Not All Patients Are Created Equal

Last night, I held the first virtual book club I’ve ever been a part of. Me and 23 of my close friends from the Orthopreneurs Facebook group got together and discussed Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hr Work Week and brainstormed ways to use ideas from the book to make our practices better.

Though many were clearly shy at first, in time, they participated and we got a lot of great ideas from reasons to perhaps not consider adword ads to time management to better organization in our practices. I loved the experience.

One of the things to come out of the discussion was the idea that not all patients are created equally (duh!). There are those patients for whom you would do almost anything and others who constantly show up late, drive the team crazy and don’t pay their bills.

So“, I asked the group “why do you handle them all equally?

As clinicians, we believe that patients all deserve equal treatment. I completely disagree. They all deserve equal outcomes, but not equal treatment.

For instance, you’ve got a patient, Patient “A” whom your entire team loves. They show up 5 minutes early, engage you in awesome conversation, respect your time, take care of their teeth, never abuse your dentistry in any way, pay their bills and make you feel great for everything you do. You know who they are. You can probably come up with a few names in your head right now.

Now, think of that patient whose name you see in the schedule and cringe, patient “B”. The helicopter mom who insists you do everything to her child the way she wants. Maybe she’s loud and boisterous. Perhaps she raises her voice every now and then or snaps at the team.

Maybe her kid never brushes her teeth and when you tell her about it, she quips to the child: “Did you hear what he said?” and takes no responsibility for the situation at all. Maybe she lets her other children eat in the reception area and drop food everywhere and not clean it up. You know the type. Thankfully, I have nobody matching that full description in my office because I’d throw them out of my practice, but you get the idea.

Now, it’s 4:35 on Friday and you close at 5 pm.  Patient A and B call and tell you they’ll be 10 minutes late. Do you treat them the same? Should you treat them the same? Absolutely not.

I’ll stay late for the VIP first patient and not a second late for the latter patient, but how is your team to know what to do differently?

Every patient in your office should be categorized by group, with your best patients being an “A” and your worst patients a “C”. If they’re exceptional, they’re an “A” and if they’re trouble, they’re a “C”. Everyone else, by default, is a “B” until they can distinguish themselves into the other two categories. Then, find a place in their charts to make that notation (preferably sortable) in a way that any team member can easily find it.

Create policies and systems that allow you to treat the categories differently. NOTE: I am NOT telling you to give them different outcomes or to punish anyone. But, when you’re having a patient appreciation event, why are you spending money and catering to your “C” patients?!?!? I’d sooner invite all of my “A’s” and their friends before inviting a single “C”. You get the idea, right.

So, the next time you or your team find yourself complaining about a patient who takes advantage of you and your office staff, ask yourself what you’re doing to help the situation.

You are most definitely not powerless.

If you cannot curb their behavior and they aren’t so tough that you must dismiss them from the practice, simply have a different set of rules that apply to them. Oh, and then make sure that you never become that patient at YOUR doctor’s office.

All the best,

If you’re not a member of our free Orthopreneurs Facebook group (with over 1000 members as of this penning), there are only two requirements: You’re an orthodontist and you want to join a group of like-minded peers who have come together to solve our common business problems. Click HERE to learn more.