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    Do you know why patients aren't coming in?

    To be a successful practice, you need to identify and remove any roadblocks potential patients face.

    If you want your dental practice to grow and thrive, you need to find out why potential patients avoid your office.

    According to the CDC, only about 62 percent of adults visit the dentist at least once a year, and nearly 30 percent of American adults have untreated caries. These are people who need care, so why aren’t they coming into your office?

    Every patient who avoids dental care has some roadblock preventing them from making an appointment. If you can find out what the roadblocks are in your target demographics, you can take steps to clear them for your potential patients. Once you remove the roadblocks, you’ll see them in your office.

    Read more: The importance of patient acquisition in a competitive market

    The best way to discover roadblocks

    So, how do you discover what roadblocks your potential patients face? You could pay to survey them, but polls are becoming less reliable as people avoid phone calls from strangers. You could ask your current patients about roadblocks for their friends and family, but “people who already visit the dentist” probably won’t give you accurate information on people who don’t visit the dentist. If you want good information on roadblocks to dental care, you’re going to need to get out into your community and talk to your future patients.

    When I did this, I discovered that one group of patients—retirees—avoided seeking dental care because they no longer had dental insurance. They needed a way to make expenses predictable before they would come into the office. Once I Shaking handsdeveloped an in-house dental savings plan, as detailed in my book How to Grow Your Dental Membership Plan, I was able to get many more retirees into my office. I listened, understood their problem and developed a targeted response to clear the roadblock. As a result, my practice grew. You can take the same approach in your community by going out and really listening to what people have to say.

    Once they come in: 6 ways to ethically persuade a reluctant patient to follow a treatment plan

    Roadblocks will vary by demographic. For people in their 20s, roadblocks might include office hours that don’t fit with work schedules, or a fear of painful dentistry. So, if this is the group you’re trying to reach, you might start by adding evening and weekend hours. Or, you might decide to specialize in gentle dentistry, so you could reach the people who are afraid of the dentist.

    Up next: What to do after you've removed the roadblock


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