How to Lose a Patient

Wait … what???  While most practice owners and their teams are quite dedicated to attracting more new patients (as they should be), there are times when it is beneficial to the practice to know how to lose a patient.

Every practice has one or more patients you would cheerfully love to send to your competition, right?  Perhaps it’s because they just don’t pay their bills, or they bounce cheques.  Sometimes they may be rude and obnoxious to your staff.  Occasionally they are so odorific that it is turning off other patients (and gagging the staff too).  Or they often cancel at the last minute or worse yet, repetitively show up late for their appointment and throw your whole day off schedule.  And then there are those who are just plain dedicated to making the practitioner wrong.

There are probably a lot of other types of “bad” patients, but the point is that having toxic patients can prevent the inflow of new patients in several ways.

Turning Off the New Patient Drive

The staff may get a little gun-shy or cautious about taking cold calls from shoppers and turning them into a new patient – the potential new patient could be toxic and you can’t tell on the phone.  Or you, as the practice owner may subconsciously discourage the staff from wanting to acquire more new patients by commenting negatively about various less than desirable patients they have acquired for you and then they feel guilty and don’t want to do it anymore.  Sometimes staff at the front get to hating talking to walk-ins because it is so hard to judge who will be a “good” patient.  And so on.

The Best Bet

Never take it personally that you have a toxic patient or two.  Just take the attitude that the person is not a “perfect fit” for your practice and team.  You could write a letter to the patient explaining that you don’t feel the relationship with them is a “perfect fit” and that you would like to refer them to someone else where it might be a more positive experience for them.

Do not be shy about referring a patient to another practitioner.  You or someone in your practice may remind them of their hated grandmother and then they are rude and difficult as a result.  If you send them elsewhere, the new practitioner may remind them of their favourite aunt and they may become a pussycat as a patient.  This could be the kindest thing you can do for them.  Also, you don’t have to give them the name of another practitioner, just that you advise them to try a different office.

Avoid Abandoning a Patient

You shouldn’t just abandon a patient without letting them know they’ve been deserted so they can at least go to someone else for the sake of their health.  To just not call them for recalls or reminders for their checkups, etc. would be deserting someone.  And no one, bad or otherwise, deserves that.   Good or bad, this patient is a human being and it looks good on you to treat them with kindness despite anything.

House Cleaning

When you have people on the schedule for tomorrow that no one wants to deal with, you may feel like staying home and having a “sick” day.  Obviously this would be harmful to the practice.  Just dismissing a few toxic patients is like cleaning your house and you all may feel refreshed.

Then you and you team can look forward to coming to work everyday!