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Patient Relationship

Prevent Last Minute Cancellations

Your time is valuable. And few things are more frustrating than last minute cancellations that leave a big gap in your schedule.

One of the most common ways of handling cancellation offenders is to make them wait to get back into the schedule. But sometimes patients have to wait months to reschedule. Is this the best way to handle the situation?

The world of dental marketing – social media, web page user experience, blogging, etc. – is about building relationships with your current and potential patients.

Patients want a dentist they trust. They want services that are top-notch. From PPC brand awareness campaigns to social media posts and conversations, everything we talk about in these articles is designed to help your practice deliver those desired services and patient experience. Handling appointments and cancellations is no different.

Booking & Cancelling Online

Your practice may have a system that allows your patients to schedule, cancel and reschedule appointments for future dates online. This is a great service that can make filling the appointment calendar easier for both you and your patients.

Just remember to create settings that prohibit cancellations and rescheduling within 72 hours of the initial appointment. Cancellations within that 72 hour window will have to occur over the phone. I can’t stress this enough.

Last minute cancellations should always be handled with a conversation over the phone. It is a great opportunity to enhance your practice’s personal engagement and service with a smile attitude.

Keep learning about how to use new technologies to increase patient satisfaction.

Relate To Your Patients

Understanding your patients is the first step in building a long lasting relationship.

Cancellations happen for two basic reasons. One reason is an unavoidable circumstance. For instance, an illness or the boss scheduled a meeting and your patient’s job depends on being there.

Reason two tends to be a bit more flexible – something came up after making the appointment. It could be an unexpected lunch date. Or, they simply need to pick their children up from an event at the time of the appointment.

A patient may think these are unavoidable, but a couple small concessions may be all that is necessary for them to make their scheduled dental appointment.

Provide Solutions

Too often practices simply say okay and then punish the patient by making them wait for a couple months to get back on the schedule.

When the front office staff speaks with a cancellation, the first thing they should do is show concern and find out why the patient needs to cancel. Establish whether it’s an unavoidable or possibly flexible situation.

If you deem it a flexible situation, begin thinking urgency and solution. Explain what will happen to their teeth if they don’t keep the appointment while asking questions that may lead your patient to change their minds about canceling.

Always try to offer a solution. Maybe their children can carpool with friends or a spouse can pick them up. Patients won’t always make adjustments to keep their appointments, but they are more likely to if you present a solution.

Confirmation Reminders 

Send appointment reminder emails and phone calls at least seven days before the appointment. If you can do them again 72 hours before that would be great. Try using text messages for the second reminder.

It is important that these messages don’t offer a way to cancel. When we say things, like “if you need to cancel or reschedule your appointment call…” patients are no longer thinking about keeping their appointment, but rather how to cancel it.

Confirmation emails and phone calls should simply say we are looking forward to seeing you on a specific day at a specific time. This approach leaves patients thinking about making their appointments, not canceling them.

Learn more about the benefits of automated patient communications.

Reward Good Behavior

One thing that has been proven in behavioral studies is that positive reinforcement modifies behavior better than negative reinforcement. Obviously, if you have a patient that is habitually late to appointments or has multiple last minute cancelations you have to do something to dissuade them from doing it again.

As we previously said this leads to a long wait to get back on the dental schedule. But what about a positive reinforcement campaign?

A gift card giveaway might be just the thing. Using Facebook and other social media outlets your practice can highlight how valuable everyone’s time is during the busy holiday months. Then when patients are on time for scheduled appointments put their name in for a giveaway.

How do you typically handle appointment cancellations? Leave your comments and feedback below!

Keep learning more secrets about how to avoid last minute cancellations and, download the free whitepaper, Automated Dental Patient Communication: How to Keep more Patients with Less Work by filling out the form below.

Practice Marketing

Top Anticipated Trends for Dentistry and Marketing by 2020

As we kick off the new year, everyone seems to be publishing predictions for 2019, but ProSites – we’re looking a bit further ahead. In our whitepaper, Seven Predictions and Recommendations for Dentistry and Marketing by 2020, we outline current trends to help us predict what the future of dentistry and marketing will look like by the next decade.

We’ve included snippets of three of the seven predicted trends below, but make sure to download your full copy of the whitepaper here to learn how you can stay up-to-date with the ever-evolving marketplace.

Predicted Trend: Lowered Trust of Facts Requires Building a Trustworthy Persona
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll be saying goodbye to “fake news” or the associated decrease in trust of authority anytime soon. In fact, reliance on social media seems to have increased our general skepticism. While warranted in some situations, an overall rise in distrust of experts means businesses, dental practices included, need to work harder to gain confidence from potential customers (patients).

Enter your dental practice’s online reputation, as this is where prospective patients are likely to form their first impression of you. You must encourage current patients to share positive feedback on review sites and social media channels as both play important roles in attracting new patients.

Predicted Trend: Digital Content Consumption Will Be Constant and Led by Video
Think our dependence on digital content has reached the point of saturation? Alexa, weigh in. Given that we’re always connected, our consumption of content is ever increasing. To compete and gain valuable mindshare, your online presence must be dynamic.

A website alone is no longer enough; patients want more. Try creating a library of how-to videos that address common concerns like “how to floss with braces.” Easy-to-read articles and posts are also great ways to share content. But remember, consistency is key – as even an engaged audience is fickle and will quickly go elsewhere if you stop meeting their needs.

Predicted Trend: A Digital Front Will Be Expected
From grocery shopping to ordering lattes, your patients are doing everything online, and it’s most likely from a mobile device. Short of a real-time root canal request (crazy, we know – who would request a root canal?) what can you enable patients to do online? Probably more than you think.

Patients will soon expect to have the ability to book visits, confirm or cancel appointments, or complete forms online – dental text reminders are becoming increasing popular. Regardless of how fast your website loads, if you fall below patient expectations (which are higher than ever) your practice is sure to lag behind the competition. The answer is not to invest in more staff, but rather integrated systems that can manage dental appointment reminders, scheduling, and recall campaigns – all of which are designed to keep patients engaged while delivering the level of customer service and convenience they want.

In conclusion, technology is greatly impacting how we do business in the future. And, if you don’t soon embrace where the industry is headed, you won’t be able to make up the ground. Fill out the form below to get your free copy of the complete whitepaper, or call an Internet Marketing Advisor at (888) 932-3644 to see how we can meet you where you are today and help you get to where you want to be in the future.

Patient Relationship

The Top 5 Reasons Dentists Don’t Need an Effective Recare System

Maybe it’s our penchant for mid-afternoon lattes or the hilarious monologues we can’t seem to get enough of, but we’ve recently been watching our fair share of late-night television. This got us thinking about why dentists might not want or need an effective automated recare system.

Listed below for your reading pleasure, are the top five reasons dentists aren’t interested in automating patient communications:

Reason #5 – The best use of my staff’s time is making phone calls.
For dental practices that don’t use automated patient communications, the task of reaching out to patients for general recall and reminders becomes part of the front desk team’s never-ending to-do list. And, every moment your team spends making phone call reminders is time that could be spent focused on other priorities such as patient billing, claims management, medical charts, and of course patients in your waiting room. On average, dentists save approximately one week’s worth of work with automated recall and reminder software – what could your team do with that time?

Reason #4 – Lost revenue is my “thing.”
An effective automated recare system helps dental practices keep more revenue – bottom line (pun intended). The right system reduces no-shows with timely appointment reminders sent via patients’ preferred communication method (i.e. text, email, phone, or postcard), and reactivates dormant patients with targeted outreach campaigns. The result? An increase in the percent of active patients, which translates to more revenue for your practice.  But hey, if lost revenue is your “thing” we won’t judge (ok, maybe just a little).

Reason # 3 – Empty chairs make me smile.
Last-minute cancellations can wreak havoc on the busiest of schedules. One minute your hygienists are hoping to fit in a 15-minute lunch, and the next they’re re-counting the toothbrush supply for the fifth time. While cancellations are par for the course, an automated recare system can greatly reduce the impact to your practice. Recare systems with a group text feature allow your team to quickly notify ASAP list patients of unexpected openings, which helps to fill last-minute holes in the schedule.

Reason # 2 – Accommodating patients isn’t a priority.
In a recent Hanover Research study, 80% of patients said they preferred text or email reminders over calls. Contacting patients via their preferred communication method is an effortless way to accommodate their needs. It also reinforces your practice’s high-tech image and reduces no-shows.

Reason #1 – We’re ok with patients slipping through the cracks.
Whether it’s an automated recare system with limited outreach methods or a distracted front desk staff, chances are you’re not reaching 100% of your patients. If you’re comfortable rolling the dice on which patients receive regular communications and which don’t then feel free to skip ahead. On the other hand, if you understand the importance of consistent patient communication in keeping your practice top-of-mind and strengthening patient relationships, ensure your recare system checks all the boxes. This means email and text options, as well as automated phone calls for patients without a mobile number or email address on file. And, don’t forget dental postcard marketing options for those patients who prefer a hard copy reminder (direct mail is also a great way to send birthday and holiday greetings).

In summary, the only dental practices that actually need an automated recare system are those that want to increase team productivity, revenue generation and/ or patient satisfaction. Still not sure if your practice needs a new recare system? Check out our latest white paper, Ineffective Recare: The Black Hole of Recurring Revenues for tips on how to determine if an automated recare system is right for your practice.

Still have questions? Reach out to an Internet Marketing Advisor at 888-932-3644. Our team of dental marketing experts is happy to discuss your practice needs and potential ways PracticeMojo, ProSites’ automated patient communication solution, can help you meet your goals.

Website Design

5 Things the Best Dental Websites Have in Common

Not all dental websites are created equal – and what makes a website truly “great” often comes down to personal preference. Some people appreciate a unique design – others prefer more traditional. Some people like a lot of content, others are more “get-to-the-point.”

Whatever your preference, here are 5 things that are common to the best dentist websites:

1. Showcase your work. Whether it’s highlighting patient testimonials, before and after photos, or better yet – both – make sure visitors on your website can easily access information that will convey your expertise and ultimately build trust. Any doctor can “claim” to be the best and do great work, but those words from actual individuals and the photos to prove it, will automatically raise the confidence a visitor on your website will have in you.

2. Make your contact information easy to find. While it seems simple, you’d be amazed at how many websites bury phone numbers, addresses, or other ways to get in touch with a business. As a dentist, you have a lot of people who are physically going to your office, so displaying your practice’s address on every page of your website is key (we recommend the header or footer). And, make sure your phone number is prominently displayed on each page too (bonus points for a click-to-call feature).

3. Have user-friendly navigation. If you give people too many options, they may not know where to even find what they’re looking for. Make sure your navigation is simplified, and designed with the user in mind. The best dental websites categorize pages and organize them in a way that makes most sense for anyone  looking around for information.

4. Be mobile-friendly. It’s likely that at least half of your website traffic comes from a mobile device. With quick load times, thumb-friendly buttons, and optimal viewing experiences – having a responsive and/or mobile-friendly dental website design is a must in today’s day. Plus, Google will rank mobile websites favorably when someone conducts a search from a mobile device. So, you deliver a better experience to visitors and get better visibility among potential patients – a win-win for everyone.

5. Be compliant. No doubt, you’ve heard of the recent lawsuits involving dental practice websites that are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (AwDA). To mitigate risk, and to ensure current and prospective dental patients have the best dentist website experience possible, make sure your website offers an accessible option.

Bonus Tip: All websites should make this a priority, but in medical and dental website design it’s particularly important: Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Medical and dental websites often have to overcome enormous levels of patient anxiety, so keep the tone of your website light, friendly, reassuring, and welcoming. The best websites post freebies like coloring pages for kids on their dental blog. Try to impart a real sense of belonging and security to your visitors. It will pay off in new patients and patient retention.

The best dental websites avoid being "heady" or "smart" in favor of being friendly and welcoming.

Websites which are too formal, too elegant, or too smart can actually intimidate prospective patients. The best dental websites make patients feel welcomed and at ease.

To learn about other best practices not mentioned above, download our free whitepaper – The 10 Best Practices to Creating a Great Dental Website using the form below.

Practice Marketing

6 Ways Dental Practices Can Stand Out in a Cluttered Inbox

Chances are your dental practice communicates with some – if not the majority of – patients via email. Whether it’s appointment reminders, post-visit recaps, or a simple follow-up note – standing out in a cluttered email inbox is key to communicating with patients effectively.

Seeing that the average person receives over 120 emails a day, your message has a lot of competition. Use these tips below to ensure patients take notice to your dental practice’s emails:

  1. Make your subject line count. If your subject line doesn’t make sense or doesn’t catch attention, it could easily be deleted. Or worse, marked as SPAM and never seen. Make sure your subject lines are personable, concise, and accurate to what is included in the body of the email.

Subject lines work best when you keep it under 50 characters and avoid words like “FREE” so you aren’t marked as SPAM.

– Try sending emails at odd times. With “inbox zero” being the new goal, sometimes people will ignore an email truly because they are just too busy to ready yours. By sending an email at night or during the weekend, this may catch a patient’s attention. Test different email send days and times and track to see which has best response rates.

  1. Choose your words carefully. Content is everywhere, and people don’t have time to read everything that lands n their inbox. People are constantly rushing and need a concise email. There’s definitely a need for personality and a lot of need-to-know information but try to keep emails under 100 words and link out to other important information if they must find out more.
  1. Make the call-to-action clear. Make sure your email starts and ends with what you want your readers to do. Do you need them to complete a form and send it back? Do you want them to schedule a meeting with your firm? Whatever the action item is, make sure it’s clear and simply stated. Most people don’t read the full email – they skim the text – so ensure your call-to-action stands out from the body of the text by using a button or bold text to set it apart.
  1. Be mobile-friendly. Over half of all emails are read on a mobile device. Make sure your HTML emails are optimized for a mobile viewing experience, to ensure that patients don’t need to pinch and zoom to simply read your email. Otherwise, you chance being ignored or deleted.
  1. AB Test and measure success. Learn about your audience by testing the message, send times, calls-to-action, and subject lines. Make sure to define what you are testing and what success looks like so you can successfully track your efforts and make smarter marketing decisions for your practice.

Email marketing is here to stay – so it’s important that your dental practice utilizes this medium effectively. Find out how ProSites can help you stand out in a cluttered inbox with automated patient communication email reminders via PracticeMojo. Call (888) 932-3644 to learn more.

Social Media

5 Times You Should Communicate with Patients and How to Get It Done

Instagram showcases what your neighbor had for dinner. Facebook details the life of your 9th grade best friend. Snapchat shares pieces of an evolving story – but only for a second, and texts have all but eliminated the need for actual phone conversation. With all of this, is lack of communication still a “thing”? When it comes to patient communication, it is.

The benefits of patient communication have been extolled time and again, but understanding what you should do and actually doing it are two very different things (refer to that exercise bike turned clothes hanger). Sometimes the very concept of patient communication can be overwhelming. Does your practice need a formal plan? How much is too much? You talk to patients regularly – is that enough? So, like the personal training session you got last Christmas, the idea remains on the peripheral but nothing really comes of it.

The key to implementing anything new, whether it’s an exercise plan or a patient communication strategy, is to break it down into digestible pieces (we’re talking donut hole, not entire cake). To help you in this effort, we’ve highlighted a few opportunities for patient communication that you might not currently be leveraging.

1. Reminders – patients need them. People get busy – there are calendars to be juggled, deadlines to be met and only 24 hours in a day. Given everything vying for your patients’ attention, it’s no wonder that bi-annual hygiene visits fall to the bottom of the list. Enter dental patient reminders. Don’t worry, the passive aggressive type your well-meaning sibling uses (i.e. Did you ever use that training session?) generally isn’t warranted. Often, all a patient needs to stay on track is a quick appointment reminder.

Don’t want to task your front desk staff with making endless reminder phone calls? Good – that’s not what your patients want either. In a recent Hanover Research study, 80% of patients said they preferred text or email reminders over calls. How do you accommodate this preference? Using an automated patient communication system is a great way to deliver consistent communications that align with patient preferences, reinforce your practice’s high-tech image, and reduce no-shows.  While we can’t reap the benefits of cardio by pressing a button yet, dental practices can automate the majority of patient outreach.

2. Birthdays – everybody’s got one. Although some patients, like the kid sporting an “I am 7”shirt, are more vocal about them than others, a warm birthday greeting is generally welcome. No need to send a case of protein bars, birthday wishes sent via text, email, or old school greeting card can help strengthen patient relationships and keep you top-of-mind between scheduled appointments. Worried about execution? Unlike maintaining proper form throughout that Body Pump class, an automated patient communication system makes it easy to ensure every patient gets a personalized birthday message.

3. Post-procedure instructions – because no one remembers. According to the National Institute of Health , dentists’ recall of consultations is different than that of patients. In the majority of cases studied, patients were unable to accurately recall dental health advice or recommended actions. Sound familiar? Oh, 30 minutes of exercise daily– I thought you said three.  Providing detailed follow-up care instructions is the best way to ensure patients adhere to post-procedure guidelines, which reduces the risk of complications. Additionally, it shows that you care about your patients’ wellbeing.

4. Information – you’ve got it. When you work hard at something it’s ok to be a little braggadocios (#Down10Pounds), especially when patients reap the benefits (#ExpandedOfficeHours). Let current and prospective patients know that you invest in your practice. Growing your team, accepting new insurance plans, adding new technology, or offering promotions are all opportunities to communicate with current and prospective patients. After all, if you don’t tell them who will?

5. Patient reviews – you want them.  According to Dentistry IQ , 70% of dental patients said that online ratings and reviews influenced their choice of dentist. So, aside from delivering the best patient experience possible, how do you get more positive online reviews? Step 1) Ask. Step 2) Make it easy.

It’s not that your satisfied patients don’t want to leave a review, it’s just that they probably don’t think about it. People are busy and as soon as they set their next appointment, they’re out the door and onto the next thing on the list. You’ll be surprised at what a simple ask can do. Try sending a follow-up email with a link to your website’s Reviews page and/or other review sites like Yelp and Google +.

At this point you might be thinking, “Sure, there are numerous opportunities to communicate with patients – but still only 24 hours in a day. How am I supposed to do this in addition to treating patients?” Many patient communications can be automated, and even those that are handled manually (i.e. announcing new office hours) will soon be routine if you make information sharing standard protocol. Still not sure how to get started? Reach out to an Internet Marketing Advisor at 888-932-3644 for help creating a patient communication strategy and details on ProSites’ PracticeMojo automated patient communication solution. Trust us – it’ll be easier than leg day. 

Website Design

Secrets to Eliminate Patient Cancellations

No-shows and last-minute cancellations are inevitable from time-to-time, but they can have a significant financial impact on your practice. Luckily, there are ways that you can reduce the impact to your practice through these tips.

1. Identify why patients are cancelling. If patients call-in to cancel often, find out if there’s a bigger reason behind it. Was there a recent change in your insurance policies? Schedules? If you can identify the root cause, it can help you solve the overall problem.

2. Set automated dental patient reminders. Remind patients a month, week and day before their appointment. Include the date, time and even location of your practice for convenience, and utilize various communication channels to effectively reach patients (e.g. text, email and phone calls).

3. Establish cancellation policies. Whether you decide to charge for same-day cancellations or have a limit on how many times a year you’ll allow a patient to cancel their appointment, it’s fair to have boundaries within reason.

4. Expand your hours. Many patients are extremely busy and don’t have time during their work day for a dentist appointment. Consider office hours outside of the standard 9-to-5 and weekends. Plus, this flexibility will help you stand apart from other competitors.

5. Confirm appointments. In addition to automated reminders, make sure patients confirm their appointment either by replying to a text, clicking a link in an email, or confirming with your office staff.

For more ideas and tips on how to improve patient communications and reduce no-shows, download our latest whitepaper, How to Keep More Patients with Less Workhere.

Practice Marketing

Patient Communication – The key to client loyalty and retention

What if we said there was a way to retain more patients with less work? Before you click the “back” button, or write us off as delusional, give us one more minute of your time.

Communication is the foundation on which all relationships are built, including patient relationships. Successful dentists know that it takes more than travel-sized floss and a branded toothbrush at the end of a visit to create strong relationships and build loyalty.

In today’s consumer-centric market, dentists compete not only with other practices, but with everything that vies for patient wallet share and time. So, how do you ensure dental care remains a priority when stacked up against an overloaded calendar, new Louis Vuitton tote, or Callaway golf club? It comes back to the patient relationship, which is built on effective communication.

You might be thinking, “Ok, so I’m supposed to communicate with each patient before they even get in my chair?” Yup – that’s exactly what we’re saying. Next thought – “How is my front desk team supposed to reach every patient in our practice management system?” The answer is by automating patient communication. No, we weren’t part of the Psychic Friends Network; we just know dentists.

In addition to saving time, automating patient communications helps you maximize the lifetime value of a patient and is less expensive than adding additional front desk staff. And furthermore, it’s what patients want!

Patients want to hear from you, but how? The answer isn’t one size fits all. It depends on a number of factors, including individual patient preferences and what you need to communicate. From phone calls and direct mail to text messages, email, and even social media, each method has pros and cons. We’ve highlighted a few below, but for an in-depth look at the various methods, download our complimentary whitepaper, Automated Dental Practice Communication: How to Keep More Patients with Less Work.

Phone calls– This old-standby is great for discussing personal dental health related issues or personally scheduling a follow-up visit. While you risk being seen as an interruption, there is a certain patient segment that prefers this personal touch.

Text messages – For appointment reminders and confirmation requests, an easy to read text can’t be beat. In fact, 30% of dental patients prefer to receive appointment reminders via text.

Email – This outreach method is perfect for longer patient communications, such as newsletters or personalized post-treatment instructions.

Direct mail – While mailboxes once overflowed with paper, technology and the eco-conscious movement have left many barren. This means dental postcard appointment reminders, as well as birthday and holiday cards, have a better chance of sticking out and hanging around.

Social media – With the average person spending 90 minutes a day on social media, this outreach method is a direct inroad to patients. Social media is a great way to share general practice updates like holiday hours, or the addition of new team members, but remember that it is an open public forum and should not be used for sharing individual patient information.

While it’s not a magic bullet, automating patient communication is key to retaining patients, building loyalty and reducing no-shows. For more information on how ProSites’ PracticeMojo solution can help your practice reap the benefits of communication automation, contact an Internet Marketing Advisor at 888-932-3644. 

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