How do you handle new patients who call with a dental emergency? Are you accommodating and get everyone in? Maybe you have pre-blocked a certain number of emergency appointments that you save and only schedule the same day? Perhaps your office does not accept new patient emergency visits? All of these are valid approaches for some offices and wouldn’t work in another. You need to think through this issue and decide how your office will handle new patient emergencies.
My belief is that how you handle new patient emergencies is dependent on whether you are in a growth mode looking for new patients or you are a busy office and more focused on managing the craziness of your schedule. The first thing to think through is the effectiveness of converting an emergency new patient into a regular patient who is engaged in their dental health. Intuitively you will have a percentage you can assign to this that will give you an idea of how much effort goes into these appointments in exchange for the return.
One way to approach appointing a new patient emergency is to ask some key questions on the phone and determine which new patients you want to accommodate. Are they new to the area, having just moved and not yet established a relationship with a dentist? Or have they lived within walking distance of your office for ten years and only go to the dentist when something hurts? Someone skilled ont he telephone with the time and inclination can increase the likelihood that these appointments create long-term relationships.
If you have more patients than time, I would encourage that you significantly limit the amount of productive time you set aside for new patient emergencies. Will you potentially miss out on meeting some fantastic patients with this approach, of course. The reality if you are busy is that the few good patients that come into your office this way are not worth the time and energy investment, and distraction away from your patients of record these appointments cost. If you are actively growing your practice and have more time than patients, than welcome new patient emergencies ( along with any one else) with open arms. They key is to stay alert for when your practice transitions and titrate the amount of time to the needs of the office.