June 4, 2013
As a rule of thumb when I measure the revenue potential of a general practice. I estimate $1000/patient/year. So if a practice has 500 active patients, it should produce $500,000. If it has 1000 active patients, it should produce $1,000,000. Just for purposes of clarification, my definition of an “active” patient is someone who has an appointment scheduled within the next six months. We could certainly argue about my valuation metrics, but I don’t think anyone questions the on-going, year after year value of someone who comes in for treatment and refers others to the practice. In a recent post, Fred Joyal, the founder of 1-800-DENTIST, estimates the lifetime value of a dental patient is $10,000 minimum before implants, and the average time keeping patients is 10 to 20 years.
So if our patients are worth so much money, why don’t we take better care of them? And why is there so much focus on all kinds of marketing to acquire new patients when maintaining and fostering the relationships with our current patients will keep us busier than ever? Please don’t misunderstand – of course we need a continuous supply of new patients, and we should have well thought out strategies in place to attract new patients. But I think most dental practices would be well served to think about patient retention as well as patient attraction.
It all starts with making patients feel special and appreciated. I recently read an interesting article about the timing of when an existing patient leaves a dental practice. You would guess it would most likely be soon after an initial visit – the patient didn’t connect with the doctor and office. The data concluded – to my surprise – that a significant number of patients left after five or six years. Exit interviews as to why the patients had left had a common thread. “When I first was a patient, they made quite a fuss about me. Now it seems like I’m just a number, and I don’t get the same attention and respect I used to.”
How very sad – and unfortunate – and totally unacceptable. Over the next few months, I intend to share with you ideas on what I see working in dental practices to keep patients happy.
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