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The times are changing, and the scope and shape of the patient conversation is rapidly evolving. Today there are tools enabling practices to grow, modernize and streamlining the provider-patient relationship. Conversations that used to be confined to face-to-face are now happening online, 24/7. Are you missing out on them?
The ultimate conversation, face-to-face between the patient and the dentist, is that much more productive.
There’s little debate that the patient conversation is incredibly important to a practice’s success. The scope of that conversation, however, is changing.
The traditional patient journey begins when they receive a word-of-mouth referral from a friend or family member. The patient then phones the dental office, schedules an appointment over the phone, visits the office, and is handed a stack of forms to fill out. So much for tradition.
“Today, patients want to go online, research their dentist, evaluate their philosophy, and see photos of the dentist and his or her office staff,” says Luke Kervin, Co-CEO and founder of PatientPop, a practice growth platform. “Patients are looking to make a personal connection with the dentist online today.”
And that’s broadening the definition — and importance — of the patient conversation.
Kervin says there are two different types of patient conversations — direct, and indirect. When patients schedule an appointment or pay a bill online, they can do so through a variety of communication mechanisms. And if the conversation needs to move beyond artificial intelligence, the patient is referred to a “live” individual at the practice. Those are direct conversations.
And then there’s the concept of an indirect online conversation.
“I always tell practices that patients are having a conversation about you and your practice online,” Kervin says. “It’s up to you to decide whether you want to be part of that conversation. And increasingly, we’re seeing that dentists do want to be part of that conversation.”
Those conversations are happening on social media sites like Facebok, Twitter and Instagram. They’re happening on review sites like Yelp.
“We think it’s really important for practices to be engaging their patients online through these channels,” Kervin says.
CHANGING THE JOURNEY
Kervin refers to PatientPop as a practice growth platform. It’s a new category of software that, from a high level perspective, tracks the patient journey from first impression to the examination room, then picks it up again following treatment.
More specifically, step one optimizes the practice’s web presence, ensuring that it’s rich with photos and contact information. That’s where the patient journey begins today, Kervin says, where patients want a personal connection with the practice before making a decision to schedule an appointment.
Step two is an array of communication tools, including an online scheduling system enabling patients to schedule appointments 24/7.
“The data is really interesting here,” Kervin says. “Across all of our practices, 51% of patients that land on one of our websites choose to schedule online versus calling the office; 66% of those requests are coming from new patients; and 36% of those requests are occurring after hours when the practice is closed. So, in 2017, it’s absolutely critical that practices are offering real time online scheduling on their website. If they’re not doing that, they’re probably disappointing their patients, and they’re missing out on prospective patients and future business.”
Following appointments, quality surveys are sent to every patient. Kervin believes that’s an “incredibly valuable tool” because practices are now receiving a steady stream of feedback from their patients. There’s also a tool that monitors the practice and provider’s reputation across the web. In effect, dentists are learning about issues they never knew were impacting their business.
The net result? The ultimate conversation, face-to-face between the patient and the dentist, is that much more productive.
COST VS. VALUE ADDED
Kervin says the cost to practices is approximately $600 per month depending on what modules are included. It’s an ongoing subscription, he says, in that practices are subscribing to continuous innovation in a world where technology is evolving at a rapid pace.
“And today, there’s just way to much for a practice to handle as it relates to its online presence,” he says.
PatientPop launched in the fall of 2014, and Kervin says feedback from dental practices thus far has been very positive. One of the keys to success, he says, is a focus on transparency.
“When we (Kervin and his business partner) looked at the world of healthcare, we were really surprised to see the lack of tracking and transparency,” he says.
So they built a solution that informs a practice how many patients are finding them online; are they finding them through an online profile or a website; are they new or returning patients; and what services they’re looking for.
“Now our customers can log in, see exactly what’s happening online, and how much value we’re driving," Kervin said.
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