Wednesday, October 21, 2009

4000 new patients, still 1 hygienist

What is up?

Oh my gosh
Did anyone see the Gator game on Saturday?
After the game I needed a Valium in a bad way.
Just so you know we, the Gators, fumbled the ball four times and lost them all.
Two times we fumbled inside their 15 yard line (so we were about to score) and then we fumbled twice inside our 30 yard line, giving them more opportunities to score.

We won with a field goal with 4 seconds left on the clock.
Man was that hard to watch. I know you were all thinking about me.
I can't wait for Basketball season when I know we are going to stink. No expectations is so much easier than crazy expectations.

I watched Man in the Iron Mask this week. It was not very good. It had John Malkovich and Leonardo DiCaprio. It was about a king who was a twin. He was also a tyrant. So he was such a tyrant that he had his twin brother thrown into prison and wear a "iron mask" so no one would know that he had a brother. So the musketeers bond together to get the brother out of prison, take off the iron mask and overthrow the king.

This weekend weather was so nice here. Remember I was complaining of the heat, well we've had a respite from it for about 6 days now. It was 62 degrees this weekend (as a low). It was so beautiful here. I just went outside and read and pulled weeds just to be outside.
They say the heat is coming back but for now I am enjoying it.
I had my best run of the season in this great weather. I ran 20 and felt great.
The first time I ran 20 this season, I asked if when the group finished someone would come back and get me. No one did so I walked/ran the last 4 miles.
The second time, I actually had a friend parked at 18 miles, and I had him drive me to my car. Embarrassing. When I was driving by my group, I ducked down in the front seat of the car.

This weekend, not only did I finish running but I was strong at the end. So I am going to try it again on Saturday. Marathon in 38 days.

I did go out to my friend’s office, and I wanted to talk to you about it.
He is a dentist that has been out of school for about 12 years.
He was an associate for about 2 years and then bought a practice. Then after about 8 years he bought another practice. He is in a building that two dentists share. You enter the front door and both dentists use the same reception desk but have two waiting areas. His office is nice. It is a little tight but very cozy.

One awesome pearl I got from him is he has a sheet. The sheet from right to left has all his numbers on it. Office production, Dr. production, hygienist production, account receivables, number of new patients, number of emergencies. The page had it for the month and for the year. And he had 8 pages of this. So he can track from month to month and year to year.

He started looking at the new patient column. He says, “John (and he gets very passionate about this), tell me what you think of these numbers? Look at my new patients, look at my emergencies. Let’s look together. In the year 2002 I saw 260 new patients, in 2003 I saw 320, in 2004 I saw 360, and so on. (Don’t get caught up in those numbers...I totally made those up. It is not the main theme, hang with me a couple of sentences longer.)
“I have seen over 3000 new patients in the last 8 years (or something like that) and I can only barely keep one hygienist busy. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?”

This is the million dollar question (More like 10 million). We have people coming in but how are they getting out the back door? Where are those 3000 people?

Now if you have never thought about this, either you are too new to practicing dentistry or you are lying to yourself that you are not losing patients.
I think about this all the time.

When I was a young dentist it would haunt me. I see the numbers. I know I should be able to keep 15 hygienists busy if everyone stayed in my practice.

So I get down on myself. I read magazine that say, “Retain patients…all you have to do it this.”
Or I go to a lecture and the guy up at the front seems to have it all together. Your classmates on Facebook seem to have it all together (I sound so hip throwing in the Facebook thing). And I can’t keep a freaking patient. I suck.

This is the “self-loathing technique”. Or you can do what my father does (have I told you I love my dad. I love everything about him but he does this), he says, “The only reason people don’t come back to our office is because we are too expensive.” I call this the “head in the sand” technique.

Somewhere in the middle is the answer.

I have been to the CE and I have read all the magazine articles ad nauseam and this is the “magic” I have come up with. Treat people as best as you can. Treat people way you would want to be treated. This is not rocket science.

Treat them with respect. This means respect their time. Respect their money. Don’t take it for granted. Everyone works hard for their money (most everyone), and they want to know that we care that things cost a lot and we know it is a sacrifice for them to pony up $200 or $20,000 to get their teeth fixed.

And do your best to care for them. It is the old adage, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” THAT IS ALL YOU CAN DO. You do the best you can, treat people as best you can. Make sure your office is maintained (isn’t it funny that sometimes this doesn’t matter. You go to these highly successful offices and the office kind of look like crap) and that is it.

Remember…People are fickle.

When you are in a service industry working with people, some of it is out of your control. They will leave because they don’t like your color scheme. They leave because they were insulted when you asked for the money on the day of the service. They leave because they don’t like your music.

Last week I heard a patient was ticked at one of my specialists because she thought he only hired woman with big boobs. Which is not just not true, but she left the practice.
I would say that people are sometimes not prepared for the cost and yes this does scare them away but…
Sometimes people move.
Sometimes people just stop going to the dentist.
Hey sometimes people will leave because they just don’t like me and I am okay with that.

I have to say that we joke around at our office. Sometimes to a fault but we do it to ease tension. We realize people don’t like coming to the dentist and this is the way we use to make our profession more likable. Sometime people think we are a bunch of screw-ups. Other people LOVE LOVE LOVE us.

We try to monitor if we are ticking more people off than pleasing but…(I am thinking of a blog topic about practice surveys and getting people’s feedback. Stay tuned).

We have to have the mindset that if they are all not going to stay. But the ones that do we have to cherish. They are the ones that we have pleased. They are the ones that like the colors. They don’t mind paying on the day of the service. They don’t mind your not so professional talk. They like or tolerate your music. They like all your quirks. These are the ones I think about, not the ones that chose not to come back.

I got email this week and I want to share it with you (or I want to brag…call it what you will).

Dr. John and staff,
I was very impressed with the care I received from your office. The staff was excellent and Dr. John (yeah that’s me) was great. He really cares and I can tell he is dedicated to what he does. You guys ROCK….
I have referred three other people to your office.
I no longer dread my visit to the dentist. The next generation of dentists has arrived.
Thank you again,

Now I don’t know about you, but something like this will keep me going for the next couple of months. If I have a bad day I will remember this letter.
This email got printed out and put up on the bulletin board in the staff lounge with a big GREAT JOB EVERYONE written on it by me.

We must celebrate our successes. That is all you can do. Do the best you can. Treat people the way you want to be treated and stop worrying about the few that got away. Any thoughts?

Have a great Wednesday.


jamie said...

you're right on John! treat everyone with reasonable respect, but don't change who you are...not everyone will like you, but that's ok (odds are that those are the people who would have been more difficult to treat in the first place). you sound like a guy who is genuinely passionate about dentistry, and i'm sure it shows. i HATE the business of dentistry, and sometimes have to remind myself that it is the WORK itself that really matters, not nit-picky things that people want. unfortunately some of the most "successful and loved" dentists out there are absolute hacks...and oppositely, some of the greatest work is done by guys who people badmouth all the time! what can you do? people are generally ignorant to things we do, so i try to fall somewhere in the middle of the 2 guys i mentioned above...i'm not in it for a popularity contest, simply to do the best i can at any given time. take care


Mike Fennema said...

I am not a dentist, but am also one who deals with people on a constant basis, and receiving a letter like that does keep you going. I wish that I was still in the Orlando area so that I could still be a patient of yours. Keep up the good work, Dr. John!

Ken & Carol said...

I am thinking of calling the paragraph police. Have mercy on an aging forensic pathologist!

Unknown said...

Good post, Dr. John! I've found that an automated email follow-up system like Aweber works well for retention...

Other good ideas here...


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