By Roger P. Levin, DDS
There are still some orthodontists who reject the idea of establishing an observation program. If you’re one of them and not so busy that you’re turning patients away, I think you should reconsider.
The usual objection goes something like, “Why should I spend my valuable time giving free exams to kids who aren’t even patients?”
The simple answer is, “Because the small amount of time you invest now in seeing observation patients will be richly rewarded in the form of new, paying patients in the not-too-distant future.”
Creating an Observation Program Patient Base
The primary source of program participants is families of current patients. Younger siblings are good prospects because (1) they are likely to have ortho issues, (2) their parents have already demonstrated a willingness to pay for improving a child’s smile, and (3) you already have a direct channel of communication with the parents.
After establishing a solid base of observation patients this way, you can bring in more children to observe by encouraging referrals. These can come from pediatric dentists and pediatricians, as well as from current patients’ parents who know other young candidates for observation.
Take Steps to Make the Program a Success
Levin Group has helped many ortho practices set up observation programs in our role as business-building consultants. Typically, we see a 95% rate of conversion from observation to treatment. Some of the guidelines for success are:
See participants no less often than every six months. This is important for two reasons. First, it will keep the relationship fresh, enabling patients and parents to get to know and like you and your staff. Second, it will give you a clear picture of exactly when treatment should begin from a clinical standpoint.
Make it fun for the participants. If the children enjoy coming for observation, it strengthens your chances of seeing them as full-fledged patients when the time comes. Think of it as a club, with little prizes, social activities, games, and contests.
Get your treatment coordinator involved. Your TC, who probably already has relationships with the parents and siblings of observation patients, should spend a little time furthering the relationship and preparing the way for case acceptance.
At a time when competition for new ortho patients is greater than ever, a well-run observation program will give you a great advantage over orthodontists who still don’t understand the power of this “free” service.
Attend Dr. Levin’s ortho seminar, Set Your Ortho Practice on Fire, October 29–30, 2015, in Las Vegas, tuition-free. Ask your Ortho2 Systems Consultant how to receive an Educational Grant.