oriented business, you have one main asset your practice that you could not survive without... your patients.

But so many dental practices we see are more worried about where the next mouth will come from; when the next dollar is going to come through the door. All the while, ignoring the dollars (and future dollars) that have already walked in and out of their door several times.

As your practice grows, patients are not listed on a balance sheet, or a profit and loss statement, but they are the most valuable pieces to any practice. Every other piece of equipment in your office can be replaced, but if you lose the patients, none of it really matters.

This is what we call patient equity. The amount of investment of time and quality work you put into that patient is considered an investment in your patient equity. Like a house, having more equity in your patient base leads to a happier practice owner. Then, also like a house, your patient base can truly be considered an asset. As an asset your patient list is something you need to protect in more than one way.

Here are the 3 steps you must take to protect your practice's 1 asset:

1.) You MUST create a scheduled backup system. A copy of your patient list that is stored somewhere other than within your practice. Put it on CD every month or so, and put it in a safe deposit box.

If your practice (heaven forbid) burns to the ground, or someone breaks in and steals all your computer hardware, this backup will serve as a good starting point to get back up and running. The chairs and computers are replaceable, but the patients' names and addresses are invaluable, and you cannot risk them.

2.) Your patients' security must be guarded. Secure the data on your computer server.

Chances are you have patient names, addresses, and even credit card numbers. This information needs to be password protected, as well as encrypted securely even in your practice software system. Ask your manufacturer how they protect your patients' information, should the computer be stolen or your internet security compromised.

Should a compromise of information happen, it could mean disaster for your trustworthiness with your current patients, and your relationship with current and future patients may never recover.

3.) You must take steps to maintain the patient/practitioner relationship and improve your patient equity. Protect yourself from losing your patients to other dentists. There are many facets to this, and they include everything from surveys to customer service.

Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks Owner and internet billionaire, once said about his basketball franchise, "Everyone has thousands of entertainment choices and we don't want to create any excuses for them to go and spend their money somewhere else." This is truly the way you must think in a 21st century service oriented business.

There are more places for a consumer to spend their money today, than there ever has been in the past. These opportunities range everywhere from flat screen televisions, to new cars, to full mouth "extreme makeover" restorations. You need to have the best customer service, the best staff, and do the best work to make sure there is no excuse for your patient to leave.

Sure, the attrition of some patients due to death or relocation has been accepted, but no controllable excuse should be tolerated. These people have money they are willing to spend with you, and you don't want to give them an easy reason to go away. You cannot neglect your future receivables. A future receivable is the money your patient has in their mind that they are willing to spend with you, even though they have not signed an agreement for treatment.

As an example, at my next dental appointment, I am going to spend $200 for an exam and cleaning. That is the dentist's money to lose. If the office does something to lose me as a patient, or doesn't do enough to keep me from going somewhere else, the practice will lose my $200.

Future receivables, like patients, are not tracked on any balance sheet, and are hard to track at all, but be assured, every patient counts as a future receivable for your practice. Whether it is $200 or $2000, your patients do have an amount in mind that they are going to spend with you in the future.

The future receivables all figure into your patient equity. Take a good look at your schedule book for the next six months and you can get a good idea of what your revenues will look like. That's your patient equity in action.

There are many steps you can and should be taking to protect this patient equity.

Before you go any further, each of your patients needs to have a solid foundation to build a relationship on. This means customer service, both on the phone and in person, needs to be near flawless. If you have a problem with an established patient, it may be forgivable, but with a new patient, it may lead to a rocky future, or no future at all.

The way to truly set your practice and business apart and lock in patient loyalty is through non-essentials. Providing current patient specials, referral contests, and patient-only events are all considered non-essentials. Utilize different methods to keep your current patients involved when they aren't physically in the practice.

Other non-essentials include knowing details about your patients such as their occupation, their family, or their hobbies. The more you can entwine your practice in their life, the harder it will be for them to go anywhere else.

Of all of the steps to take, and possibly one of the simplest to provide is a simple newsletter. The patient newsletter can provide a bridge between hygiene recall appointments, and can serve as a line of communication, both outgoing and incoming. It also provides you with a great media to communicate with your patients about the other services and non-essentials you provide. This is the best way to retain and secure a patient in your practice.

In conclusion, make sure to protect your patient base. It is the most important asset you have in your practice. Create systems and provide training to build solid foundations on which to establish a patient relationship, and create an ongoing maintenance plan to continue investment in your patient equity.
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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