Where Have All The Patients Gone?

Apparently, “Maintenance dentistry is dead and dentists should focus on big ticket, once only dentistry, such as Implants, Smile makeovers, Invisible Braces, All on Four etc etc. This advice was paid for by a practice owner (he didn’t get it from Breathe) recently. Now, I accept that some of the message may have got lost in translation and I also accept that some practices are finding that patients are reluctant to return for routine check ups and hygiene appointments. So I understand why it might sound seductive to go out into the market and try and attract high value treatment plans. However, I think they might be missing the point…

Recently, I visited a practice a handful of miles away from the practice owner who now thinks that maintenance dentistry is dead. Let me tell you something about this practice:

  • It grosses around £750k
  • It makes 35% net profit.
  • With 15-25 new patients every month, coming in on word of mouth referral
  • No web site
  • It serves a community living nearby in a number of wealthy ‘commuter villages’.
  • Four part time Dentists, two part time Hygienists, the dentists seeing circa 30 patients a day.
  • Doing mostly single unit dentistry.
  • The patients come back year after year for, you guessed it, ‘maintenance dentistry’.

This practice has a low average patient spend and the diaries are full for two weeks in advance. They wouldn’t know what to do with a patient who demanded a Smile Makeover, All on Four or Invisible Braces. (Well, I guess they would; they would either gently talk them out of it or quietly refer them on to a colleague.)  So, what is this practice getting right and how is it that it grows its active patient numbers year on year (together with its turnover and profitability) whilst its competitive set are seeing their practices shrink?

Here’s just twenty reasons:

  1. Location. It’s right in the middle of its catchment area.
  2. Relationships. Everyone on the team adds to the quality and quantity of the patient relationships.
  3. Value. The fees are low to middle of the road. (Do folk really want to pay £60 for a chat with a hygienist about their holiday and a scale and polish?)
  4. Trust. The longevity of the relationships has built them a reputation for doing the right thing.
  5. Membership Scheme. Most of the patients are paying a monthly standing order for their regular care which they are unlikely to cancel.
  6. The Principals and the Associates live and work amongst their patients, they don’t commute in from an hour away. Their patients see them in Tesco at the weekend. This says, we’re all in this together.
  7. The Dentist’s kids go to school with their patients kids.
  8. The Practice has been there for 35 years.
  9. It opens at hours to suit their patients.
  10. The whole team encourages word of mouth referrals.
  11. The Practice looks and feels like a dental clinic, not an art gallery or a boutique.
  12. The patients can park easily.
  13. They are gentle dentists and never, ever hurt their patients.
  14. Their Hygienists don’t nag the patients and focus on their periodontal health.
  15. Their patient recall system works really well.
  16. They’ve stopped sending letters to patients, they talk to them.
  17. They have an effective way of reactivating patients who need check ups or treatments finishing.
  18. They always do what they say they will do.
  19. They always run on time.
  20. They are truly trusted advisors.

Most of the 40-60 practices we work with every month within the Breathe Family rely on maintenance dentistry to make up their gross. Many of them also provide high value treatments to either their pool of maintenance patients or to new patients who have come looking for it. Some of our practices have just had their best quarter ever by using this well established formula.

Why don’t you try it…

If you would like some help in growing a profitable, maintenance driven practice, why not contact me to discuss how we can help you?
e. simon@nowbreathe.co.uk
m. 07770 430576
o. 0845 2997209

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