In this week's Monday Morning Marketing episode, I'm joined with dental marketing expert Christa Nes-Iadicola, who shares four key tips for a great patient experience: consistency, simplicity, cohesiveness, and connection. Consistency means patients know what to expect when they visit and you deliver! Simplicity ensures that the whole process is low friction, with easy scheduling and no need to re-ask questions. Cohesiveness makes sure your team is on the same page, answering commonly asked questions in a uniform fashion. Lastly, connection is the unique experience aspect, calling your patients by name and taking detailed chart notes. She also emphasizes approaching patients with servitude, not entitlement, and sending personal letters to patients who leave.
Drop in on my conversation with Christa for valuable insights on improving your patients' experience!
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Michael: Hey Krista, so talk to us about patient retention. How can we utilize this, or what advice or suggestions can you give us? That will help us with this.
Christa: Yes, Michael? So I think when you talk about patient retention, it really comes down to,
one thing, and that's a great patient experience.
And to have a great patient experience, I think you really need to dial in for. Key points.
and the first one is consistency. You have to have your systems and protocol in place. Um, the patient needs to know what to expect for that appointment, and then you need to deliver that. So once that is done, that's the first step in trust.
After you repeat that process in every area of your practice, the patients begin to trust you. So, um, when you think about systems and protocol that you need to have in place to have good patient retention, There really are a lot that go into it, but if you look at just a few, look at your policies, look at your cancellation policy.
Look at your confirmation policy. Do your patients know what they are or are they calling to cancel their appointment? And the staff is. Annoyed that they're canceling their appointment within two short timeframe, but they never were aware of your policy. That creates friction between the staff and the patient, obviously.
So the patients need to know exactly what to expect on every level. So this is prepping them for their appointments. If it's a first appointment, even if it's a return appointment, they want to know what to expect. And once you're hitting those x. Expectations, um, then the patient starts to trust you. I think you also have to think about your policies when it comes to follow up.
So when you're following up with patients that cancel, are we just letting them fall through the cracks and then picking it up at another time when they're not necessarily thinking about that appointment anymore? Or is there a good protocol in place that we've became consistent on within the staff?
obviously when you're looking at patient retention, your attrition rate will start to go up as soon as those patients hit a certain month mark, and they're not reappointing. So look up at how you're reappointing. Are you reappointing? And what is your follow-up system look like? Most offices these days use um, automation, which is great, but when are you going to get a personal touch and.
in that process with the patient. So is what I find with the offices that I work with is that a lot of staff will have limiting beliefs, in this area specifically. They'll say, well, I'm looking at their history and it shows that we've texted them this many times. I'm not going to reach out and annoy them.
But the simplest form of communication and even texting, still using the automation, but just saying, hi, this is Krista from this dentist office, is a way that your patients do start to respond. Um, and at times you may have to, yes, pick up the phone and contact them directly, but patients are just like us busy, so they're appreciative of that.
So I think. , there's a a big hold up with the staff that I see that are in charge of doing this process. It's just not being done because they simply don't think it needs to be, or they feel like they're annoying patients when they do that. So the second one, that I think is a key factor, especially in today's world.
Like I said, patients are busy is simplicity. So is it easy to schedule in your practice? do you send online forms? But in that initial phone call you're asking further address, . No. So I see a lot of redundancies like that. Or are you having them fill out your med history form, which obviously is necessary and they're entering all their insurance information.
But then when they come in, that's the first question that you're asking them. Do you have a copy of your insurance card? Makes the patient feel like, well, why did I spend all that time doing it for you? So we really need to get the simplicity in the office and look at, again, look at all of your. , are they simple for the patient or are they about us?
So are they about making our jobs easier or are they simple for the patient? And I believe that, um, when you really take a step back and look at the patient experience and look at the staff process, that it all can be intertwined and be easy for the patient and still work for the staff. but it does take some work to get it there.
So, um, a huge one that I see, and I was actually in an office just this morning and this happened was, insurance, right? Insurance is confusing for patients. A lot of times patients will have a medical insurance card and it won't have the dental on it, and they'll say, well, I didn't get it until card, which is true.
And you know, people that work in a dentist's office, staff members do know that to be true and. , I can think of the top three in my area that are notorious dental insurances for not giving a dental card. Right? And I, I would say Delta is one of those among any area, and we all know and have the capability to log into that Delta website, type in a social and a birthdate when that patient is standing in front of you.
and pull their benefits up within, I won't even say minutes, within a minute. So that's something that's totally at our reach that I see offices passing back to the patient, well, you need to talk to your hr. You need to find out who's your dental insurance, or We can't file, or we can't see you, or whatever.
The thing that they're saying is, when really if you would just type that number into Delta or do a employer search on your, practice management software, they all have it, right? The the answer is right there in front of us. So if we put in a little bit of effort for that patient is what happens is it kind of clears out all of the backend side of things.
You're not having to follow up with that patient, make sure they did call back, then verify the benefits, and then send the claim. making that effort for the patient coming up with an. and then your backend process is cleared. So in this case, the patient, he did find out who his insurance was through and he was just saying, oh, I just have a member id.
I don't have a card. Is that okay? I said, yes, we can help. I messaged him back. I just said, I'll just text you back and make sure everything's good. And he said, wow. Thank you so much. Your staff is awesome. I am so happy because this was such a stressful morning when I didn't have the insurance and I was trying to find the information.
So, as we know, dental insurance doesn't make things easy for us either. They don't make it for the patients easy as well. So I think that's an. Major area where the staff members are always more well-versed than the patients that you really can help them. And that kind of thing goes a long way. Um, so if we approach talking to our patients with an attitude of servitude rather than entitlement, you should have brought me that card.
That was your responsibility. You knew you were coming for an appointment, whatever their reasoning may be. If we approach it with an attitude of how can I help? , then that patient obviously is going to have a better experience. So the next one that I see is cohesiveness. And this kind of plays into the other ones as well, um, into consistency.
But the patients will ask the same question multiple times. We all know that. So they're going to ask the same question when they call and talk to the front desk as they may ask the clinician when they sit down for their appointment. So is that answer always the. or are we contradicting each other within that answer?
So if one staff member answers this question and. another answers it differently. Um, it can often turn into a he said, she said situation, right? And then depending on your office culture, depends on how that's gonna play out. Are you gonna start having staff members throw each other under the bus or, um, what's that gonna look like?
Are you gonna just always speak? Calling saying, oh, well, we have to get our office manager involved and they can figure it out. Um, so what does that look like? Is there a cohesive feel in the office? and is there a positive. Office culture on how the staff are interacting with each other as well as the patients, how the doctors are interacting with the staff and the patients.
Is there a cohesive kind of culture that the patients then know to come and expect and can be true at your office? . so if you really have all of these three things dialed in, your patients will start to trust you because they'll have no reason not to. Right? Um, so then I think there's one last piece that if you add in, it just takes your office to the next level.
And that is the piece of connection and care. So you have trust without this, but then when you add it in, you really start to get those loyal patients that you then have no problems, retain. . when you think about that, there's really a lot that you can do with it and you can really cater it to your office and the core cultures that your office has to offer.
Um, but the first thing is make it each visit personalized. And it, it sounds silly to say out loud, but I'll tell you the number of offices that I walk into and hear the front desk speak to the patients and. Hi, what's your name? Is Unreal. So there's no better way to make a patient feel like a number than saying, hi, what's your name?
So when you, again, look at your practice management software, they all have a place for a patient photo. So your check-in person, your greeting person, . patients typically come in on the hour, half an hour, somewhat staggered, but there's no reason that even if you have 15 patients coming in on the hour, they can't look at those patients and use some sort of deductive reasoning to see their name.
Or I don't even care if the patient sits down in the waiting room after they've greeted them, and then they figure out whose name it is and check them in. Right. So there's really. To me, no excuse for that. And there's a number of strategies that you can use on that as well. But that is the first.
Point. typically in the patient experience when they're coming into the office that you really wanna set the stage because you have been expecting them, right? If they canceled their appointment, you would've been mad at them, so now they're here, so be happy with them, right? So if we look at it like that, um, I think it starts to change, but, uh, it's also knowing how to speak to your patients, right?
So anytime you're asking your patients, Do something. Obviously you're going to have those certain protocols that you have in place and anytime you're asking the patient to do something, they may not want to say. You only schedule your um, major procedures in the morning. . So add in the value of why that's important, not for you, for the patient, and then talk to them in that way.
So say, Michael, uh, I know that you prefer later in the afternoon, but for this procedure, the doctor does it first thing in the morning. We don't double book at this time so you can have his full attention and we can get you in out here as soon as possible. Well, now you understand why that's necessary before you just understand that that doesn't work for your.
right? So it's knowing how to add the value to the patient with what your. asking them to do. and then there's a lot that you can do to make the experience personal. Obviously adding in your chart notes, something that you spoke about the last time, and then following up on it the next time, that makes the patient feel that you do remember them.
Um, and usually if you have the chart notes down, you can kind of trigger the memory on that. Um, one that I see a lot too is, uh, and I think this is very important for the. Is to prep the doctors that day with larger practices. Like, Hey, you, you have done an exam on this patient before You just met them one time.
They're a little overdue, so it was eight months ago, so I'm not sure if you're going to remember them, but don't go in and reintroduce yourself. Right? Nothing worse than that. So, , make them aware, of the patients that they're not meeting . And the best way to do that again, is to have those structures and protocol in place, but then have that connection point and reference it from last time.
So then once you kind of, and, and all of these things are harder to do of course, if you don't have your systems and protocol in place. But once you do, then you can really start to. Personalize it. You can do a lot of it with automation as well. Um, you're gonna put a personal touch on it, but even in your software, if you are talking to patients and they're expecting a baby, or they're getting married or graduating or retirement, there's a lot that you can do with that in the form of cards, emails following up the next time, and really just kind of connecting with that patient on the level of, Hey, well, Only, you know, we're really relationship in this way, but we really do care for you.
Um, so I think that is major. And again, even if you approach contacting patients when they're overdue or due for treatment in a way of care, , and this is a team effort, and you relate it back to their chart notes. While I see the last time that you came in, doctor was concerned about this area, so he asked me to give you a call to follow up on that because we, we wanted to make sure we got that taken care of for you.
So I think it's really about being intentional in the way you do things and realizing that. Um, it's a team effort. It's all going together. You need to be keeping good notes. You need to be referencing each other's notes, and you need to be follow up in that way, even stating, Hey, no, you canceled your appointment cuz you were sick or you feeling better?
How's it going? Can we get you scheduled back in? referencing all those notes is it's just going to make the patient feel like they're not a number. they really. Care. So I think that is really key as well, on, um, retaining the patients. And then of course, if you do have a patient that decides to leave, make sure that you, you make them aware that you will miss them, right?
Mm-hmm. so. And then a letter that you're saying, Hey, thank you for time with us. If anything in your future were to change, we would always love to have you back and extend that invitation and open the door. So if they were not happy with their new office, they can come back to your office, um, but without feeling embarrassed or, or like they shouldn't have left in the first place.
Michael: Yeah. No, that's wonderful. if you could real quick, let us know, would this be really helpful in the morning huddles or like in a team meeting to make sure, like, let's make sure we're all cohesive here with, with our patients.
Christa: Yeah, definitely. Um, you know, go over certain points in the morning huddles.
There's a lot that you can do. And again, it's a team effort and it's just about being intentional. you may have a patient coming in and their spouse hasn't been in, in quite some time. Well, it's okay, you know, make sure you're not breaking any HIPAA laws obviously, but ask about that. and say their spouse is gonna go home and say, Hey, I was just at the dentist's office and they were asking about you because you, you haven't made an appointment in a while.
So there's a lot that you can do internally too to kind of get those patients back on the books. But the morning huddle is the perfect place to kind of, um, prep for this, or even if, if a patient had a rough appointment the last time to really make sure that you make this experience. better, So be aware of those things and then if you do have a patient that has a long wait time or something, um, figure out a way that you can kind of remedy it so they can get back to that consistent experience and realize that that one time was the outlier.
Michael: Awesome. Krista, I appreciate your time and if anyone has further questions, you can definitely find her in the Dental Marketer Society Facebook group or where can they reach out to you
Christa: directly? Yeah, they can email me at info krista ness llc dot.
Michael: Awesome. So guys, that's gonna be in the show notes below, so definitely reach out to her.
Krista, thank you for being with me on this Monday morning marketing episode.
Christa: Thanks, Michael.