6 Factors for Dental Practices to Review

The end of the year is almost here and before heading to the holiday celebrations, it is the best time to reflect on your dental practice’s results for 2019. This will help you set the basis for a more successful year ahead and will contribute to reaching your goals.

Here is a checklist of the main aspects every dentist should look into:

In part one of this article, we will explore the first three items from the checklist.

#1: New patients

Even if practice growth is not your main priority, attracting new patients is essential to maintain a healthy profitable practice.

According to the industry benchmark, on average a dentist should see 20 – 25 new patients per month.

If you are not tracking this number currently, it is highly recommended to go back and extract the information from your records. The total count of new patients per year and the average per month are two of the main metrics to calculate. Besides these, you should also look at what percentage of your active patients falls are new patients. With the data in your hands, you have a good basis to evaluate the effectiveness of your patient acquisition strategy.

However, note that there is a downside if the share of new patients compared to your patient base is too high. It might be a warning sign that you fail to keep existing patients. In such cases, you need to focus on improving patient loyalty and engagement.

Acquisition channels

Do you know how patients learned about your practice? Probably one of the easiest ways to find out is to ask them in the new patient questionnaire. Otherwise, you are left in the dark, and it is impossible to tell which marketing activities really work. For example, it will help you clarify if advertising is paying off or whether your referral program performs better.

Here are some of the channels you need to look into:

  • Social media
  • Google Search – paid advertising and organic search
  • Review platforms
  • Referrals from other patients
  • Referrals from other specialists
  • Online directories
  • Your website
  • Email marketing
  • Advertising in local media

Cost per new patient

Another aspect to evaluate is the spend on acquiring a new patient. Divide your marketing costs to the number of new patients and you will get this number. For more precise analysis, you can monitor the cost by acquisition channel. This will give you a complete picture of the return on investment of marketing activities. Before increasing the budget for high performing channels, note that you have to look into their potential.

For instance, you are advertising for the keyword phrase ‘dentist in [your area]’ on Google and your ad appears on top positions in 90% of cases. Increasing the budget is unlikely to make a significant difference without changing anything else. However, you can put the extra budget to good work by adding more keywords to cover other relevant searches dominated by competitors.

#2: Patient retention

What share of patients did you lose in the past year? How many of your active patients already booked their next check-up? How many stay after a first visit?

There are 2 key metrics to evaluate patient loyalty: retention rate and attrition rate.

The attrition way can be calculated by different approaches.

The more general formula is:

Patient attrition rate = ((Active patients at the beginning of the period – Active patients at the end of the period)/ Active patients at the beginning of the period) x 100

Another method is:

Annual patient attrition rate = ((Active patients over the last 30 months – Active patients last 18 months)/ Active patients in the past 18 months ) x 100

With regards to retention rate, simply use the formula:

Patient retention rate = ((Active patients at the end of the period – New patients)/Active patients at the start of the period)) x 100

Active patients is the total number of different patients who received treatment over the specified period. For example, if a patient came for teeth cleaning at the beginning of the year and then for filling a couple of months later, the patient should be counted only once in the active patients metric.

Experts advise that the normal attrition rate for dental practices is around 17%. For patient retention, the closer you are to 100%, the better, but the reality could be much different.

In any case, we strongly recommend that you examine the reasons behind the numbers carefully and aim to improve your results.

Detailed feedback by patients can provide valuable insight into what has to be changed in order to increase retention. You don’t need to create a questionnaire from scratch. Specialized dental review platforms like Dentacoin Trusted Reviews offer a comprehensive patient feedback questionnaire for free.

#3: Online reputation

According to research from DentaVox, 86% of patients looked at online reviews before choosing a new dentist.

Based on how patients use online reviews, besides the star ratings, you should also monitor:

  • The number of reviews

Ratings should be supported by 30+ reviews to be trustworthy.

There are different strategies of how to encourage patients to leave reviews and all require a proactive approach from your side. Our free guide on How to Get More Reviews contains 5 easy-to-implement tactics to help you in that direction.

  • How many reviews do you have within the past 2 months?

Recency is another key aspect. Old feedback has very little impact on potential patients.

  • What topics are covered in the reviews?

Potential patients are interested to find out if you managed to take care of patients’ dental problems. In reality, often patients are not sure what to write. Some help articles contain good tips on how to write a useful review to help them get started.

  • Your response to unfavorable feedback.

Although a rather unpleasant, it is essential to respond to negative reviews. It gives you an opportunity to clear your image and show potential patients how you handle issues. Filter one and two-star reviews if any, and track whether you provided a reply.

  • Do you have reviews from verified patients?

People are well aware that not all feedback is genuine. However, it may be difficult to judge which reviews are written by real patients. Some specialized platforms mark reviews submitted upon your invitation as ‘verified feedback’. These reviews are valuable because they truly represent a patient’s experience so it’s worth your time to have a look if you already have them. If not, you should get started with such a platform as soon as possible.

We hope the overview of these factors and metrics will give you a good starting point to begin reviewing your results. Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will look at what to examine with regards to website traffic, social media and search rankings.