By Roger P. Levin, DDS
An observation program represents one of the most potent strategies for acquiring new ortho patients, especially in today’s more competitive market. Some orthodontists object to spending time seeing observation patients at no cost. Others claim that observation programs don’t work, based on their unsuccessful attempt at running an observation program years ago.
In fact, observation can channel new patients into your practice consistently and cost-effectively, if you approach it the right way. Following are four guidelines Levin Group clients have used with great success.
- Put your treatment coordinator (TC) in charge.
Although you’ll examine the observation patients and determine when treatment should begin, your TC will build the relationship with the parents, who she’ll already know in most cases, and prospective patients. She’ll do most of the selling: promoting your skills, the practice, and the value of getting treatment there. She’ll probably do a better job of this than you could, and it will minimize the time you spend chairside with observation patients.
- Emphasize the value of observation for patients and parents.
As you know, ortho treatment will be most effective when started at the optimal time. When inviting parents to enroll their child, your TC should explain this important advantage, along with other program benefits. These include detecting problems early enough to allow for preventative treatment, and the fact that all observation exams, X-rays, and other imaging are provided free of charge. Promoting the program as a fun experience will also turn the child into an advocate for joining the club.
- Recruit siblings of current patients.
Any child with a family history of ortho problems or evidence of a possible need for treatment would qualify for your observation program. But before you spend time and money reaching out to the community, start with your patient base. Work through your current relationships to persuade parents to enroll siblings, using existing channels of communication: social media, email, in-practice posters, other materials, and scripted conversations.
- See patients every six months, and keep everyone on schedule.
To enable you to start treatment at the best time, and to help establish strong family-practice relationships, schedule observation patients twice a year. Though you may be tempted to relax your confirmation protocols for observation appointments, don’t. You’ll end up losing future patients. Also, follow up on no-shows and last-minute cancellations just as you would for regular patients.
An observation program will bring in new patients cost-effectively if you, your TC, and the rest of your team follow these recommendations and commit to making the program a success.
Attend Dr. Levin’s ortho seminar, Ignite Your Referrals, Increase Your Close Rate, January 14–15, 2016, in Las Vegas, or February 12–13, 2016, in San Francisco tuition-free. Ask your Ortho2 Regional Manager how to receive an Educational Grant. Go to www.levingroup.com/orthoseminars to see other dates and locations for 2016.