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Nichole DeMars, DDS, has more than a decade working with patients to create bright, healthy smiles using the latest techniques and procedures. After completing her undergraduate degree in Microbiology from Michigan State University, Dr. DeMars received her Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Detroit Mercy’s School of Dentistry in 2001. During her residency at Loyola University Medical Center, she focused on providing comprehensive dentistry to a wide range of patients, including cosmetics, endodontics, periodontics, prosthodontics, pediatrics, orthodontics and oral surgery.
As is true with all businesses, reputation is everything. Your practice’s reputation is worth fighting for and investing in. You work hard to build up your practice when you first begin in this industry, but you need to work even harder to maintain the reputation that brings you a consistent patient base and exceptional staff.
As is true with all businesses, reputation is everything. Your practice’s reputation is worth fighting for and investing in.
You work hard to build up your practice when you first begin in this industry, but you need to work even harder to maintain the reputation that brings you a consistent patient base and exceptional staff. In my experience, managing your practice’s reputation comes down to three key factors: marketing, communication and education.
Marketing your practice to either maintain or build up your practice’s reputation can take many forms; direct mail campaigns, special offers via social media, office promotions and so on. For me, search engine optimization takes a back seat to in-person marketing efforts, and I’ve found the most effective marketing campaign you can run is the experience you give your patients. This starts well before a patient enters your office and extends after he or she leaves, but marketing is most impactful when a patient is sitting in your chair.
At my practice, we focus most of our marketing efforts on our existing patient base. Because they already know us and everything we have to offer, they become our best assets in finding us new patients. Not only have we found patient referrals to be the most effective kind of marketing, but they have also proven to be the most cost-effective.
We put so much emphasis on the patient experience when someone is in our office because it is one of the easiest ways to manage our reputation. We have complete ownership over our actions and the way we treat patients when they are in the office, so we make each visit a priority. I tell my staff the easiest way to get someone back in your dental chair and uphold your positive practice reputation is to give every patient a great experience every time. If a patient enjoys his or her time with you, they tell others and the word grows from there.
At my office, giving the best patient experience consists of fast checkin and checkout. We value our patients’ time and do our best to get them in and out in a timely manner. We also send treatment plan reminders so if a patient doesn’t schedule a follow-up appointment when in the office, we can send an easy reminder of what was discussed at his or her appointment and the next steps to take when he or she is ready
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It’s important to remember that the patient experience is directly related to your practice’s reputation and begins before the patient enters your office. We use RevenueWell, our practice marketing system, to send out either automatic or customized marketing campaigns to reach our patient base outside of the office. We offer specials for existing patients or promotions for new technology, like our CEREC system. These marketing campaigns can be targeted to reach our desired audience, in our case mainly our existing patients, and tell a story about our office. Whether we are emphasizing the office’s latest technology or showing we want to retain our patients by offering them incentives, the patient experience goes far beyond just sitting in a dental chair.
In my opinion, the whole point of marketing your practice and upholding your reputation is to make sure that your current patients stay with you to create a strong, consistent patient base that you can rely on. Marketing is most effective in your practice itself so communicate effectively and frequently with patients, make them feel valued and show them that you have their best interests in mind.
Another simple step you can take to manage your reputation is to communicate consistently with your patient base. Personally, I aim for some kind of outreach once a quarter to ensure my patients keep me and my practice in the forefront of their minds. I have found that this is the optimal amount of touch points throughout the year to keep a dialogue open between my staff and my patients.
Streamlined, effective communication between patients and dental staff, both in and out of the office, is a huge part of the patient experience I mentioned before. One of the ways in which we accomplish this kind of communication is by using our practice marketing system to send out post-operative instructions that are clear, concise and simple to read. We also send home educational videos through our patient education system, CAESY Cloud, so patients have the opportunity to digest the information in the comfort of their home. Our communication with the patient extends beyond the office, yet it remains effective and easy to understand.
We also use our practice marketing system to automatically confirm appointments and send reminders about upcoming visits. This automatic communication is greatly appreciated by both patients and dental staff as my support team no longer needs to spend hours on the phone following up with patients and can focus their energy elsewhere. Similarly, patients appreciate a text or an email more often than they do a phone call so their days are not interrupted, but they still get the reminder of their appointment. This communication is valued because they know we are still keeping them in mind but also respecting their busy lifestyles.
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The last facet of maintaining your practice’s reputation is educating your patients and putting the power back in their hands. One of the best ways to do this is to utilize a patient education system in your office.
We use our patient education software and an intraoral camera with all of our patients. These animations and real-life images are so important because patients can see exactly what I see and, therefore, begin to understand why I make my specific treatment recommendations. By having a simple in-person conversation aided by non-invasive videos, we can see case acceptance go up and patient anxiety go down. A lot of this has to do with the fact that once patients can see what is going on with their own oral health, they can take ownership of it which reduces patient anxiety and fear.
As far as managing your reputation goes, you begin to elevate yourself above your competition by installing technologies that not all practices have yet utilized. Patient education is a simple one to start with. Videos can be shown on any screen in your office and their presence helps you look more professional and technologically advanced. Plus, patients walk away knowing more about their oral health and consequently feel good about their visit and the information they have gained.
Managing your practice’s reputation doesn’t take a tremendous amount of work. In fact, every good practice should already be doing the things I mentioned above. Take your efforts to the next level and ask for those patient recommendations. You’d be surprised just how many you will receive if you are already providing the best possible care through communication and educational efforts.