An unhappy patient spreads their unhappiness. They report a poor experience back to their referring doctor or clutter up your Yelp and Google reviews with 1-star ratings. If you scan those reviews, most of them are the result of factors within the control of the endodontic practice. Here is what you and your team need to avoid:
Failing to address their fear
The word “specialist” generates a certain level of anxiety in every patient. Anything that requires the care of a specialist sounds complicated and serious. The phrase “root canal” generates an even higher level of concern. Root canals have a historical connotation of discomfort that no longer matches our clinical processes but endures in the public mindset as dental mythology.
Certainly, an endodontist’s chairside manner is vital to calm fearful patients and bring them down from their anxiety orbit. But the mistake that most practices make is assuming that it is only when the patient is in front of the doctor that their fear can be dispelled.
Addressing the patient’s fear needs to begin from the moment that patient calls the practice to book their appointment. It is absolutely essential the administrator receiving that call has a warm and caring demeanor. They have to project calm confidence, superb knowledge and totally informed certainty about every concern or hesitation the patient has. Reassure the patient that the doctor is the best endodontist, and they will receive treatment easily and quickly.
In this way, starting with the phone call, the team can telegraph calmness to the patient, so the patient feels “these people know what they are doing.” Done at the highest level, even before the patient walks in the door they will feel gratitude and privilege to be taken care of by the best.
Lack of same-day appointments
Americans are not people who like to wait in line, whether that is for a coffee, to check in at the airport or hotel, or to get a root canal. Furthermore, when they are in pain, their tolerance for any delays virtually evaporates. And with endodontic pain in particular, even one day of delay (and a sleepless night of discomfort) seems like an eternity.
A patient in pain wants the pain addressed immediately, and a referrer with a patient in pain wants the pain addressed immediately too. That should be the #1 awareness that your scheduler should always have. Your team needs to be adept at assessing and triaging the patient’s level of pain in the first phone call. They need to show empathy for the patient’s pain, so the patient knows their pain is your priority and you’ll take care of them as quickly as possible.
Then, your scheduling strategy and template needs to have the appointment openings built into every day to accommodate necessary same-day treatment emergencies. No doctor likes to see openings in their schedule, but strategically leaving time reserved for urgent care means that emergency patients will be thankful, not annoyed by waiting. Plus (importantly), when referring doctors know they can count on you for same-day treatment of pain, it is the greatest practice- and relationship-building strategy ever.
Just like the word “specialist” invokes the feeling in patients that care will be complicated, it also invokes the feeling that it will be expensive. Patients need total financial clarity in advance so they can be prepared.
Financial clarity particularly requires your team to be experts at determining the patient’s insurance benefits for treatment, so you can give a very close estimate of their co-pay prior to the patient’s arrival. Even if the patient is just coming in for a consult, they need to be prepared for treatment on the same day, so the estimate needs to be prepared in advance.
Remember, if the patient is undergoing treatment at the GP concurrently, insurance limits can shift benefit payouts overnight. An expert practice administrator stays abreast of every detail for the patient. Patients truly don’t understand the ins and outs of their insurance.
The two biggest mistakes when it comes to finances are 1) not giving patients a co-pay estimate until they are in the practice, and 2) giving them an estimate based on inaccurate insurance information and then surprising them with a higher required co-pay when treatment is performed.
90% of marketing is teamwork
Great practice marketing is far more than just doctor-to-doctor outreach. It means involving the whole team in marketing goals and getting every individual on your team to be aware of how they influence patient and referrer satisfaction.