Back in 2006, when the new NHS contract came out, Spondon Dental Practice converted most of their patients to a private dental membership plan, provided by Practice Plan. Now, ten years on, the practice and the plan continue to grow as a result of the effective plan recruitment process developed by the team. Here, dentist Dannick Jethwa explains how they have achieved this.
“I believe placing a membership plan at the heart of your business gives you a solid foundation to work from. I’ve found that in order to do this, your plan needs to be an integral part of everything you and your team does.
We’ve achieved this by creating a well-communicated process with three very clear phases: recruiting, enrolling and maintaining patients – with every member of the team clear on how they contribute to this.
Recruiting – getting new patients through the door
The recruitment phase is all about finding new patients to become a member of our practice. In my experience, one of the most successful methods of recruitment is word of mouth referrals. Our existing patients are always happy to help us, so we take advantage of this by actively letting them know that we’re taking on new patients and asking if they’d be happy to spread the word for us – which they are always more than happy to do!
We also use our website and social media channels to recruit. An easy way for us being to ask our existing patients to write reviews about their experiences on Google or Facebook. This acts as a great advert to prospective new patients when they’re looking for a new dentist, giving them confidence in the practice and their choice to join us. So, when it comes to recruitment, let your existing patients be your biggest ambassadors of your plan and they will find new patients for you.
Enrolment – getting new patients onto your membership plan
Once we’re on the prospective patient’s radar, the next step is to get an appointment booked with the least fuss possible. This is where the front desk team’s telephone skills need to be up to scratch for them to sell the benefits of being both a patient at our practice and a member of our plan. By ensuring that all of the team, from the front desk to the surgery, are on board with the benefits of being a plan member, we’ve found it easier to enrol more patients onto our membership plan.
Once a patient is on-board with becoming a member of the plan, there’s no room for error! Therefore, we’ve found that it’s essential to ensure that there are no mistakes during the enrolment phase of a patient’s journey. That’s why we make sure that all of our team members are up to speed through regular training on the enrolment process from start to finish. With this done, it’s now down to the team to provide the dentistry and service that our patients expect so that we can maintain them on the plan.
Maintaining – getting your patients to maintain their membership
Once a patient is a member of the plan, it’s then important to maintain their membership. For most, that doesn’t just mean booking an appointment with us twice a year for a ‘quick check and scale.’ What it actually involves is making sure our patients feel like they’re part of the practice and that they’re genuinely valued and cared about.
One way we do this by is by implementing an excellent recall system allowing patients to be reminded about their appointments in their preferred way, as well as providing members with good access in case of a dental emergency. What’s more, little things like calling up a patient after they’ve had an extraction, remembering personal details like where they last went on holiday, looking back at their dental history at each appointment, asking how their last treatment was or whether they followed the advice you gave them, giving them tailor-made oral hygiene advice or explaining x-rays are all valued by patients and demonstrate a better standard of care.
Another way we’re able to retain our patients is by making them feel involved through regular Facebook posts and a practice newsletter. In my experience, Facebook posts which are focused on the team having fun always seem to get the most engagement from people. So, we take photos of charity events or activities the team have been doing and share them! At the end of the day, our patients like to see us having fun, this may not bring us new patients but it does contribute to the whole package of what a patient is part of when they join the plan.
Once a new patient has experienced the benefits of the plan at our practice, we then ask them directly to recruit others. To do this, we send letters out to all of our patients 12 months after they have joined with some of our business cards asking for referrals. We then reward them when they refer someone who joins our plan!
This brings me onto the final important factor, which is keeping a close check on how patients are coming into the practice and where from. If it’s from another patient, then who? How many of them are actually joining the plan? A simple book on the front desk for reception to complete with all of this information will suffice. On the flip-side, you also need to know how many patients are leaving and why. We’ve found that Practice Plan are excellent at contacting patients who have cancelled their plan membership so that we’re provided with information as to the reason why.
Over the years, we’ve found that having all of this information has been crucial to building our plan as it allows us to see our strengths and weaknesses to help us to improve upon the ways we do things.
By following these simple steps, you too can develop an effective recruitment process in your dental practice to build and maintain a successful membership plan.”
Dr. Dannick Jethwa has been the Principal of Spondon Dental Practice in Derby since 2008. Dannick has completed diplomas in restorative dentistry and also with the Faculty of General Dental Practitioners at the Royal College of Surgeons of England. He’s also a member on the Derby City Local Dental Committee, representing general practitioners in the area. In 2011, he was awarded ‘Best Young Dentist’ in the Midlands and UK.