January 2010 | Dental Products Report Products in practice Talk should be cheap Online communication is an economical way to reach out to your patients and bring extra money into your practice. by Renee Knight Photo: Asia Images Group/Getty Images
January 2010 | Dental Products Report
Products in practice
Talk should be cheap
Online communication is an economical way to reach out to your patients and bring extra money into your practice.
by Renee Knight
Photo: Asia Images Group/Getty Images
Reminding patients to come to their scheduled appointments can be costly. Buying recall cards, paying for postage and staff hours spent mailing the cards all take time and money. And after all that, chances are those reminders will go straight from your patients’ mailboxes to their recycle bins.
These days, many of your patients do their communicating online or via text messaging. They don’t want to call your office during business hours; they’d rather do their confirming or any other business with your practice online, when it’s convenient for them.
Communicating with your patients this way is an economical, efficient way to keep track of what’s going on in your practice. Intimidated? There are solutions out there from Smile Reminder, Sesame Communications and Demandforce that can help.
It makes you more efficient
These solutions integrate with your practice management system and electronically remind patients about scheduled appointments-and with no extra work for your staff. With Demandforce’s solution, patients receive a text message and an e-mail; all they have to do is click to confirm. This way, staff members can easily see what their day looks like, Senior Marketing Manager Jordan MacAvoy said. They can tell who has or hasn’t confirmed, so they know who they need to reach out to.
You’ll see ROI
Not only does e-communication save money, it can add revenue to your practice, said Mark Olson, VP of Marketing for Smile Reminder. If you have unscheduled patients who are overdue for hygiene appointments, they’ll receive an e-mail reminder that makes it easy to request an appointment.
And last-minute cancellations don’t have to mean lost chairtime, Olson said. Features like Smile Reminder’s ASAP find patients who asked to move their appointments up. Those patients get a text message, and within minutes someone has filled the time slot.
These solutions make it easy to track just how much money they’re bringing into the practice.
“Each month, we literally show the office the patients we brought in,” said Marc Watenwaker, Demandforce’s National Sales Manager, Dental. “The most important thing the doctor wants to see is ROI. We show him the exact revenue the patient spent with the office. It’s a very powerful tool.”
Beyond Web sites
While it’s important to keep your Web site updated, a complete strategy for patient connections that includes access to treatment plans, online payment, reviews and feedback mechanisms and a variety of other services is extremely important. And you can’t ignore social media’s potential to attract patients, Sesame Communications CEO Frith Maier said. She recommends an online strategy that incorporates a top patient-rated Web site, social media, blogs and YouTube content. Think of Twitter as a modern chamber of commerce, she said; other businesses can serve as an active referral source for you. Use Facebook and YouTube to promote new services, something these solution providers can help with.
And don’t forget about the power of patient referrals, Maier said. Patient reviews generated from solutions like Sesame’s also can be posted on your Facebook page for potential patients to see.
E-communications have a longer life and further reach than a piece of mail or a phone message, Olson said. If you send a newsletter about implants to patients through the mail, they’ll likely throw it away if it doesn’t apply to them. But if it comes via e-mail and they know someone who’s interested in implants, they’re more likely to forward it on. You also can post it on Twitter or Facebook, where there’s a chance others will re-post it for their networks to see.
“That gives you an indication of the power of the electronic message,” Olson said. “You’re actually doing more for less.”
Be where your patients are
Not only does e-communication save you money, it’s what many of your patients want, Watenwaker said. If you’re not online, potential patients are likely to pass you by, and in the end, that will only cost you money.
“If you’re not online, you’re not visible to patients in the first place,” Maier said. And if you’re not using the tools that make their life easier, they’re going to feel like any dentist could be as good as you. It’s a major differentiator.”