Don’t add more new patients until you fix THIS problem.

Doctors and office managers often contact me and ask for the best ideas to attract new patients. Their motivation is simple; those offices need to increase their production. Sure, I could spout off innovative ways to bring in patients, but I don’t do that, at least not at first.

When I get asked that question, my first response is, “What are your patient attendance rates?” Most offices don’t know the answer to that question.

Here’s the thing. If you have a problem with patients showing up to scheduled appointments at your office as it is, the LAST thing you want to do is to perpetuate that problem by adding more new patients who will do the same thing to your practice.

Only when you are satisfied with your patient attendance rates should you consider adding new patients to the practice.

How do you figure out patient attendance rates (PAR)? It’s quite simple really.

I break our daily schedule into 3 categories: Hygiene Patients, New Patients, and Current Patients with Treatment.

To understand PAR, let me take you through a scenario…

If I walk in to the office in the morning, and we have 20 hygiene patients scheduled at that time, the goal is to have all 20 show up by the end of the day. That would be 100% attendance. If 17 come in, then my PAR is 85%. If I have 6 new patients on the schedule, I want all 6 to come in that day. If only 4 show up, then my new patient PAR is 67% (ouch!). If I have 12 patients booked for restorative procedures with the doctor and 9 come in, then that gets tracked as a 75% PAR. It’s good to know the percentage rates for the different categories, because then you can really see where the problem lies and that will help you decide which strategies to implement. I determine the PAR for each of the three categories and then average the three of those numbers to get an overall average. For the example above, the overall PAR would be 79%. Where I went to school, a 79% was a letter grade of a C. Ugh, I do not want to be average.

For our office, I would NOT be happy with a 79% PAR. I certainly would not spend money on marketing only to allow this rate to continue. Let’s think about this. For that ONE day, the PAR was 79%. What would the PAR be for all the other days? What would would PAR be over a month period? Over a three month period? What would production and collection numbers be like if the PAR was closer to 100%?

You can GREATLY increase your production and collections WITHOUT spending any money on marketing.  When your attendance increases, so will your production and collections. Make sense?

One of the things I’ve learned is that unless you actively do the math, you really don’t know what your PAR is. I’ve asked employees in the same office to guess what their PARs are, and have gotten vastly different responses. Offices are often surprised at their PAR when they sit down, go through the schedule, and figure it all out.

Where should your PAR numbers be? The truth of the matter is that you can achieve a near 100% PAR with specific systems in place. Some people might think that there is nothing that can be done to avoid patient no shows, but they are wrong. Only when we started focusing on that one metric, did our attendance rates skyrocket.

For the month of August, our dental office had the following PARs.

Hygiene: 95%

New Patients: 100%

Current Treatment Patients: 99%

Overall PAR: 98%

I was pretty pleased with how August turned out for us. I’m pretty satisfied with 98% attendance, especially since many years ago, our overall average was about 80%. A score of 98% is an A+!  I would give our office the green light to do some marketing because we have internal systems in place that encourage patients to keep their reservations with our office.

I urge you to look at your PAR and see what your rates are. Make a cognizant effort to improve this number. Make sure that ALL team members are aware of this number and remind them that they ALL have a hand in improving this rate. High patient attendance rates DO NOT HAPPEN BY ACCIDENT! If you want your patients to show up, you must implement strategies to do this! Offices who have consistently low attendance rates have allowed that to happen. They have created a low value environment.

What sort of environment has your office created?

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