Patient retention is obviously one of the most fundamental things to master to achieve success in dentistry. It doesn't matter how good your clinical skills are or how many new patients you are able to attract. If you don't keep your existing patients solidly "in the family" you are inevitably going to lose traction.

Most practices with a retention issue are going through the motions of a reminder system. They keep making the calls and sending out postcards, but they don't conquer their retention problem because they aren't attacking the reasons why patients don't return.

But imagine if every patient left each appointment knowing exactly when and why he or she had to return. What if every patient knew how much the dentistry was going to cost, the value of the treatment, and they paid for it in full? How many would fail to appoint, cancel or no-show then? How many would fall off the radar and never be seen again?

Ultimately, as with so many issues in the dental practice, it comes down to creating value. Unless you have a strong foundation of value in place where clients fully understand what you do and why, you can't really begin to address a retention problem. Patient actions are based on their perception of value and it's up to you and your team to create the right value environment.

With that understanding in mind, there are two simple questions to ask about every patient who comes through the practice on any given day. These are two simple checklist items that keep your practice's focus pure when it comes to patient retention.

1. Does this patient have a future hygiene appointment?
This should be tracked for each provider in the practice, including doctors. If a doctor treats a patient with no future hygiene appointment, appointing that patient for hygiene is the clinical team's responsibility. And of course, patients need more than just a date; they need to be appointed with the right value, and with an understanding that an appointment is a confirmation.

2. Is this patient complete for payment?
That doesn't necessarily mean they have to pay for everything up front all the time, but secure financial arrangements should always be in place for any treatment that has been agreed to, for every patient, every day. This performance standard is 100 percent for a reason. There is absolutely no excuse for any patient to leave uncertain about their financial responsibility. A financial commitment is an emotional commitment; it's one that keeps people coming back.

It's really that simple. Achieve routine clarity on these two key issues with every patient who is about to walk out the door and you will find that patient retention. This fundamental component of any successful practice will practically take care of itself.

This is one of my favorite topics because we are talking about strategies that can mastered quickly and have a huge impact on the practice. If you are looking for an easy way to share these fundamentals with your team and you have access to our Digital Suite, I invite you to see this quick Lunch + Learn staff training lesson.



Commenter's Profile Image Barry Polansky
February 19th, 2014
This is one of those topics where connecting the dots is a lot easier looking backwards than trying to figure it out looking forward. I agree that creating value is very important but in my experience still no guarantee. Looking back, for me, it has been about how strong I built the bond of trust.
Commenter's Profile Image Orlando
March 3rd, 2014
Got bleeding gums and loose tooth on top of that loose tooth I got a pimple white stuff comes out
Commenter's Profile Image Kara W.
June 21st, 2017
I feel it is creating the environment for the patient where there is trust and they value what you are telling them. This can be done in the first visit is the rapport is built correctly. Explain what you are doing and why, the importance of maintaining and regular visits. Put accountability on your RDAs and RDHs to have that next visit booked before the patient leaves their room and your rebooking ratios will climb. I am watching it in my clinic on a daily basis.