Simple ways to recession-proof your practice

May 1, 2011
Many practices are still feeling the pinch of the recession, but with a few simple tactics you can boost business and recession proof your practice. My 25 years in dental practice management have taught me many ways to help your practice find success.

by JoAnne Tanner, MBA

Many practices are still feeling the pinch of the recession, but with a few simple tactics you can boost business and recession proof your practice. My 25 years in dental practice management have taught me many ways to help your practice find success. In the current economy, many patients are delaying treatment. I have found that many practices lose contact with their patients and eventually those patients leave the practice. It is important to follow these procedures to stay in touch with patients and show them you care so that they stay with your practice.

Maximize your current patient base

Implement a system to follow up with patients who need treatment and have not scheduled an appointment. I strongly believe that each patient should be contacted three times for follow up before being retired to the shelf. Allow your scheduling or treatment coordinator to decide the best method for keeping track of these patients. Such options may be to keep a list of patients that need follow-up, create a “memo” in the computer, or create a calendar and place the patient’s name and treatment needed on a day. Then follow up as needed.

Additionally, assign a team member to print a report of the previous month’s treatment plans (or pull up written records) and review it to see who has not scheduled, then make sure they receive their follow up calls. This is done easily in most practice management software programs.

Provide an ongoing call list to assist you when filling the schedule

When scheduling patients, your scheduling coordinator should tell them that she will call them with any openings that become available sooner. A list should be created with patients’ preferred day and time, the provider they prefer, and how many times they have been contacted. Additionally, if you have a patient who has rescheduled an appointment more than twice, it would be advisable to offer to place that person on a call list instead of reappointing.

Provide a form of follow-up that shows patients you care

If your scheduling coordinator has tried to contact a patient three times by phone and received no response, send a reactivation letter informing the patient that you miss him or her and to contact your office. A treatment reminder letter may also be appropriate to send to patients who need necessary treatment, and the letter can outline the benefits of having the work done. Another way to keep in touch is to send birthday cards, and congratulations cards on births, weddings, and anniversaries. Also, appreciation gifts for referrals are a great way to show you truly appreciate your patients.

Involve the entire team in increasing patient flow

Review appropriate wording with your team on how to ask for referrals. Encourage everyone to come up with a good way to discuss this with patients so everyone feels comfortable. Some offices create team or individual competitions for asking for referrals, or you may opt to reward the group as a whole for reaching a goal of new patient referrals per month. Always remember to thank existing patients who refer new patients to your practice.

Offer affordable payment options

Patients appreciate knowing that they have many options. In order to be perceived as affordable and flexible by your patients, you need to offer payment options. These options must be beneficial to the practice as well as patients, who can then select the option that best meets their needs. It’s important to have something to visually show patients.

Without the payment options, patients are only going to remember the big number and not the monthly payment plan with all of the attractive options. I highly recommend ChaseHealthAdvance for affordable options for both patients and the practice. You can enroll for free by calling (888) 388-7633, or visit online at When you enroll with ChaseHealthAdvance, you will receive a complimentary copy of Tanner’s newest DVD, Treatment Acceptance Made Easy.

JoAnne Tanner, MBA, has more than 25 years of experience in dental practice management. She provides dental professionals with management skills needed to maintain control and provide an environment for achievement, and instills enthusiasm in the entire dental team. Contact her at (916) 791-2720 or visit

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