3 Ways to Grow Your Practice by Jay Geier

3 Ways to Grow Your Practice  

by Jay Geier

General dentists grow their practice in three ways: by increasing new patients, visit frequency and average purchase. As an orthodontist, you also have three ways to grow and they aren’t as different as you might think. In all cases, these strategies depend far more on the performance of the people working at the practice than on the clinical performance of the doctor.

1. Deliver a great patient experience that ensures continued referrals.
When you started your practice, you needed to make relationships with general dentists in the area who would send patients your way. So you probably joined local networking groups and used various marketing strategies to extol your credentials and experience and invite referrals.

You probably enjoyed a natural growth spurt early on, which lent the impression that practice growth was now on autopilot—dentists would just keep referring people to you, you’d have a steady stream of new patients and you wouldn’t have to worry about growing the practice because it would just happen. Au contraire! Your patients regularly report back to their dentist what they think of you, your office and your team. No matter how good you are as a clinician, if the patient—and often the parent as well—isn’t impressed with the experience they get at your office, the dentist is going to hear about it. Moreover, kids talk. Parents talk. They compare notes—and especially complaints.

The dentist’s reputation is on the line along with yours. All the schmoozing and qualifications in the world won’t grow your practice if the dentist feels criticized for having sent a patient to your office. That pipeline of referrals will run dry in a hurry because, of course, dentists also compare notes and complaints.

When it comes to delivering a great patient experience, there is little difference between a general and a specialty practice. In fact, the primary hurdle is exactly the same—you’re in the back treating patients, with little to no time to observe what’s going on at the front desk.

A patient’s experience with your practice begins with their first phone call to the office. Your front desk team members need to understand what it takes to make a great first impression and handle the call in a way that satisfies callers and results in scheduled appointments. As easy as you may think that is, front desk phone skills are the biggest blind spot practice owners have about their offices.

Moreover, patients who have a disappointing experience with any of your team members or processes—or even the look and feel of your office—will express those views to their dentist. You may not lose revenue on that one patient, who’s already locked into a complete treatment plan, but you’ll begin to see referrals drop off without even knowing why.

2. Make case acceptance a team responsibility.
Just because a patient is in your office as a referral from their dentist doesn’t make it a foregone conclusion that they’ll accept your recommended treatment. Then again, you’re not the only person responsible for growing the business! Others on the team who interact with patients should also be trained to properly present treatment plans and cost options so as to gain case acceptance.

These presentations aren’t about aggressively selling; they’re about influencing patients to make decisions you know are in their best interest. When patients have a high level of trust in you and your team, they’re far more likely to comply because they trust your motives as well as your recommendations. Build trust in the relationship and the quality of care you provide by delivering an influential end-to-end patient experience that demonstrates excellence, genuine care and compassionate concern.

Also, don’t miss growth opportunities to present new and add-on offerings and beneficial services or products to every patient at every visit.

3. Put processes in place to keep treatment plans on track.
Most specialty patients come in for necessary treatments and follow-up like clockwork and never miss an appointment. But some don’t. For the sake of their oral care and the predictability of your cash flow, have processes in place and team members trained to effectively and proactively reach out to patients well in advance to schedule and confirm appointments.

Make every effort to book the patient’s next appointment before they leave the office. If they insist on calling you back because they don’t have their calendar with them, or the parent needs to make the appointment, don’t wait for them to call you. Follow up within a few days instead of waiting until they’re almost due. The same applies if someone cancels or is a no-show.

In all cases, team members must be trained to use the proper verbiage and demonstrate the right attitude, which is that your practice truly cares about the patient’s oral health and case progress.

Improve your ability to grow

Has your practice plateaued? Have referrals slowed down? Do you continue to blame COVID-19 instead of being honest about your status pre-COVID? No practice owner thinks they have a bad practice. Your patients won’t tell you they think you do, and general dentists probably won’t either— they’ll just stop making referrals.

Accept these two facts:
  • Your people and how the office runs have far more influence on patients than you do.
  • The capabilities of the team are only as good as they are right now, based on current skill sets and attitudes, and the expectations you’ve set. And yet every human being has the potential to learn more, do more and do better. Whether a person lives up to their potential depends on them being coachable and you giving them the opportunity to learn and grow by investing in training.
The fastest, easiest, most economical way to improve the capabilities of your human capital to drive these three essential growth strategies more successfully is through training designed to change behaviors and elevate skills. Give your people the opportunity to learn how to work together as a high-performing team that can be held accountable for results, and for delivering an experience that ensures you remain the general dentist’s specialist of choice.

Not only will your practice benefit from the growth, your team will appreciate that you care enough to provide them with development opportunities.

Author Bio
Author Jay Geier is an authority on growing independent practices to keep for a lifetime of revenue or to sell for maximum value. Geier is the founder and CEO of Scheduling Institute, a firm that specializes in team training and doctor coaching to help people live up to their full potential by uncovering blind spots that are holding them back, and negatively affecting growth and profitability. To discover the growth opportunity in your orthodontic practice, sign up for the 5-Star Challenge at fivestarchallenge.com/otown.
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