Patient attrition causes and the solutions that increase lifetime loyalty

Making friends and keeping friends are two different things. Each requires self-awareness.

The same applies to acquiring and retaining your dental patients. 

What patient attrition can teach you about the quality of your patient relationships

The US average for patient attrition hovers around 17%

Put in practical terms, if you have a healthy patient base of 2,500 active patients, then every year roughly 425 stop visiting your practice.” – Dental Economics

It’s essentially a front door-back door problem. Patients are coming in the front door but others are (for whatever reason) leaving out the back door.

  • Patients aren’t asked to schedule their next appointment.
  • No-shows slip-through-the-cracks.
  • Late-shows are sent home with less than 50% being rescheduled.
  • Patients receiving operative treatment aren’t rescheduled for their next hygiene appointment.

These trends contribute to patient attrition. Solving patient attrition becomes a multifaceted challenge.

Think in terms of lifetime patient value

Certain sources estimate lifetime patient value at $12,000 to $15,000. It’s staggering to realize that losing patients through your “back door” can total millions of lost dollars over the life of your practice. 

A lifetime patient value perspective is a key reason to focus increasing amounts of energy on solving your patient attrition problem.

How to keep your current patients

1-Apply mindful-measurement to your practice metrics

Think of it with a carpenter’s perspective – “Measure twice…drill once.”

A deeper analysis of your practice will help you confront and solve your patient attrition issues.

For instance, third party applications can help you. Consider Dental Intelligence. They claimed to be “the world’s #1 software for tracking, analyzing, managing, and growing your practice.” 

Their analysis can clarify your focus on three key metrics:

“• Total active patients

• Annual attrition rate

• Annual patient growth rate” – Dental Economics


Effective analysis can be cost-effective and in some instances, free! Patient attrition isn’t a quick-fix but measuring the right things can help you spot trends and apply strategies to close-the-backdoor.

2-Acknowledge that patients can leave despite your best efforts.

Take patient relationships seriously. Every patient is an individual with unique needs, health issues, emotional drivers for seeking dentistry, etc.

  • Know them by name and call them by name. Keep every interaction personal.
  • Make personal connections at subsequent appointments. Birthdays, life events, promotions, etc. are core to building patient relationships. 
  • Learn from businesses you frequent that make you feel good when you walk in the door, order, make a purchase, etc.
  • Communicate regularly and relevantly. Newsletters, emails, social media posts, blog content, and more are useful channels to educate and inform your patients. 
  • Provide a good range of financial options for their investment in dental care. Help patients to have financial access for the dental care that they need. Treatment expenses should not be a reason patients leave your practice. Be clear, sensitive, and flexible with payment solutions. 

The stability and strength of your practice is primarily dependent on a healthy level of patient retention that exceeds the level of attrition. A substantial core of loyal patients will ensure that you can survive and even thrive through difficult economic downturns.

Dr. Patrick Cassidy

Dr. Patrick Cassidy is a dental graduate of the University of British Columbia, and holds a Masters of Public Health from the University of North Carolina. He is the founder of Research Triangle Dental and Implant Center in North Carolina where he contributes his 30+ years of dental knowledge. Dr. Cassidy’s innovation and creativity co-founded Net32, Inc., a dental industry leading comparison shopping.

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Dr. Patrick Cassidy is a dental graduate of the University of British Columbia, and holds a Masters of Public Health from the University of North Carolina. He is the founder of Research Triangle Dental and Implant Center in North Carolina where he contributes his 30+ years of dental knowledge. Dr. Cassidy’s innovation and creativity co-founded Net32, Inc., a dental industry leading comparison shopping.

Last modified: January 10, 2020

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