Shut the Back Door!

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While you may like your patients (or most of them anyway), even the good ones can be a little slippery sometimes, or perhaps your staff at the front desk get a little overly busy and patients slide out the back door without an appointment for their next visit.  Most of them don’t do it on purpose … but some do.

If you were to check with your front desk staff, you will probably hear that “no one leaves the practice without an appointment.”  Every practice owner is told that by their team.  However, it is almost never true and there are escapees out the back door. Trying to get them back into the practice much later when it is discovered can be an exercise in frustration for your team.

Have a look, with your scheduling team, at every patient seen over the last two weeks and see who doesn’t have their next appointment booked.  You may all be quite surprised with what you find.  Always “look for yourself, don’t listen.”

What are the reasons?

  • “I don’t have my calendar with me.” – one of the most popular reasons
  • “I’ll call you when I get home.” – will they really?
  • “I can’t afford the next procedure right now. Have to save up.”  This may have been a failed treatment presentation and payment plan work-out.
  • The staff didn’t know the person needs to come back for another visit.
  • The staff got overly busy and forgot to ask the patient.
  • “I have to go over it with my husband before I commit.” (Treatment presentation failure.)
  • “I’m going away on a trip soon and I’ll call you when I get back.”
  • … etc.

How to prevent patients slipping through the cracks

Have a little staff meeting about this situation and get the team to help work out solutions to the above reasons.  This is not to make the staff feel wrong or bad about it happening, by the way.  Just keep it in a “solutions” mode to fix the systems.

  • Ensure that your staff all have the purpose to deliver extraordinary service to every patient, which includes making sure that the patients are coming back to receive that care. It is all about the patient and helping them to accept and receive the ideal care that you offer.
  • Work out the protocols and policy to deal with each kind of “reason”.
    For example:  If the patient says that they don’t have their calendar with them, tell them:  “I understand and to make it simple for you, let’s pick a likely time for your next visit and schedule that.  I’ll give you an appointment card.  When you get back to your office, you can double check it on your calendar and if there is a conflict, please call me and we’ll shift the appointment to a different time.”
  • Do a little role playing to practice the handling of each reason a patient may give so the staff are comfortable handling it and getting an appointment booked.

Treatment presentation skills

You may want yourself and your team to get some treatment presentation skills training (also known as a “Sales Workshop”).  We offer such a thing and our clients love our Canadian style and see a major difference in the practice when everyone, top down, has received this special set of skills.  Your patients are the real winners, and the practice benefits as well because it helps shut the back door.

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