Managing Your New Patient Flywheel

Kevin Cook

Kevin Cook

February 13, 20217 min read

What defines growth for a dental practice?

Revenue margins, production volumes, number of locations, number of patients, the list of metrics are endless. But a simple enough pointer that definitely signals practice growth can be the volume of patients visiting your practice. But is it the number of patients a practice sees every year, or is it the patients that stay and bring in revenue that determine the success of the practice in the long run?

Let’s face the facts, patient attrition is a reality for every dental practice. You cannot retain all your patients all the time. With a range of options to choose from, switching to a new dental practice is an easy option for your patient. Add to that, the plush discount offers and the serious marketing efforts taken up by group practices and DSOs in your neighborhood. The competition to grab the patients is getting tighter, and keeping your patient retention is not simple anymore.

The average general dentist keeps only four out of ten new patients beyond their first appointment

So the next best option is to pump up your new patient flywheel so that it covers your attrition rates and still gets you more patient volume. But with new patients, you need to act smart so that you can ensure they bring value and the relationship matures into a long-term partnership. In terms of homework, do you evaluate if your typical new patient:

  • Bring in value in terms of long-term revenue?

  • Is capable of bringing referrals and running your new patient flywheel?

Without profitable new patients that can bring in even more numbers, adding new patient numbers at the practice may not make much sense. And soon, the practice may find itself in a precarious situation of having more numbers, but less revenue and fewer prospects.

How much is a new patient worth to a dental practice?

A steady stream of profitable new patients is more than necessary for the practice, but how do you profile your newcomers and find out who can potentially become long-term ambassadors and, at the same time, help you maintain financial stability and well-being? 

25% of practices never bother to estimate the value of a new dental patient to their practice.

Taking the time to assimilate the quality of your patient acquisitions is the first step in ensuring a healthy new patient bucket that can drive your practice finances and brand reputation.

Estimating patient lifetime value

To get a good grip on how to break down your patient value in monetary terms, you need to make some educated assumptions about your patient behavior in terms of:  

  • The number of times he/she visits your practice annually. 

  • The average production volumes per visit

  • Duration of active association in years.

  • The average number of annual referrals from the patient.

These numbers can vary based on gender, age group, location, and other demographic factors.  Accurate estimates happen when your practice staff closely interacts with the patients and enters into genuine conversations. With an accurate lifetime value of your existing patient pool, you can start spending more wisely on your marketing dollars for new patient acquisition and reputation management.

Let’s consider a normal case scenario:

First, determine the average patient spending per year. If most patients come in twice a year and spend $500 each time, then the Average Annual Value of your patient is $1000. For the sake of calculation, let’s say that your dental patient remains with your firm for three years. In that case,

Lifetime revenue input from the patient is: Average annual value ($1000) x Time period (3 years) = $3000

That’s good, right? But let’s consider something even better. On average, a dental practice gets at least 2-3 referrals from each existing patient across the year. That means,

$3000 + Average client referral value ( $9000) = $12,000

Thus, a patient managed well can get your practice almost $4000 per year, and that’s a good enough investment coming from a single patient.

Patient referrals – The fulcrum of your new patient flywheel

When it comes to getting more patients to the practice, there is no better way than to get your patients to spread the word. Without even a dollar spent, the good word that goes out of the practice can bring much-needed change and a fresh wave of new patients that can power up your growth and expansion plans.

“ 75% said they used a word-of-mouth referral as their starting point the last time they looked for a dentist. ”

Word-of-mouth is the best marketing strategy. Everyone loves to talk, share experiences and help each other out with an opinion. So, when you make sure that your patient has the best experience with your team, you are also future-proofing your patient volumes and profits. But, how do you get your patients to talk about you, and what are they going to talk about your practice?

The best bet would be to get your team to have meaningful engagement with your patients. Talk to your patients, engage with them, ask them about their preferences, and educate them about your practice, even getting a little personal doesn’t hurt—make sure they are at ease with their surroundings.

Plan a strategy to politely ask for referrals before your patient leaves the practice. When is a referral most likely to happen?

  • Your patient just had a superlative experience at your practice.

  • Your practice has the tools to ease the referral process.

Putting the onus on the patient to go the extra mile to do a referral can be too much of an ask. 

Check if your practice management software has a mechanism to reach out to your patients and run a referral campaign. 

CaresStack eases the patient reach out with Custom Campaigns that target a specific subset of your patients to fill your schedules, promote special offers and reactivate lost patients.

Loyalty doesn’t happen overnight.

Loyalty is not something that can be bought from patients. It’s earned over time, and it starts when your practice resonates with your patient’s expectations. And for that loyal patient, they bring you a steady stream of revenue, value to your brand, and, more importantly, the new patients you can’t afford to lose. 

But for all that to happen, how do you create a loyal patient pool that can be ambassadors of your practice? We are sure that the clinical part of the equation is always well managed and taken care of. But, even when you enjoy full confidence from your patients in the treatments provided, do they visit often?

Even with all the niceties, a visit to the dentist is a fearful affair for most patients. That has to turn around only when you bring in some cool and light-hearted chair-side demeanor and a friendly dental team. With the right moves and proper communication, it is possible to make your patients look forward to their next dental appointment. In that case, creating a seamless experience and having mastery over patient communication are the two things that need to be taken care of internally. For that to happen, the practice must look inward and invest in:

  • Understanding Patient expectations and requirements.

  • Offering freedom of choice.

  • Building trust with healthy communication

  • Having a team that knows how to communicate

When you invest your time in building a set of loyal customers, you are actually turning them into the best advocates for your practice. This, in turn, builds trust and business reputation–the most important ingredients required to build a successful dental practice.

Patient reviews  – Marketing your goodwill the right way

Almost 50% of current patients would leave their network to have a doctor with favorable online reviews.

When was the last time you had to purchase something expensive, but then settled for the first product you saw? No, right? You would have probably done some solid research and gone through reviews before that purchase was made. 

The same applies to your dental patients too. With many online platforms and review sites available at your fingertips, it’s a no-man’s-guess that your practice will be Googled before your new patient visits. So building that online presence and getting your patient responses out there is paramount to keep those new patients coming.

Getting an online patient review can be a tricky problem to solve. For one, it’s awkward to ask your patients to take out their smartphones, go to a site and do a review, that’s more than a favor. Two, when to ask and who is the right person at the practice to initiate the request may all be undecided and happen ad-hoc if going unplanned. 

The best practice is to not ask for a review. Ask for their opinion about their experience at your practice. Build a conversation before they leave and put in pertinent questions that go beyond the usual, customary ones like “Was everything okay?” 

When they open up and spill out their thoughts, don’t forget to get a word on the negatives or areas where you need to improve. This instills confidence and keeps them interested because of the subtle messaging which goes out that their opinion matters, and the practice considers them as a person of value. Asking them for an online review should be a logical extension of this meaningful conversation that you have struck with them, and at that point, it becomes a natural process, and a genuine interest develops in your patient to help you out with their valuable opinion.

A jump from three to five stars means 25% more website visits

The other thing is to simplify the process. With the right practice management software, you must have the built-in functionality to get an online patient review from every outgoing patient.

CareStack goes a step further, where you can selectively push review requests to patients during check-out. With options to personalize the review request and manage it across different platforms, all from within the software, CareStack ensures that your practice employs the smartest way to build your brand online.

Choosing the right platform to promote reviews is another crucial part of reputation management. Yelp, Google, Facebook, and HealthGrades reviews are the most popular review platforms currently trending. With excellent patient care, an active dental team, and the right PMS, managing online brand reputation shouldn’t be a worry.

Patient Retention

Getting patients into your dental practice may be going well. But how about keeping those patients after they visit your practice? 

It’s not just about the quality of care you provide, but an unforgettable experience that keeps them returning. From the time they arrive at the practice till the time they leave, you have an ample amount of time to make them feel happy and comfortable. With CareStack, combine care, convenience, and connection to get closer to your patients like never before:

Pre-Visit Process: 

Seamless Check-In:

Ongoing Engagement:

  • Send review links before the patient walks out of your practice

  • Share information regarding future treatments, appointments, etc, with a secure patient portal 

And that’s not the end. Book a CareStack demo and learn more about the exclusive features that can help you re-imagine your patient experience and power up your brand reputation.

Kevin Cook

Kevin Cook

February 13, 20217 min read