4 reasons why you never see emergency patients again

June 30, 2015

Most dental practices see emergency patients as a nuisance. Not only do they bring chaos to your day, you typically never hear from them again. You do your best to get them out of pain as quickly as possible, but the extra stress they cause doesn’t do much to grow your production numbers or your bottom line.

If that’s how your practice views emergency patients, it’s no wonder they never come back. Emergency patients can tell when they’re not wanted, and they’ll notice the negative vibe from the moment they call your office.

The truth is, you should look at emergency patients as an opportunity for growth. Emergency patients who have a positive experience at your practice are much more likely to book a comprehensive exam before they leave. In fact, according to the industry standard, 80% of all emergency patients you see should be converted into comprehensive exams. Is this not happening at your practice? You’re missing out on a huge opportunity to grow production numbers and your bottom line.

If you want to start converting emergency patients into loyal patients, you’re going to need to make some changes. Here are four reasons emergency patients don’t come back … and how you can convince them to make your practice their dental home.

1. They don’t feel welcome.

Your team members should put emergency patients at ease from the time they call until they leave the practice. Remember these patients are likely panicked and in pain, and just want to know your practice can help.

If the team member who answers the phone sighs and tells the patient that although the doctor is very busy, she’ll see if she can find an opening in the schedule, it makes that patient feel like an unwanted disruption. And if the team member ends the call by reminding the patient that payment is expected upfront, she’s basically saying your practice cares more about collecting payment than getting the patient out of pain.

Instead of making these scared patients feel like a nuisance, greet them with a warm welcome. Let them know your practice can help. Develop a script so team members know exactly what to say to emergency patients, and the importance of maintaining a caring tone and collecting the necessary information before they hang up.

Continue to make these patients feel welcome when they arrive. Train team members to greet them with a smile and to do what they can to put them at ease. Help them fill out forms if necessary, and take them to a quiet room to wait for the doctor. Let them know how long it will be before they can see the dentist, and then reassure them they’re in great hands.

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2. You don’t educate them.

Most practices don’t spend a lot of time with emergency patients. They want to get them in and out as quickly as possible so they can go about the rest of their day. Not exactly a great way to connect with these patients, or make them want to continue to turn to your practice for their dental care.

Take the time to educate these patients about their condition, and the importance of maintaining their oral health. Talk to them about their oral health goals and concerns, and find out why they haven’t been going to the dentist. Let them know about the services you offer, and how you can help them meet their goals. Once they understand the value of dentistry and the services you provide, they’ll be much more likely to schedule a comprehensive exam before they leave.

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3. You don’t plan for emergency patients.

If an emergency patient calls your practice and there’s no room in the schedule, it’s not going to be easy for your Scheduling Coordinator to find an open slot. That makes these calls stressful and frustrating.

I suggest leaving openings in your schedule based on historical need for emergency patients. When you identify where these patients should be placed in the schedule, it makes it much easier to fit them in. It also reduces the stress and chaos your team members associate with emergency patients.

Remember to also block out time for emergency patients who want to schedule comprehensive exams. Make sure your Scheduling Coordinator knows to schedule them within a week of their emergency visit.

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4. You never follow up.

Even if they’ve already scheduled a comprehensive exam, follow up with every emergency patient. Call them to see how they’re doing and if they have any more questions you can answer. I also suggest mailing them a packet of information about the practice. To add a personalized touch, include a handwritten note. Tell them you’re looking forward to their next visit, and to call or visit the practice website if they have any questions.

Emergency patients represent a great opportunity for growth, and should never be viewed as a disruption. Make sure your team members understand the importance of emergency patients, and how creating an exceptional experience can help turn them into loyal patients - growing your patient base and your bottom line. 

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