Communicating with patients of Record I

March 21, 2012



Effective patient communication requires a simple to use content management system and automated means for delivering messages. Equally important are the chosen messages and interval of the communications. The final success component is effective response tracking and monitoring, without which one cannot determine the relative effectiveness of various communication components and strategies. The benefit is a more loyal and valuable patient base, and a more valuable patient means a higher ROI from strategies that generate new patients.

By The Numbers?

If you're investing, say, $1,000 in a new patient acquisition strategy, and you're averaging 5 new patients for every $1,000 invested, your cost per patient is $200. Now, if the average annual value of a patient to your practice is $1500, your return on investment (ROI) is easily calculated to be 750% ($1500/$200). Not bad. But what if you could increase that to, say $3,000? That's right. Your dentistry marketing ROI doubles to 1500%. For the same investment in external marketing, you just shot your ROI into the stratosphere.

Clearly, this won't happen by itself or overnight. But you may be pleasantly surprised to learn it's not nearly challenging as you think.  The reason is that most dental practices are nowhere near maximizing their average patient value.

Spread The Word?

One of the simplest, most cost-effective ways to increase average dental patient value is by doing a better job of communicating (and considering adding to) the wonderful benefits your practice already offers its patients. Remember: there’s a lot your patients do not know (and forget) about what you can do for them.

Make The Connection

The first step in cost effectively communicating with your patients of record is to implement a policy of collecting valid email addresses from your patients. There are a number of tactics to help with this. For new patients, it's simply a matter of incorporating the request into your patient enrollment form (or, preferably, having one of your team do it for your patient while they are in the office. If you do not have an email address for a current patient, your Team Member should be proficient at explaining to the patient how the office will (and will not) use their email address, how it simplifies communications between practice and patient, and how it is ecologically responsible (no need for paper). Of course, if the patient prefers not receiving communications via email, you want to respect and honor their preference.

To collect email addresses of your current patients as they present for treatment or hygiene, the staff should take a few moments to update their contact and health information, and simply request their "preferred email." If the practice chooses to adopt Paperless Forms and On Line Appointment Requests, a mailing may be sent to, or telephone call placed with, the patient advising them of these valuable new services that eliminate the need for paper forms and which simplifies the appointment scheduling process for the patient.

Keep In Touch

Now that you're well on your way to capturing patient email information, it's time to decide what you'd like to share with your patients. Most email services provide the means to perform what are called Campaigns and Broadcasts. A Campaign is a schedule of predetermined communications that are delivered according to a schedule (that can be changed 'on the fly') starting from the date the patient is entered into the system. For instance, if I join your practice today, you might arrange for me to immediately receive an online patient satisfaction survey. Three weeks later, you might introduce me to laser-assisted dentistry. One month after that, you could let me know more about mini dental implants. And so on.

Broadcast communications are sent to everyone (or a selected sub grouping) at the same time. For instance, you can send 'Spring Cleaning', Back To School, Insurance

"Use it or lose it", Dental Health Month, or other date-dependent messages. Once the system is in place, you are in control!

Track It

The final success component involves measuring response to your Program in general, and specific communications in particular. Response may be further broken down into Open Rate, Click Through, and Conversion.

Open Rate is the number and percent of total recipients who actually opened your email. Click Through refers to the number and percent of total recipients who clicked on one or more links embedded in your message. To ensure delivery past spam filters and to keep messages short, it is a good idea to ask recipients to click on a link to learn more, redeem an offer, etc. You should also use a unique telephone number on your email communications so you are able to determine how many, and what type of calls are generated as a result of your email campaign.

Conversion is the number and percent of total recipients who actually took the requested action e.g. scheduled an end of year appointment to maximize benefits, came in for their 'spring cleaning,' scheduled their Back to School appointment, etc. (Click throughs are often considered to be conversions because it represents some form of action taken by the patient. In our view, this is merely an intermediate step toward the ultimate objective, the former being a 'suspect', the latter a 'prospect'). 

About the author

Daniel Bobrow, MBA, is president of the American Dental Marketing Company, a dentistry marketing and patient communications consultancy. He is also Executive Director of Dentists’ Climb for a Cause™. Readers interested in learning more about integrated marketing and patient communication products, systems and services are invited to contact Mr. Bobrow at 312-455-9488 or DBobrow@AmericanDentalMarketing.com or visit AmericanDentalMarketing.com.