Guest Column — Jerry Jones helps solve a pressing problem for dentists
Jerry Jones is a relatively new friend of Prosperident, but his focus on marketing and ability to think outside the box intrigued us. So We are pleased to welcome Jerry as a guest contributor. Here are Jerry’s ideas on producing an immediate cash flow improvement, which is something many of our clients can benefit from.
Jerry’s web site is here.
How to Create a Cash-Flow Surge Within 7 Days or Less
If you have your team implement what I am about to share, you’ll experience a cash flow surge in your practice in a matter of days.
In fact, the results have helped thousands of dentists I’ve worked with over the last 20 years get through tough cash flow crunches on more than one occasion. And, once you get the system in place, you can repeat this process once or twice a year and it can become part of a regular routine.
What I’m talking about is patient reactivation.
Inactive patients are a part of every practice – and it doesn’t matter just how great your team is at keeping patients active in your practice. In fact, here are two routine experiences every office has:
1.) Patients leave your office with a scheduled appointment and later cancel it. And this is where a lot of practices lose track of patients. Eventually, enough time lapses and even the patient forgets or willingly puts off calling back to schedule.
2.) There’s a system break-down (or lack of a system) and patients are not scheduled for a “next” appointment either by the DA checking them out, the hygienist or the front office person. In my office, Wellness Springs Dental® of Salem, the clinical staff makes the next appointment while the patient is sitting in the chair. An appointment card is filled out and provided to the pt. In hygiene, our patients fill out their own reminder postcard (oldest trick in the book, right?). You might think this is happening in your office, but have you checked recently? Have you physical proof?
In both instances above, that forgotten patient fits my definition of an inactive patient – someone lacking a next appointment. If they have no next appointment, how can you possibly call them active?
You see, dental practices offer one of the few professional, medical practices that offer the opportunity for continuity revenue. Physicians don’t have this luxury unless they’re doing injectables (Botox, etc.). In chiropractic, patients usually have a defined term of treatment that might only last weeks or at most, months. Shoot, even non-medical pros like attorneys, rarely have a business that require regular visits. CPAs are an exception. They usually hold on to their clients for a long period of time due in large part to the high pain level of disconnect.
In dentistry, we set up our patients to visit us every 3, 4 or 6 months (if you have a strong soft tissue management program, you probably have as many 3 month visitors as 6 month).
It’s a great model that promotes my favorite kind revenue: recurring revenue. Until that is, a patient falls through the cracks as in the instances above, and are without that next appointment.
Now, you might be saying at this point, “Jerry, so what? So what if I have 500 patients that are inactive and without a next appointment. Is it reallyworth all the trouble?”
YES. It’s absolutely worth the trouble. Here’s why:
First, it’s far easier to get treatment accepted by someone you have a relationship with, especially if they have treatment you’ve prescribed. It’s easy for your staff to use that prescribed treatment as a lever to increase “compliance” for those who’ve not been in to get treatment started (or finished), or, to get that check-up. Remember, they already, theoretically, know, like and trust you.
Second, it’s far easier to get a buyer (your patient) to buy again vs. going to the expense ($100 to $500 or more per new patient) of attracting a new patient and then take the time to develop a relationship and trust.
(Incidentally, increasing the frequency of visits/purchases of both inactive and active patients, is one of the easiest ways to increase your cash flow!)
So we’ve discussed the definition of an “inactive” patient, we’ve covered how patients fall through the proverbial cracks, so let’s take that next logical step and review the best way to reactivate these lost souls.
Step 1: Identify them. Run a report in your practice mgmt. software that tells you who does NOT have a next appointment. If you’re unsure how to do this, contact your software support. This is really critical and can save you hours of time. Otherwise, the back-up plan is to go back month-by-month and look at every patient that should have a next appointment. This is arduous, but, don’t discount it as unnecessary if you can’t get the report you want or something similar.
Step 2: Export the list to a format compatible with Excel, so you can edit, update and have easy access to phone numbers and emails.
Step 3: Create a “campaign” that your staff will follow-through with that will get these folks from inactive to active status.
After doing this for a couple decades, we’ve devised a simple formula for this reactivation campaign. It should consist of the following:
If you’re familiar with a “dunning” campaign, this is similar. Each contact with the inactive patient becomes more urgently presented. The first contact is casual. The postcard more urgent. The phone call, more so. The email or text or both, still more and then a final letter that explains the doctor is really concerned and at this time, you’ll leave it up to them.
My friend and Member, Dr. Chris Griffin of Ripley, MS, goes so far as to send a faux dental chart in the mail with a hand-scribbled note from him to his staff that the patient sees inside. The note conveys just how important that next appointment is and how concerned Dr. Griffin is over this patient being inactive.
All of these steps and the 100s of variations you could add, get the patient to understand just how important it is to get back to the office and get reactivated. (We also have articles written for patient newsletters that explain how to avoid becoming an “inactive” patient.)
You might also be wondering why we use direct mail, a phone call and email/text. Good question. The biggest reason: not everyone responds to the same media. So, by using different media/ways to reach them, you’ll actually reach more of them. So, skipping steps or attempting to get away with just a letter or just a phone call will inhibit your results.
The steps I mention above should be spaced no more than 7 to 10 days apart. All in, a campaign from start to finish should span no more than 60 days. Preferably, 45 days at the most.
I’ve had members tell me they’ve taken their inactive patients from as far back as five years, and had success reactivating them. (If you do this, reach out to me and I’ll explain how to avoid wasting hundreds of dollars or more, on postage and printing, by making sure you have your patients’ most recent addresses – since roughly 30% of your patient base moves annually.)
Is there some work involved? Yes. Of course. But, it’s work that has a direct, measurable, very fast payoff. What’s more, your patients will actually thank you for reaching out to them. They forget. They get busy. And, because dentistry is such a small slice of their life, often, unless pain is persistent, they’ll delay and, eventually just forget.
Do yourself a favor: get your inactive patients identified and reach out to them now.