by Bill Busch, DMD, MAGD
Football is back! Hooray! Thus the football reference in the title. The headline refers to the chains used to measure a first down in football. In order to advance to the goal, players must continue to move the chains by moving at least 10 yards in a three-play sequence; otherwise the team must kick the ball back to their opponent. (This explanation is just in case you've never watched a football game.)
Dentistry is much the same. If you continue to move toward your goal, you will be rewarded both professionally and financially. There are many strategies you can use to get to pay dirt — retirement. I use small incremental changes (short passes and runs) to move the chains by implementing anything that will automate and make my practice more efficient. Just as in football, our profession needs good players and structure. The structure is based on the technology we use. Technology is your franchise player — it always delivers. In this article I'll discuss some of the latest technology I use to make my practice run like a Super Bowl-bound team!
Digital patient engagement technology: I added this to my practice this year, and I love it. It is a 42-inch flat screen TV that is silent, but it broadcasts relevant information about my practice. It is front and center when patients come through my door. You can learn more about it at www.digitalclinic.com. With Digital Clinic's Digital Patient Engagement System, there's no limit to how much and how effectively you can communicate with patients. The eAssistant digital display is a programmable, interactive signage system that presents a stunning flow of images, messages, and information. It entertains and informs patients with news, featured services, weather, special offers, and more. If you choose, you can turn on the social marketing part of the screen. Patients can see themselves "Like" your Facebook page right on-screen, and they can see what other approved wall posts say about your practice.
When doctor-patient interaction time is critical, every second counts. The digital clinic leverages the time patients are in the reception room and turns it into "sign language." This is a way to inform patients about "their" dental practice, and to educate them about dental services you offer, while they relax in the reception room. The Digital Clinic makes each moment — from the time a patient opens the door to the time the patient reaches your dental chair — relevant and productive. I owe at least one of my cases per week to the Digital Clinic's eAssistant. After being in the reception room, several patients have come back to the treatment room and said, "I didn't know that you did this (service)," or my favorite, "I didn't know you were accepting new patients." For $119 per month, this service is one of the most inexpensive ways I have to promote my services.
Dental apps: These are online software tools that make patient communication automated after patients leave your office. Examples are Demandforce, E-central (Dentrix), Smile Reminder, and Lighthouse 360. (Apps are short for applications, but Apple would like you to believe that it's short for Apple.) These apps send appointment confirmations, text message reminders, review requests, make referral requests, and more. If you're not using this technology, you're missing out. Today, more people access the web via their phones than via a computer.
The newest of these online tools is Dental ATM, which stands for automated treatment messaging. This software tool does much of what the others do. What is special is that it database mines your practice management system and pulls out treatment that patients need, then automatically reminds those patients to schedule. You no longer need a staff member to call these patients if something has not been scheduled. I use this in my practice and love it. It automatically helps fill in your schedule when there are holes in it. Access it at www.dentalatm.com. The cost is $295 per month.
Mobile website: The hottest thing right now is to have a mobile website. This is a small version of your website that is optimized for viewing on a smartphone. This goes back to the reality that more people are searching the Internet on their phones than on their computers, and that includes searching for a dentist. There are many companies out there that will design a mobile website for you. It usually costs about $995 to set up, and $29 to $40 a month to maintain. The company will send you reports every month that tell you how many people viewed your page from their phones. I recommend www.dentalbranding.com, www.solutions21.com, and www.curtisgroup.com.
E-prescribing: Tired of taking your gloves off in the middle of a procedure to sign a prescription? Me too! Within the next six months you will be able, with a few mouse clicks, to send a patient's prescription to the pharmacy. But wait. It gets better. You will also be able to see what your local pharmacist sees when he or she checks what medications a patient is taking and what allergies they currently have. You no longer need to depend on your patients to tell you everything. You can just copy and paste their lists of medications and allergies into your practice management system. This system will also be able to advise if you prescribe something a patient is allergic to or has a reaction to. The cost is to be announced, but it should be in the range of $20 to $49 a month if you want to e-prescribe and see the real-time medication history.
Phone Systems: VOIP/Cloud-based phone system. If your phone system is as old as a 20-year-old leaking amalgam, then now is the time to update to the cloud. You will see integration with your practice management system eventually. An example will be when the phone rings, you will have a pop-up window on your computer with the calling patient's information, ledger, and family members who are due for appointments. You will have the option to customize what you see. You will also be able to see a categorized call log of all inbound and outbound calls. Just connect your phones to your computer network. Visit www.henryscheintechcentral.com for a free webinar. Moving to the cloud gives you an easy-to-use phone system for a predictable monthly fee, with no capital expense.
Community service: A great way to give back to your community is to join TeamSmile Dental Outreach. It requires one day per year to volunteer with your local sports team to provide underserved children with the experience of a lifetime. It's dentistry and sports at the same time, and it's fun and easy, two requirements I like. Check it out at www.teamsmile.org. Have a day of fun with your sports heroes, treat kids in need, and go to the game with the other volunteers. Oh, and receive a one-of-a-kind set of free team scrubs to wear every year!
The TeamSmile partners are Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, Kansas City Royals, Justin Timberlake and the Shriners Hospital for children, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets, Fresno State Bulldogs, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, the East-West Shrine Game, and more.
Bill Busch, DMD, MAGD, director of the North Kansas City Dental Group, has been practicing for over 20 years in the Kansas City area at the high-tech Green Dental Practice. He cofounded and created TeamSmile Dental Outreach for Children, which provides free dental care to uninsured children across the country with professional sports teams. For information, visit www.teamsmile.org, www.drbusch.com, or www.thedentrixdentist.blogspot.com. You may contact Dr. Busch at email@example.com.