Banding Together: A New Online Platform May Help Attract New Patients

October 22, 2018
Ed Rabinowitz

Can your patients book dental appointments online? You may want to consider this option for your practice as Dentistry.com rolls out a new digital platform.

"Dentistry is challenged because it has not embraced this new mobile-centric reality." - Brian McCarthy, executive vice president, Futuredontics

A Gallup poll in 2013 found that only 64.7 percent of adults visited the dentist. That number was down from 65.7 percent five years earlier. And it’s still true today. But by banding together through a new online platform, dentists have an opportunity to change the conversation, raise dentistry’s profile, and generate an influx of new patients.

At the Dentsply Sirona World Event in September 2018, Dentistry.com, a digital platform built exclusively to connect patients to dentists, was introduced. It’s main purpose: relationship building.

Is that a challenging concept for dentists? According to Brian McCarthy, executive vice president for Futuredontics, a Dentsply subsidiary, absolutely.

“Dentistry is challenged because it has not embraced this new mobile-centric reality,” McCarthy says.

He explains that there are two very distinct camps of consumers. Those who do not have a relationship with their dentist and therefore lack trust and do not accept treatment; and those who have a relationship and frequent the dentist regularly. And the main reason for the distinction, McCarthy says, is how slow dentists have been to adapt to changes in consumer behavior.

“The entire population has become texters,” he says. “Have dentists embraced that? I believe that the answer is largely no.”

BANDING TOGETHER

McCarthy believes it’s important to learn from history. He points to the 1990s when milk was facing increasing competition from soft drinks, juices, and flavored water. In response, diary producers banded together and developed a powerful message: “Got milk?”

“You couldn’t not know that,” McCarthy says. “That milk was available and that it was healthy. It raised the profile of milk.”

Now it’s time for dentists to do something similar, he says. To band together to develop powerful messaging, and then deliver it via what he calls the top medium in 2018: the smartphone.

“People live and conduct all their business on their phones today,” McCarthy says. “Complicating the challenge is that consumers just don’t value dentistry as they do more trendy healthcare pursuits like yoga and meditation.”

Related: Use Real-Time Mobile Marketing to Improve Client Engagement

He believes Dentistry.com will become the online destination where the industry can band together.

CLAIM YOUR PRACTICE

As part of the Dentistry.com community, dental practices ‘claim their practice’ which allows them to manage their on page on the site, listing pertinent information that can assist in patient acquisition and retention—including, in the coming months, the ability for patients to schedule appointments directly from the site.

Accenture has a study that says that by the end of 2019, 67 percent of people expect to be able to book their healthcare appointments online,” McCarthy says. “And of you don’t offer that as a dentist, then you’re missing out. You’re making it more inconvenient.”

How will current and prospective patients find the site?

“As doctors add rich content, and respond to consumer questions, Dentistry.com is going to move up in search engine results,” McCarthy says. “It’s going to create a community. And, it’s all free to dentists.”

He points out that in today’s technology-driven world, consumers are empowered like never before. They make decisions based on data, and the more data they have, the more content they’re exposed to on the website, the more their opinion can be swayed.

“I think the more proactive dentists are on Dentistry.com, the more they will be rewarded for it, simply because of consumers,” McCarthy says.

BUILD AND EXTEND

McCarthy says surveys indicate that more than half of all dentists believe in a strong online presence, and that acquiring new patients is one of their biggest challenges. So, maximize the former to resolve the latter.

“Dentistry.com is a platform from which we can build and extend,” he says. “We’re just getting started. Our intention is to build a coalition of sorts across dentistry.”

Everyone, he says, wants to convert more consumers into patients. But too often, dentists tend to think that those who don’t frequent a dental office make that decision because they lack insurance or are simply unable to afford the treatments. McCarthy says it’s time to change that way of thinking.

“Yes, there are many who truly cannot afford dentistry, but there are more who can and choose not to,” he says. “We have to raise the profile of dentistry; elevate dentistry to its proper place in healthcare. And then, make it more convenient.”

FOR MORE on bringing in new patients:

  • How One Practice Successfully Implemented a Membership Plan
  • Make Email an Important Part of Your Marketing Strategy
  • Optimize Dentist's Chairside Time

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