What it takes to steal a patient

July 3, 2012

You’ve been thinking about adding new technologies to your practice, maybe a laser or chairside CAD/CAM, but you just haven’t made the move. You like the idea of it, but you’re just not sure it’s worth the investment.

You’ve been thinking about adding new technologies to your practice, maybe a laser or chairside CAD/CAM, but you just haven’t made the move. You like the idea of it, but you’re just not sure it’s worth the investment.

Here’s some incentive. Technology not only makes your job easier and your team members more enthusiastic about what they do, it’s attractive to patients who are looking for a new dental home. Many of the latest advancements in dental technology not only save you time, they save your patients time as well. That alone is a huge draw.

Still not convinced? Here’s a breakdown of the technologies that are most attractive to patients and why adding them to your practice will give you a competitive advantage over other dentists in your area.

What to do when patients ask, "Not up-to-date yet?"

Don’t get defensive when your patients ask you about it, said Penny Reed Limoli, owner of the Reed Limoli Group. If you’ve decided a certain technology isn’t for you or you just haven’t been able to make the investment yet, explain that to patients when they ask. Let them know you don’t think that technology is as effective as what you currently use and explain to them why. If the technology they’re interested in is on your wish list, explain to them you plan to add it to your list of tools some time soon. Either way, thank them for asking and for letting you know what they’d like to see in the practice.

CAD/CAM

Your patients are busy people, and they certainly don’t want to spend time driving back and forth to your office if they don’t have to, Medix Dental President Thomas Terronez said. Having the ability to offer crowns same-day is huge. It makes your practice more efficient and it makes your patients happy. If someone looking for a new dental home finds out you have this option, whether its through word of mouth or your marketing efforts, you’ve just given him or her one more reason to give your practice a call.

Digital x-rays

Again, it comes back to time. Patients don’t want to schedule multiple dental visits into their calendar, and they certainly don’t want to spend hours in your office when they do come in. That’s one of the reasons digital x-rays are so attractive to patients, Terronez said. Digital x-rays help get patients in and out faster, which not only makes your current patients happy, it draws new patients and gives you more time in your day to see those new patients.

Cone beam

Cone beam technology offers the same time-saving benefits, and having it in your office means patients won’t have to go somewhere else to get their diagnostics done, Limoli said. If they have to fit another appointment at another office into their schedule, they may not do it. That means they’re less likely to proceed with treatment they need.

Soft-tissue laser

Time isn’t the only factor people take into consideration when choosing a new dental home. If they know they need periodontal surgery, they’re going to be worried about pain and healing time, Limoli said. Lasers help ease some of those fears. With a laser many procedures take less time and result in less bleeding, less discomfort and shorter healing times.

Patient entertainment

Technology doesn’t always have to be about the clinical procedures. Sometimes it’s about keeping the patient’s mind off what can be a stressful situation, Terronez said. Video games in the operatory or waiting areas are a great way to entertain children, while iPads can keep both children and adults occupied.

Adding these types of entertainment doesn’t cost much money, but can be a huge practice booster, Terronez said. Happy patients talk, so little Johnny will be sure to tell all his friends that he got to play with an iPad while the hygienist cleaned his teeth. And while it’s important to market any technology you add to your practice, word of mouth still is the best way to draw new patients to your office.

“There are a variety of things you can do that focus on entertaining patients while they’re waiting to get in the room or while they’re in the room,” Terronez said. “If you can lighten up the focus on the actual dental work, that seems to be successful in drawing patients.”

Get them excited about your practice

Yes, all these technologies are attractive to potential patients, but they’re not likely to leave their current dental home unless they’re unhappy, Limoli said. But for those who are looking, why not give them reasons to consider joining your patient list?

Why do patients leave? Frustration with wait times could play into such a decision, and not keeping up-to-date on technology could be the reason the practice is falling behind. Procedures that cost the patient a lot of discomfort and a lot of time off work also may give them reason to surf the Internet in search of a new practice. And sure, some patients have been with a practice for years and will stick with it no matter what. But if you’re talking about patients who are 40 and younger, Terronez said they tend to be less loyal and are more likely to leave for a practice that better fits their needs. This is the group to target in your marketing efforts.

It’s not just about technology

While technology is important, remember it’s not the only thing that matters to patients, Limoli said. It doesn’t replace the relationship. You may have more technology than any other clinician in your area, but if you don’t take the time to talk to your patients and build and nurture that relationship, you better believe they’ll be looking for a new dental home. Not feeling appreciated, like you see them as a chart rather than a person, is another big reason patients decide to leave.

“It (technology) is important but it’s not more important than connecting with the patient, Limoli said. “Introverted doctors may think, ‘If I can just buy this new widget it will dramatically change my practice.’ But if don’t have great communication with your patients, it won’t have the impact you thought it would.”

Renee Knight is a senior editor for DPR. Contact her at rknight@advanstar.com.