These are the patients that cause problems in your practice

Of course, you want to attract as many patients to your practice as you can. More patients mean more production, more referrals, more revenue, and more growth, after all. While that’s all true, it’s also important to attract the right kind of patients to your office. 

I hate to say it, but there are patients who actually do your practice more harm than good. They’re the ones you dread to see on the schedule because you know they’re likely to flake out at the last minute and not show up or have problems paying their bill on time. These patients can be a source of stress and frustration for everyone on your team. The good news? I can help you turn these problem patients into patients you enjoy having in the practice. Here’s a list of the most harmful patients and how they can become patients who help your practice thrive:

Patients who can’t make it to their appointments. Broken appointments do a lot of damage to your practice. Not only do they lead to stress and frustration, but they also cost you thousands of dollars in lost revenue. 

I suggest you flag patients who are known for flaking out and schedule them a few months out rather than pre-appointing them six months in advance. They’ll have a better idea of what their schedules will be—making them less likely to have to cancel last minute or to not show up at all. 

Patients who are always late making payments. The process should be simple. You provide the dentistry and patients pay for services rendered. Unfortunately, collecting money owed can be a struggle sometimes, with patients not paying their bills until team members spend time sending reminders and calling them on the phone. 

How can you convince patients they need to pay on time? Make it easy for them. I suggest you offer third-party financing from companies like CareCredit. This enables patients to pay small amounts at a time rather than having to write one big check. It’s much less of a financial burden, making them more likely to hit their payment deadlines. 

It’s also a good idea to offer online payment options. That way, patients can pay their bills when it’s convenient for them. There’s no need to call the office, stop in or put a check in the mail. They can log into their account and finish the task with just a few clicks. Developing a policy that makes it clear when payment is due also helps. 

Patients who don’t value dentistry. These patients don’t accept treatment or think twice about canceling their appointment at the last minute. If you take the time to educate patients about their condition and the importance of maintaining their oral health, they’ll understand why they should keep their appointments and accept the treatment you recommend. 

Beyond talking with patients and showing them images of their mouth chairside, videos, brochures and e-newsletters can help educate them about the value of dentistry and the services you provide. I also suggest you send every patient home with a list of what you did during the appointment and the free products they received. Many will be surprised to see what all goes into that hour visit and will actually start to appreciate what you do.  

Patients who don’t come back after their first appointment. This happens all the time. Patients show up for their first appointment and you think they’re going to be patients for life. Instead, you never hear from them again. Why does this happen? There are many reasons, but it’s usually because they didn’t have a great experience. 

Patients have certain expectations when they visit a practice. If you don’t live up to them, they won’t hesitate to book their next appointment somewhere else. That’s why I suggest focusing on creating an exceptional experience patients won’t forget. Team members should greet every patient with a smile and let them know they’re there to help. Offer them coffee or water as they wait, and don’t keep them waiting long. Put them at ease and assure them they’re in good hands. 

It’s also important to build a rapport with patients. Ask them about their families and their jobs. Talk with them about their dental goals and how your practice can help them meet those goals. Start building a connection and you’ll see more first time patients become loyal patients who refer, rather than patients who you never hear from again. 

Your patients shouldn’t cost you money or create extra stress. These tips will help you turn problem patients into loyal patients who help you move the practice forward. 

Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management,, a full-service, nation-wide dental practice management company. Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or at



Dental Billing Tips and News for Pros; Edition #140


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