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7 Real-Life Reasons Your Patients Leave

The Profitable Dentist
August 2007
By Fred Joyal
CEO & Co-Founder of 1-800-DENTIST®

When was the last time you took a really close look at your patient database? If it has been a while, I am almost positive many of your records could be outdated. Most dentists concern themselves with how many new patients are coming in the front door, rather than determining why they leave. At 1-800-DENTIST, we receive calls from people looking for a dentist 24 hours a day. The majority of these callers don't currently have a dentist, while others are just looking for someone new - and they tell us why. After working with hundreds of practices, and interacting with thousands of patients, here are the primary reasons why practices lose patients:

#1 They move away. According to the U.S. Postal Service, roughly 14% of the American population moves or changes addresses annually. More importantly, 8% move out of their current county-which means they probably aren't going to retain the same dentist. So, in a large city, you can expect to lose 8-10% of your patients every year. Do you even know when that happens? Usually you find out when the patient, or their new dentist, asks for their dental records. Problem is, they usually wait 3 or 4 years before finding a new dentist, unless they have children. What are you doing to stem that ebb tide?

#2 Your practice doesn't offer what they want. They've heard about Invisalign®, lasers, one-day restorations with CEREC® machines, or they saw ZOOM!® whitening on Extreme Makeover®-the problem is that you don't offer these things. So they go somewhere else to get it.

#3 They don't know what you do. You may have done 600 hours of C.E. learning to do cosmetics. Perhaps you offer I.V. sedation and Lumineers®. But this doesn't make a difference unless they know that you do. Don't assume that you or your staff may have told them or that they know because you have brochures available in the waiting room. The reality is that patients spend most of their time in your office looking at the ceiling. So unless it's written there, your patients most likely haven't read about it. More importantly, telling people one time what you do is not effective. Most patients are only listening if it's something that matters to them right at that moment. Effective practice marketing means repeatedly telling your patients about the services your practice offers and the benefits of those services.  

I've heard dentists mention having a long time patient show up for an appointment with a full set of veneers, When asked why they went elsewhere for the procedure, the story is always the same: They saw an ad for a great cosmetic dentist. When the dentist explains that he does veneers also, the patient says, "Oh, but cosmetics is the other dentist's specialty!" Now their original dentist gets to do prophys on that smile for the next 20 years. Communicate what you do to your patients repeatedly because it is your greatest resource for increased production.