Why patients choose your practice

Why are some dental practices growing 9X faster than other practices in the same community, are 50% more profitable, and yet spend less than the average on advertising and promotion?

To find the answer to this question, Lee Frederiksen, a PhD at Virginia Tech, conducted three years of research to determine the elements which create a high growth professional services firm. His findings are contained in the book: “Spiraling Up”.

What patients are looking for is expertise, and experience. It does not mean that the dentist with the greatest technical experience will get the lion’s share of new patients, because most patients are not equipped to evaluate the technical expertise of the dentist. On the flip side, patients want to avoid poor results and failing to solve their problem.

So, what do patients really want?

Based on his research results patients are looking for answers to three fundamental questions.

  1. Can you fix my problem?

The selection criteria are aimed at answering this question: Do you understand my situation? Have you solved a similar problem before? Do you have the skills to do the job? You have to convince the patient that you can and will solve his or her problems.

  1. Will you make my life easier?

The patients’ next biggest concern is how difficult, painful or expensive the process will be. Issues include such things as cost, and availability.

  1. Do I enjoy you as a person?

Relationships matter. But they do not trump your ability to meet the first two criteria. If patients like you, they may give you preference, but they are not going to retain you, if they don’t believe you can solve the problem. Nor are they likely to choose you if your price is significantly higher or you come across as inflexible or arrogant.

Referred patients are the best, as they will easily accept the treatment recommendations. There are some patients so enthusiastic about the practice that they refer you without prompting. When asked why people don’t refer, slightly less than three quarters of the respondents in the research said that nobody had asked. Most people don’t go out of their way to make a referral but when asked, they would gladly make one.

You have a patient who is totally happy with your practice. Then you find out that the patient went to another dentist for implants, a service, you also can offer with your eyes closed. So, what happened?

The research shows that over 85% of the time practices already offered what the patient wanted – only the patient did not know it. When you want to expand the patient relationship by offering additional services, keep this in mind: it is not your patient’s responsibility to figure out how you can help. That is your job.

Marketing the qualities of your staff, or the new dental equipment and office decor are not factors in the patient’s decision to choose your practice.

11 Strategies to boost the selling price of your practice

Here are a number of steps you should take well in advance of the actual sale date.

  1. Obtain tax and financial advice.

Make sure that you get the benefit of receiving the sales proceeds tax-free. Do you have the financial security to retire?

  1. Keep up your production.

The No. 1 advice of transition experts is: Don’t slow down and do not work fewer days.

  1. Consider increasing fees.

Prepare a fee analysis and if your fees are below average, consider increasing them.

  1. Lower overhead.

The lower the overhead, the higher the profit margin and ultimate sale price. Compare your overhead against industry standards to determine problem areas. The key is to control staff costs, which is the largest expense of any practice.

  1. Review the facility lease.

The ideal lease arrangement from a purchaser’s point of view is a 15 to 20-year lease term including lease renewals.

  1. Upgrade your office and technology.

Enhance the curb appeal of your practice by upgrading office technology, recovering chairs, replacing carpets, and spiffing the facility with some fresh paint and landscaping.

  1. Stick to basic dentistry.

Established family practices sell at a premium. They are low risk as patients are easily transitioned to the new dentist.

  1. Have a strong team.

Dedicated, experienced staff is a key asset in the eyes of the purchaser.

  1. Document procedures and systems.

Are your systems well documented? Does every staff member know what to do, and how to do it? Document job descriptions and systems such as billings and collections, hygiene appointments and recall procedures.

  1. Get serious about marketing.

Get professional help to boost your website presence and implement effective internal marketing strategies to increase referrals and new patient counts.

  1. Review the Associate agreement.

Make sure that your associate has a restrictive covenant and a non-solicitation clause for patients and staff.