Here’s a Top 10 list that can boost your profits

Painless lessons from dentists

While some would argue that the lack of managed care in the dental profession makes their situation different, the best dental practices still have plenty of marketing and customer service ideas that any good physician practice can emulate. Here are 10.

Have a party for your patients.

Don DiGiulian, DDS, of Branford (CT) Dental Care, hosts a night at the local minor league baseball team. Patients sign up for tickets and he purchases them. For the $200 or $300 cost, DiGiulian says he buys a lot of good will. "They see you with your kids and your family in your Bermuda shorts. Suddenly, you are more of a real person to them."

Be on time.

Physician practices probably hear this mantra all the time, but DiGiulian says if you are continually late, all you are telling your patient is that you don’t value their time. Steve Rempas, DDS, of Webster Dental Care in Chicago, makes it a point never to keep patients waiting more than 20 minutes — and then only if it’s an emergency. "You have to watch where you double-book," Rempas says.

Don’t leave patients alone.

Patients going to the dentist or doctor are often nervous. If at all possible, don’t leave them sitting for long periods of time alone.

Know your patients.

Rempas makes sure every file contains a picture of the patient. That way, when someone comes in for an appointment, the reception staff can greet him or her by name. John Christensen, president of the dental consultancy Chrisad in Larkspur, CA, recommends that you keep information on your patients — such as their children’s names and ages, and anything you know about their hobbies or interests — in their file so that your support staff can ask them a question that demonstrates you know who they are.

Make your waiting area inviting.

Make sure you have a good collection of magazines and coffee-table books, says Rempas. Invest in a television and VCR and put patient education videos on TV. Even if you don’t generally treat children, your patients may have kids, so have a well-stocked children’s area, too.

Offer consistent information.

Rempas says all the major questions patients and prospective patients have should be answered the same way. He has written a book of scripts, from which any receptionist or support staff member can read. "That way, all the same information is given for all common discussions."

Teach your staff about your practice.

Rempas also uses his support staff as marketers. They are all taught about one or two procedures so they can discuss them intelligently. "We do a sell job that is subtle, but effective," Rempas says. "It reinforces our practice and our modern equipment."

Check up on patients.

DiGiulian makes it a point to call patients the evening after they have had a difficult procedure. Doctors should do the same.

Give free treatment where appropriate.

This can be formal, such as donating services to a battered women’s shelter, says DiGiulian, or something more informal. For instance, recently a man came in with a toothache. He needed a root canal. "I did the procedure, but then built up the tooth for him and gave him a tooth- colored filling for no charge. That will bring in more patients. And when he’s ready for a cap, you can bet he’ll come back to us."

Take time with patients.

Christensen says many physicians believe that if they spend more time with patients, they will make less money. But the opposite is true. "If you take the time to treat patients as individuals, you will make more money. They will refer you to others. They will come to you for treatment that is not covered by their insurance. If you make the time, you will make more money."