No New Patients Isn’t Always the Problem

It’s a hard truth to swallow: acquiring more and more new patients won’t always lead to success or contentment. What we think will solve all of our dental practice problems can sometimes be the exact opposite of what we really need.

I remember talking with a dentist who had empty patches in his schedule that he was desperate to fill. He had also noticed that his practice did a half day less of hygiene than the previous year. He then made it clear to me that he needed new patients, but wasn’t sure how to go about getting them.

Before I dove into a solution that might not work, I clarified the problem. It turned out we were dealing with a very different animal.

The New Patients Conundrum

I immediately asked him how many new adult patients he was averaging per month in the last year. His answer was around fifteen. This piqued my interest and set alarm bells ringing. I told him that doesn’t make sense and explained the math.

Fifteen new adult patients per month should imply two one-hour maintenance visits for every person. That ends up totaling 360 extra hours in the schedule or 45 full days of hygiene. Clearly, this dentist’s problem wasn’t attracting new patients, it was keeping them!

He was blown away by this realization, but it’s not uncommon for dentists to assume new patient acquisition is the problem. In reality, we need to think more like business owners and measure what is worth measuring. In this situation, my advice was to focus on figuring out why patients weren’t sticking around for the long haul.

How we see a problem can be a problem in and of itself. Once we recognize the true source of our frustration, we can take active steps toward a resolution. Hygiene is the core of a practice, after all, and deserves the right kind of attention.

Mark Murphy DDS

Mark is the Principal of Funktional Tracker, a cloud-based behavioral tracking software for dental teams and is Lead Faculty for Clinical Education at ProSomnus Sleep technologies. He is a frequent lecturer at the Pankey Institute and former board of directors member and Adjunct Faculty at the University of Detroit Mercy. Mark practices on a limited basis in Rochester, MI and is an internationally recognized lecturer and author.

Mark Murphy DDS

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