One of the most overlooked areas in orthodontic practice is the observation program. Levin Group has reviewed thousands of observation programs in the last 39 years. Although I don’t have exact data, I would estimate that almost 90% of them are not well designed and that many practices have lost extensive revenue from observation patients who did not follow through with treatment.

Here are five things you should do right now to get the most from your observation program.

1. Make it clear that the observation program is the responsibility of the treatment coordinator.

He or she is responsible for sales and should understand that the observation program is an enormous sales opportunity. Consider the amount of revenue your practice has derived from observation patients over the years, and in most cases it could be MUCH higher.

2. Track observation patients every day.

How many are in the program? How many new patients are in it? Are those numbers increasing or decreasing? How many observation patients started treatment? These and other simple statistics will tell you a lot about your observation program that you probably do not know right now. The TC should submit a report to the orthodontist and office manager at the end of every day. This takes just a few minutes to complete and review.

3. Treat your observation patients as if they are already patients.

True, they haven’t started, but they are patients. Include them in communications, updates, practice information, and practice marketing. The more connected they are to the practice the higher their sense of value and the more likely that they will agree to start when the time comes.

4. See your observation patients regularly.

Whether you do it in-office or with telecommunications it is essential that you maintain a consistent cadence of contact with observation patients. We recommend 6 months and now with virtual communication you have the opportunity to touch observation patients without them actually coming in. This is more convenient for parents and patients and uses up less office chair time.

However, and this is a big however, don’t go all virtual. If you go all virtual you will not be able to build the same level of relationship with parents and patients that you can if you periodically bring them into the office and see them face-to-face. Alternating virtual visits with live ones is a good starting point.

5. Pay close attention to determine if you are losing observation patients, and why they are leaving.

Most orthodontists do not track their observation patients this closely. We are finding more observation patients start shopping other offices or delivery models as the point at which they should begin treatment approaches.

The observation patient may be the second largest opportunity for orthodontic practice success. Unfortunately, most practices do not pay close attention to the observation program. It should be tracked daily and strategized on a regular basis. OP

Roger Levin

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the CEO and founder of Levin Group, a leading practice management consulting firm that has worked with over 30,000 practices to increase production. A recognized expert on orthodontic practice management and marketing, he has written 67 books and over 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the U.S. and around the world. To contact Levin or to join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit or email [email protected].