The Growth Corner
Tips, methods and tools to grow your dental clinic
Your current clients are the best resource for growing your dental clinic in the future.
To begin with, many patients are generally afraid of dental treatments. The sound of the drill, the potential teeth pain before, during and after dental procedures, and even the needle used for injecting sedatives frequently cause patients a high level of fear and anxiety. Therefore, when patients find a dentist they trust, someone they believe will relieve their pain and has capable hands and strong skills, they often remain loyal to them for decades, and are reluctant to replace them with any new and unfamiliar dentist.
So, when all the above is taken into account, trustful patients become loyal patients and they contribute to your clinic’s success many years ahead. They may also bring their children and relatives to you, as well as recommend you to their friends and acquaintances. This is why it makes perfect sense to tighten-up the relationship with your current patients and enhance their loyalty even further through follow-up tools such as systematic and automated calls and messages, to communicate effectively and quickly with patients.
In this respect, follow-up calls and messages that will grow your business may include:
- Reminders of scheduled appointments
- Instructions on what to do after treatment sessions
- Invitations for periodical check-ups
- Oral healthcare guides for children and family members
- Additional follow-ups
Each of these follow-up messages presents a significant opportunity to provide better care to patients while supporting significant business growth for the dental clinic. The following parts of this article elaborate on each of these follow-up variations.
1 – Reminders of scheduled appointments
Regardless of the dental services you provide, it is essential to have your patients’ mobile numbers and e-mail addresses and to use an automated system to send them reminders on scheduled visits to the clinic. Ideally, such reminders are sent via SMS immediately after scheduling such visits, as well as one day before the visit. The reminders should also enable patients to save the appointment details on their electronic calendar as well as to confirm their arrival or to re-schedule online if needed. These messages should also provide useful information to the patient, such as the clinic’s address and phone number, details of the planned treatment (e.g. implant surgery) and information on all the preparation required for the treatment (e.g. to bring certain medications and/or to avoid eating the night before a morning appointment).
This way, you can minimize “no-show” events at your clinic and make sure patients will almost always arrive ready to for treatment session. This will lead to an increase of the efficiency (less waiting time, less empty sessions, better usage of dentists’ time). In addition, by engaging the patient with such follow-up calls and messages, you can increase the chances of retaining patients (who may otherwise choose other dentists or avoid dental treatment all together for various reasons – fear, cost, etc.).
At DentQ, we regularly send SMS and reminders to patients, to ensure they will arrive for a dental scan at one of our centers and return to the clinic to see their scan results with their dentist. After working with hundreds of thousands of patients in 6 countries, we can ensure you that you should do the same if you do not want to lose patients, and if you want to considerably decrease no-show events.
Note: Working with DentQ is a great way to make sure you do not lose your patients; not only because we take care of them and send messages and reminders, but also because we are independent and do not offer any dental treatment, so we will always send them back to you to complete the treatment.
2 – Instructions on what to do after treatment sessions
Patients’ compliance is key to a successful treatment. For example, taking the required antibiotics after an implant surgery helps to reduce complications, and avoiding hot foods and beverages for a day or two may speed the healing of the surgery site. Successful treatments will save you chair time (due to fewer complications) and support time (e.g. – support over the phone) and they will also result in more satisfied patients who will stay loyal to you and will recommend your services to others. Therefore, better compliance and more successful treatments help your clinic grow.
When patients finish treatment sessions with you, they are often less focused and concentrated (and perhaps a bit sedated or in pain). For this reason, they may not remember well the oral instructions you or your assistant provide them with. This can severely impact their compliance to the treatment’s requirements. This means that it would be better to provide them with written instructions as well, via e-mail, printed forms or SMS. Another possibility, if your patients agree, is to use an automated messaging system to send them daily SMS (or even twice a day) to remind them to take their antibiotics at the right time.
In short: Messaging -> better compliance -> higher success rates -> significant clinic growth.
3 – Invitations for periodical check-ups
This type of follow-up is mostly relevant to general dentists, who often serve patients continuously, for many years. In such cases, invitations for periodical check-ups, for example to inspect teeth condition once a year, can lead to a very high growth of the clinic income, while improving the dental health of the patient significantly.
The idea is simple: to do a yearly check-up of your patient’s mouth, just like we check our car’s engine. In order to encourage this, you can send an automated SMS or directly call each one of your patients once a year, inviting them for a visit where they will receive a teeth-whitening and deep cleaning service for a reasonable price, combined with a check-up (perhaps free of charge!) and a discussion on the dentist’s recommendations. In such occasion you, as a dentist, can:
- Listen to your patients’ complaints and discuss the problems they may face
- Perform a check-up and visual inspection of the mouth and teeth
- Take x-ray images or order dental imaging services externally if needed
- Discuss the mouth’s condition with the patient and suggest how to maintain better hygiene
- Suggest future treatments based on the check-up findings
Which of these 5 components of the check-up meeting with the dentist do you think will increase the loyalty of your patients to you the most?
Components 4 and 5 may present opportunities to sell products and services. But what about evoking loyalty? It may come as a surprise, but actually the first component, listening to your patients, may contribute the most to keep patients happy and loyal. Dedicate five minutes a year to REALLY listen to your patients and they will immediately start to perceive you as an excellent dentist (and rightfully so!). Doctors, dentists included, often do not dedicate enough time to listening to their patients. Therefore, including five minutes of pure listening in your yearly check-ups may significantly strengthen patients’ trust and loyalty.
Naturally, all the above 5 activities result in a longer and stronger patient-dentist bond, better dental health for the patient (and avoidance of mouth deterioration), as well as more service opportunities for the dentist and increased word-of-mouth recommendations leading to growth for the clinic.
So, if you are a general dentist, the best business tip we may be able to give you is to use an automated system to send invitations to yearly check-ups to all your patients. Don’t postpone this – the sooner you implement it, the faster your clinic will grow!
4 – Oral healthcare guides for children and family members
If you are providing dental services to children and toddlers, you can leverage on the changing needs they will have while growing up. Once you have their date of birth and their parents’ contact details, you can have an automated mailing system sending out oral healthcare guides according to their age, to help parents better control their children’s oral health. For example – instructions for the age when the first milk teeth appear, when milk teeth start to change into permanent teeth, when orthodontic services should first be considered, etc.
You can use these guides to evoke trust among parents and also to suggest periodical visits of the children at your clinic. In some cases, especially if you focus on pediatric dentistry, you can also send animations/games/short books/videos/songs/toothbrushes that help children understand more about oral hygiene and have fun at the same time, so that they and their parents will learn to like and trust you even more.
5 – Additional follow-ups
You should never overwhelm your patients with too many messages, calls and emails. After all, oral health is only a small part of their everyday life. However, you may think of additional and relevant opportunities to engage them. For example, you may consider to send them:
- Birthday wishes
- Announcements on new services that may be relevant to them
- Invitations to age-specific services (e.g. – orthodontics for young adults)
- Announcements of new location of the clinic
Can you think of other opportunities to engage your patients? There are probably many more and you only need to take the time to look for them.
An automated messaging system (SMS, email or voice-messages) may prove to be the best tool to support the growth of your clinic. Especially if you practice general dentistry, and want to keep your patients loyal for many years ahead. In addition, periodical check-ups may accelerate growth even further. We highly recommend that you explore and invest in such messaging systems, if you want your clinic to flourish.
At DentQ, we are proud to be the business partners of thousands of dentists around the world, and to provide them tools, technologies and content that can help their business grow. Whether you work with us or not, feel free to re-visit our blog and join our Facebook page to read similar articles that can help you improve your own dental business.