It’s a war of attrition and you need the numbers


We had a stand at Showcase last week and were delighted at the response we had to our book Moonwalking For Dentists.

Over three days Jonathan and I had dozens of conversations with dentists and for us it was a great litmus test of the state of UK dentistry.

Many dentists are doing well and most agree they are experiencing an upturn after the years of recession.

However, many of them count the more obvious indicators such as their gross and their new patient numbers and ignore the very real possibility that although they may be increasing their gross (by selling more), their practices could be shrinking in terms of active patient numbers.

Of course, it’s easy to measure the patients coming in the front door, harder to spot those leaving as they tend not to tell you and you get to find out further downstream. However, Breathe clients do measure this important KPI and I suggest you do it too.

Find out:

  • How many (unique) people visited your practice during the past four years. (Say 4,000)
  • How many visited your practice during the past two years. (Say 3,500)
  • Take one number from the other. (500)
  • In this example, 500 people left between years two and four, that’s 250 a year, 21 a month
  • 250 as a percentage of 3,500 is seven per cent
  • Therefore the attrition rate is seven per cent or 21 a month
  • So, this means the first 21 patients who arrive each month in this example are simply replacing the 21 who have left and new patient number 22 will put the practice into net growth

In our portfolio of practices, attrition rates vary from five to 30 per cent, the higher numbers being for practices in areas with high throughput through such as  Canary Wharf.

Many, many practices are in net decline, it’s just that nobody has done the numbers to confirm this.

Principals may, from time to time, reflect that the practice feels a bit quiet, notice the phone doesn’t ring quite so often, and the books look a bit gappy – but they still fall short of calculating the attrition rate.

I have no doubt the single biggest issue in the next five years will be new patients and hanging onto the ones you have already got.

If you’d like to discuss how to reduce your attrition rate call me on 07770 430576.

Best wishes


Dr Simon Hocken is Lead coach: business, practice & clinical leadership at Breathe Business. Email or connect with him on LinkedIn to see what he’s reading and talking about.

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