Marketing Insider: Be a collaborator, Issue 12

For those Baby Boomers (and older) the term is largely pejorative, owing to its association with those who aided the Axis Powers during World War II. But there is another side to the collaboration coin. It is synonymous with team work. 

For those Baby Boomers (and older) the term is largely pejorative, owing to its association with those who aided the Axis Powers during World War II. But there is another side to the collaboration coin. It is synonymous with team work. 

When all one has is a hammer, every problem is a nail
In caring for patients, health professionals have historically had to ‘go it alone.’ This is changing.  Professionals across the health spectrum realize that patients deserve to be treated by those with a ‘well stocked tool box,’ as no one provider can possibly offer all the tools. This is why it is incumbent upon those whose raison d'être is delivering optimum healthcare to establish and build a professional referral network.

The Oral Systemic Game Changer
The increasing acceptance by dentists, physicians and the public of the links between oral and overall health represent an unprecedented opportunity for dentists to grow their practice while delivering superior care to their patients. We see this as a four step process. First, place yourself in the shoes of prospective network members to ascertain ‘what’s in it for them.’ Second, identify those with whom you already have a relationship (usually more than you think). Third, continue to acquire and share your proficiency in collaborative care with your network.  And fourth, armed with confidence and know how, expand your network.

Physicians Need You
Ways you can help your physician deliver a higher level of care include:

Management of oral Inflammation to control systemic inflammation: Dentists are, and will likely remain, the only source for this care.

Management of Sleep Disorders: Dentists can order sleep studies and help physicians determine and deliver appropriate treatment (surgery, CPAP, oral appliance, etc.).

Early Identification of Diabetes: Dentists have the opportunity to identify unrecognized diabetes and pre-diabetes in dental patients and refer them to a physician for further evaluation and care.*

Treatment of Migraine Headache: Dentists’ understanding of the trigeminal nerve, link between the mandible and cranial base and other dentoskeletal structures have proven invaluable in providing relief for thousands of headache sufferers and so owe it to physicians and their patients to become part of the solution.

Build Your Network
Identify those who would be a fit for your professional referral network. Sandi Warner Roggow, RDH shares what is perhaps the easiest way to prime the MD referral pump: “We educate our medical professionals at our own check-up appointments.”  In like fashion, use the time treating your physician patients to educate them about how your practice can help enhance their level of patient care.  Commit to ‘wowing’ them with your knowledge and ability to ‘make them look good’ in front of their patients. Create a truly comprehensive examination protocol, and feel free to liberally sprinkle more clinical content, cite studies, your personal experience as you acquire it, etc. so you physician patients are duly impressed by your ability to help them and their patients. Be sure you dental team members are similarly equipped to impress their physicians with your scope of service and system for collaborative care. 

Share Yourself!
As noted above, begin with the proverbial low hanging fruit. 

Many dentists prepare a health status folder for their patient to take to their next physician appointment. When their MD asks where they got it, they simply answer “My dentist gave it to me.”

Prepare a communication (what we call our Collaborative Care Update) for MDs with whom you share a patient.  This is an effective method for getting your feet wet so to speak because your patient’s physician is ethically obligated to communicate with you about the condition of your shared patient. Your communication should begin with your diagnosis and recommendations, as well as an invitation for the physician to feel free to refer any patients who might be similarly assisted by your offering.  Their positive impression and experience with you will lead them to naturally think of you when similar collaboration opportunities arise. Be sure to make it not only desirable, but also simple for them to refer.  Provide them with referral cards, enroll them in an email campaign to educate them while branding your practice as the ‘go to source’ for answers and treatment to medical conditions with a dental solution, hold open houses and webinars, and in other ways continue to share and remind them of your existence and value. 

Extra Credit
Collaboration with physicians has the added benefit of helping your patients obtain insurance benefits for their medically necessary dental procedures, which makes it easier for patients to say yes to your recommendations. A strong relationship with your patient’s physician can help establish the medical necessity of procedures.

*Identification of unrecognized diabetes and pre-diabetes in a dental setting.
 Lalla E, Kunzel C, Burkett S, Cheng B, Lamster IB.


Daniel Bobrow, MBA, is president of the AIM (formerly American) Dental Marketing Company, a dentistry marketing and patient communications consultancy. He is also Executive Director of Climb for a Cause™ and The Smile Tree. 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 or visit