As COVID-19 and coronavirus-related restrictions begin to ease around the country, you might find yourself with what is normally considered a good problem to have: too many patients and not enough time to see them all. This is partly because you’ve had to reschedule so many patients from the last month that will now need to make new appointments. 

The problem is made even worse by some ongoing restrictions that might make it hard to see patients as efficiently as before: additional restrictions about PPE, waiting rooms, and additional sanitation procedures. You might feel overwhelmed just trying to fit in all the patients already scheduled ahead and can’t figure out how you’re going to see all the rescheduled patients. 

But have you considered that maybe you just won’t see them all? Maybe it’s time to let some patients go by not rescheduling their appointments. 

Here’s why you might not want to keep all those patients. 

Male dentist in one of his exam rooms

Some Patients Are More Valuable Than Others

While being a dentist means taking care of people’s health, you also have to run it as a business. And that means looking at your revenue per patient. If you’re taking time to assess your business, either during slowdowns or at tax time, you should have a good idea not only about your average revenue per patient, but also about which patients are high revenue patients, and which ones are low revenue patients. 

Low revenue patients might be those who have insurance (or certain types of insurance–they’re not all equal), those who always refuse your treatment recommendations, and those who always pay their share of the bill late. Once you’ve identified these patients, you might not want to reschedule their appointments. 

Some Patients Are More Trouble Than Others

But revenue is only part of the equation. Some patients are just difficult to deal with. If they’re difficult to deal with, they can interfere with the smooth functioning of your team, decrease team morale, and even lead to the loss of other patients you actually want to keep. 

Trouble patients might include patients that just don’t like you, those that self-diagnose with Google and want to dispute your professional judgment, those who make a dramatic show of anxiety, and those that make rude, racist, and/or sexist remarks to you, your staff, or other patients. These all create an unpleasant experience for everyone else. 

Another class of trouble patients are those that never follow home care recommendations and blame you when they don’t get the results they should. This can lead not just to retreatments, but also recriminations and disputes–you just don’t need it! Don’t call to reschedule appointments of trouble patients. 

Some Patients Will Get Better Care Elsewhere

It’s also important to consider which patients might actually be a better fit at a different practice. For example, a patient who does have a high level of anxiety might be a better match for a dentist who is skilled at dealing with anxious patients. Or maybe a patient has persistent periodontal problems when most of your skill is in dealing with caries and restorative or cosmetic dentistry. Some patients might also just get along and listen better to a different dentist. Who knows?

Once you’ve identified patients that you’re not serving as well as they should be cared for, you might not want to reschedule their appointments now. 

How to Cut Patients

Once you’ve identified the patients that aren’t right for your practice, you have the challenge of cutting them from your practice in a considerate, respectful manner. The easiest way is to just not reschedule their appointments. Eventually, some will call your practice to schedule, while others will call someplace else. When less desirable patients call, fit them in around the patients you want, but don’t be proactive about scheduling their next appointment. They will eventually get the message and start looking for dental care elsewhere. 

When patients might get better care at another dentist, refer them there, while explaining why you think this other dentist might be a better match for them. Only do this when you really think they will get better care and you can honestly and politely express the reasons why. 

You Can Get More Revenue with Fewer Patients

Understandably, you might be nervous about losing the revenue from cutting any patients at this time. And maybe for your practice, this might not be the right time to make this move. However, you might not actually be losing that much revenue, and in many cases this is a great first start to actually increasing your revenue while seeing fewer patients. 

To achieve this goal, you have to increase the revenue generated per patient. You’ve already done that by cutting patients that have the lowest revenue. You’ll also be to provide better care for the patients you retained. These patients will be happier and more likely to recommend you to a friend. Friends that are like them and more likely to be higher revenue patients. 

You will also be able to focus on transitioning your practice to performing more of the dentistry that you like to perform (and are good at) which will make everyone happier and more efficient. 

Every Challenge Is an Opportunity

While there is no disputing that the coronavirus pandemic has been a major challenge for dentists, it’s also an opportunity for those dentists who are prepared to seize it. 

If you want to learn more about seeing the opportunity in every challenge you face, consultation with Dr. Shahin Safarian can guide you. Please call (858) 349-7996 today to learn how he can help you achieve your goal of a 7-Figure Dental Practice.