Let’s imagine that in a moment of complete (and likely justifiable) frustration, you end your contract with a managed care company, like the BIG D without any preparation. After the euphoria wears off, you have an uneasy sense that your practice now seems quieter. Your schedule isn’t as booked, it’s harder to refill openings, and patients aren’t reflexively agreeing to treatment now that they have a larger co-pay. As Scooby-doo might say, “Ruh Roh.”
Let me put on my Velma outfit and explore what you can do now.
- Get objective data. It’s one thing to feel something is off and it’s another to have statistics. Here are things you should track and analyze:
- Generate a list of patients who have requested their records. You want to know if there is a surge of patients leaving your practice or a trickle. Patients who leave can be sent a “welcome to come back” letter in a few months. In addition, your front desk team should be trained to do exit interviews with patients to see if there are other customer service issues that led to their decision.
- Track case acceptance. Ideally you want to see if there a difference in patient behavior before and after your exiting the plan. You also want to track the reasons patients give for declining treatment so that you can adjust your verbiage. If your practice software doesn’t do this well, I have a spreadsheet to track case acceptance.
- Track unfilled appointments. Is the number of openings growing? Are there any patterns with providers or time of day?
- Analyze production, collection and profit. Profit is the amount left-over once all your monthly expenses have been accounted for. So, while your production may decrease, your profit may actually go up if you now collect more. My consulting clients can easily track their profit on their monthly spreadsheets.
- Consider setting up a membership program. A membership program can enable patients to feel like they are still getting a deal and these programs generally do encourage patients to keep their hygiene appointments. It will also give patients who are considering leaving, an attractive alternative.
- Offer patients a one year “amnesty.” During this year, continue to bill patients their adjusted fees so they can get used to the transition. During the year, make a concerted effort to upgrade your customer service and re-establish your relationships with these patients so that they will be loyal to your practice when their fees revert to your UCR fees.
- Implement a reactivation campaign. You will need to generate an uncompleted treatment report for both doctor and hygiene. Sit with your front desk team, and highlight the patients to be contacted 1, 2nd and 3rd. Develop scripts to re-establish your relationships with these patients and potentially offer incentives to get these patients to schedule.
- Spend more time with patients. While it may seem counter-intuitive, if the practice does slow down – that may not be a bad thing overall. You could reduce your overhead correspondingly and ultimately end up with a better balanced, less stressful and more profitable practice. And, having a slower schedule can mean spending more quality time with patients which DOES lead to more dentistry, fewer broken appointments and increased loyalty. If you and the other providers have more time in your schedule, spend it with patients learning about their motivators and concerns.
- Develop a multi-pronged marketing campaign to attract new patients. if you want to rebuild your patient base, the first step should be to create a robust referral and reviews system. By far, word of mouth referrals generate the highest ROI so you need to implement a system where patients are asked for reviews and referrals every day and then rewarded for their actions. You may also want to contract with a dental marketing agency to upgrade your website and utilize social media.
If you’ve changed your status with a plan, the most important thing to communicate to your patients is that you have changed your relationship with the PLAN, not with THEM. Most dentists experience an upside to becoming fee for service because they end up with more dedicated patients and a higher profit. This transition does require team training, so if you have just left or are considering leaving a plan, contact me and I can guide you through the process and help train your team.