Are your dental practices transactional or relationship-based?

Being a healthcare provider these days means having to see a lot of patients. There are a lot of factors that make it difficult for dental practices to give their patients the time they would like to. But there are some great ways to make those appointments valuable. Both for the practice and the patients.  

The Problem

When group practices engage me they inevitably want my help with “the struggling practices.” Most of the time these are practices that have high attrition rates, low treatment planning rates, or they’re practices that aren’t growing new patients or revenue.

For group practices, it’s difficult when the owners aren’t present. They aren’t able to see the communication cadence of the practice.

How are they presenting themselves on the phone? How are they greeting patients when they come in? What is their level of enthusiasm each day? How do the dentists relate to the staff? Is everyone focused on patient care? Do patients leave satisfied? Do they give reviews? Do they accept the treatment plans? This is a lot to think about.

The main issue isn’t that the staff doesn’t know what to do it’s that they are only concerned about what THEY have to do. When there isn’t clear leadership that usually means there isn’t a motivated staff which leads to patients being treated like a transaction and not part of your “dental family.”

The Transactional Dentist

These practices are failing to develop relationships with their patients. This can be even more pronounced when you are spending money on advertising only to have people come in for the special and never return.

As a transactional dentist, a patient comes in and explains their condition, you treat it and move on. For some, that may be what is necessary (person has a cavity and you fill it) but in most cases, the patient needs more.

Every person needs three things:

  • To feel heard.
  • To feel valued.
  • To connect.

Your patients won’t come out and say it but if the staff understands these needs then they will gain the patient’s trust. This can turn that $99 new patient special into a long-term fee for service patient. The type of patient that accepts the treatment plan, writes a great review and most importantly, refers people to you.

The Relationship Dentist

Relationship dentists are no different than consultants. If the point of a consultant is to better the client’s condition as quickly as possible then that would certainly be the case with a dentist. The goal for them should be to give a patient what they need VS what they want.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say Amanda has incredible tooth pain and hasn’t been to the dentist in a while. She feels the tooth has decayed and needs to be pulled. She goes online and sees an ad for Dentist A. She calls their office to set an appointment.

Dentist A

They want new patients so they’re willing to take Amanda in that day. They explain the process of pulling the tooth, the recovery, and the cost. Amanda wants to be out of pain, so she accepts, gets the tooth pulled and goes home.

In that scenario, everyone got what they wanted. Amanda wanted out of pain and Dentist A got a new patient.

Now let’s look at this through Dentist B’s lens. Amanda calls their office. The person asks questions to better understand Amanda’s condition and asks her to come in right away so they can make her comfortable.

On arrival, she is greeted and taken immediately to the back where someone talks with her until the dentist can come in to do the exam.

Dentist B

They ask Amanda several questions to understand her condition and recommend they save the tooth, so she doesn’t have to worry about an expensive implant. They guide her through a comprehensive treatment plan that gives her a clear path to oral health success.

They sign her up for a dental savings plan so she can save money on that day’s procedure and give her clarity on when she needs to return and next steps.

Amanda is now a patient of Dentist B. She got out of pain which is what she wanted but she also has a dentist she can trust which is what she needed. Instead of a new patient, Dentist B got a patient that will return which is what he needed to help build his patient base.

The Path Forward

If you want your practices to grow organically then it’s important they are focused on being a relationship practice rather than a transactional one. Remember that everyone wants to be heard, be valued, and connect.

Use the following best practices:

  • Have clear leaders in each practice.
  • Establish clear roles and responsibilities for each team member on how to treat every patient.
  • Create a standardized agreement on the patient communication process.
  • Set-up each practice for success by standardizing their day. This could be morning huddles focused on the patients coming in not the systems and processes of the office.
  • Generate net provider scorecards for each office so you can track the satisfaction of the patients coming in (review systems can’t track this accurately).
  • Plan activities for the staff to engage with each other as much as possible outside of work.
  • Host events to show appreciation for your patients.

In conclusion, relationship-based practices have great leadership and great team cohesiveness. They focus on serving the patient. This is how you build a brand based on relationships and practices based on referrals.

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