As an independent dental practitioner, it is often hard to look at your dental clinic as a business as opposed to looking at it as a service-oriented concern. While your main concern is your patient's well-being and satisfaction, you must give enough attention to your office as well. After all, the best way to bring about patient satisfaction is to ensure all procedures and services from your end are fully optimized for them!
This will require you to think like your consumer and make changes to your processes and functions in order to deliver the desired results. So for those of you looking for tips and techniques to implement in your dental practice, here are nine things Dr. Michael Long (D.D.S.) suggests you can implement at your workplace to set your dental practice apart and ensure complete customer satisfaction:
Expand your dental team
In order to provide a variety of services to your patients, you must consider expanding your team. This can include dentists with varied specialties, dental surgeons, dental hygienists, denture specialists, etc.
For instance, simply partnering with a denture service will allow you to provide a one-stop solution to all your patients seeking implants - you can perform the extraction and the secondary service can take care of the rest!
Capitalize on your working hours
Sit down and think about your target customers. For instance, ask yourself questions like, "are they also at work during my working hours?" If that’s the case, then consider changing your working hours to accommodate your patients. By simply changing your working hours from 10 am - 5 pm to a morning shift of 10 am - 1 pm and including an evening shift between 5pm to 7 pm, you don't necessarily have to work longer hours, but merely smarter hours.
Adopt user-friendly scheduling solutions
Constant schedule changes, cancellations and new bookings are no secret to a dental office. This is why it is worth investing in a digitalized scheduling system to help you manage your patients’ schedules easily and make the system as hassle-free as possible. This way, your team members will always be able to update themselves with patient information easily, thereby optimizing the service offered to each patient individually.
By implementing scheduling software in your dental office, you will also allow your staff to be able to fit in as many appointments as possible. By being able to view a comprehensive schedule, your teams can look for instances of cancellations or 'no-shows' and book additional appointments in such slots.
Keep a close check on your inventory
While most dentists overlook this aspect, inventory management is essential to ensure that you always have the right products and the right quantities on hand. Monitor your inventory closely and look for patterns in terms of highly used products and vice versa to understand what exactly you need and how much of it is required. This way, you avoid clogging up your cash flow by sitting on unwanted inventory while minimizing the risk of wrong orders or over-ordering. Creating an inventory management system that works for your office is key. Everything, from assigning inventory management to a single person to avoid confusion to storage details, must be thought of in order to optimize the process as far as possible.
Automate your billing desk
It's no secret that patients at your dental office would rather not be there, and they don't fail to send that message across. Since people already associate dental offices with fear, pain, high bills, etc., why don't you find a way to reduce the time spent on the negatives? Automating your billing is a great way to streamline the entire process for your patient. By installing simple software, the awful task that is billing can become exponentially easier, thereby optimizing the service time at your dental office.
Provide dental financing options
While we're on the topic of billing, you already know that dentistry and related services are expensive. And since most people who require dental services don’t usually have a comprehensive dental insurance (or insurance at all), they tend to avoid going to the dentist. A great way to add more value to the services you offer is by creating a cost-effective financial policy for your patients and educating your patients about it.
Pro tip - Provide both long-term and short-term financing options for treatment plans. By providing a short-term option, you will attract more patients, as the benefits will be immediate. This will prompt the patient to come back to your office again.
When you are doing so much to ensure your practice is well-recognized and build a community, why don’t you also implement a patient referral system? Think about it!
Since people are so scared of dentists, they will almost never go to a completely unknown dentist, and will always ask for references. So why not capitalize on such behavior by offering your existing patients a discount for referring you to someone else?
For instance, you can provide referral cards at the office, create a referral bonus program or simply incentivize employees for every patient they bring; whatever the method, always follow-up and of course, follow through!
Who doesn't love receiving something for free - especially after a huge ordeal that is the dental appointment? In the earlier days, dentists would hand out candy to children who were well-behaved during the treatment to propagate such behavior. Believe it or not, this trick still works! Simply offering basics like toothbrushes, dental floss or a particular type of toothpaste will not only trigger your patients’ rewards system, but also further the conversation about dental hygiene. It's a win-win!
Pro Tip - You can also make special merchandise with your practice's name on it and distribute it among your patients every now and then to enhance recall!
Last but not least, dentistry is all about those "hard sells" where the general public has pre-conceived negative impressions about the procedures dentists perform. Talk to your patients; ask them about their past experiences with dentists and why they are scared of such procedures.
Then proceed to show them, both by example and through conversation, how you and your practice are different and what you have done to avoid the "horror stories" related to dental procedures.
As you can see, there are many ways to increase and enhance your cash flow. By leveraging dental technology, simple software solutions and leading industry practices, you can optimize the services you offer. All it takes is a little out-of-the-box thinking and some re-imagining!
Dr. Michael Long D.D.S., Member of the American Dental Association, Fresno-Madera Dental Society, and the International Congress of Oral Implantologists, Peer Review Board Member for the Fresno-Madera Dental Society. Dr. Long has also served as a board member of the U.O.P. Dental School Alumni Association.