5 Milestones on the Patient Intake Journey (And How They Can Be Improved)

By August 20, 2015Blog
  1. Patient notices practice’s marketing. Contrary to popular belief, the intake process begins long before the new patient contacts the practice. For weeks, months or even years prior, the patient may know about the practice but never take action to visit the practice. During that time, the patient may see your marketing efforts dozens or even hundreds of times. Strengthen the practice’s online ads, direct mail and other direct marketing initiatives in two ways:
    • Put the best foot forward. Lead with the attributes that the happiest patients love most about the practice, not clinical or technological speak. Examples include “bright and progressive,” “fun, straightforward,” and “laughter and lightness.” Remember – patients are most loyal to the feeling the practice gives them.
    • Hone the services offered. Nix the laundry list of services in favor of featuring one best per ad group or campaign. For example, one might focus on crowns in a day while a second can feature full-smile makeovers. This makes each service memorable at the time that the patient’s need arises.
  2. Patient lands on practice website. Whether the patient learned about the practice online or offline, it is likely that he or she will search online before making an appointment. Improve the practice’s website in two ways:
    • Let the patient land. Be sure that each of the practice’s marketing tactics point to a landing page, not the home page. A landing page speaks directly to the service mentioned in the marketing tactic, keeping the patient engaged and moving toward calling the practice for a specific appointment type.
    • Provide options. Keep in mind that not all patients want to call the practice. Make it easy for all patients to take the next step by offering a way to email the practice, make an appointment online and/or follow the practice on social media. Have all options available on every page of the website, not just the contact page.
  3. Patient makes an appointment. This is the first interaction that the patient will have with your team. Here are two ways to make the most of that first call:
    • Be thorough. The front office knows to determine the reason for the call, ask when the patient last had dental care and gather basic information including any relevant insurance details. Be sure, too, to record how the patient heard about the practice, including the full name of the person who referred them. This will reveal what marketing initiatives are working best and where improvement is needed.
    • Express gratitude. Thank the new patient for selecting your practice by mailing a thank-you card or glossy welcome packet directly after the call. If the patient was referred, send the patient who made the referral a thank-you card. These small acts of gratitude go a long way in maintaining the practice’s well of happy patients.
  4. Patient arrives for appointment. It’s the big moment! Make the patient feel special in two ways:
    • Build the relationship. Whenever possible, the dentist should greet the patient in the reception area, even just for a quick, “Hello.” Patients are most loyal to dentists with whom they feel they have a relationship, so even the shortest interaction is important.
    • Be impeccably on time. Be sure that the patient is taken back within three minutes of arriving. A dentist’s respect for the patient’s time will keep the patient loyal to the practice for years to come.
  5. Patient completes new patient intake forms. This is perhaps the most mundane part of any healthcare visit. Improve the experience for your patients in two ways:
    • Be proactive. Provide the forms on your website, or email them to new patients after the appointment call so that they can fill them out beforehand and step right into their appointment.
    • Brand yourself. Be sure that all forms bear your brand, including logo and practice colors. Consider incorporating a simple design that reflects the practice culture and matches the website and décor. The more continuity in the brand, the more memorable the practice.