to Create Sustainable Patient Loyalty and Drive Practice Profitability
by Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA
A loyal community of patients is a foundation for any successful dental practice. The reason is simple. Loyal patients keep their appointments, accept treatment recommendations, remain active and compliant with their recare program, pay their balances on time, post positive practice reviews online, and refer their friends and family to the practice. These core patient behaviors drive production, collections, and ultimately profitability.
Patient engagement management, the process of consistently interacting with patients to positively influence the above behaviors should be a core part of any dental practice strategy. In order to plan this strategy, it is imperative that you engage with patients where they live, work, and play – online.
Today patients spend more time online than watching TV. All you have to do is look in your reception room. Almost every patient is connected with a smartphone or a tablet. A sound patient engagement management strategy must be supported by the right set of online tools. These tools will enhance the practice brand and deepen the loyalty patients have for the practice. There are three important considerations a dental practice should keep at the forefront when selecting a partner to help it implement an effective online patient engagement system and strategy.
Provide Anytime, Anywhere Patient Access and Interaction
According to Sesame research, 74% of patients said that being able to access information online anytime makes them more likely to stay with their doctor. Patients today manage so many aspects of their lives online that they expect their dental practice to plug into this world as well.
Not only do patients want to access information online 24 hours a day; they want to do it using their chosen Internet connected device. Today's patients have moved beyond desktop computers. Smartphones and tablets of varied screen size and resolution are now standard fare for the connected patient. An online patient engagement system that does not provide optimized viewing and functionality across all of these devices compromises the patient experience, and ultimately, impacts profitability.
Support Comprehensive Online Patient Engagement Services
Many times practices equate patient engagement with automated reminders. There is no doubt that the right automated appointment reminder system will improve practice production. Sesame recently conducted a comprehensive study that found within 36 months of implementing an automated appointment reminder system, no-shows were reduced by 22.95%. With the improved appointment adherence came $31,456.88 in incremental production revenue.
However, automated reminders are just one component of an effective patient engagement management system. A comprehensive portal should, at the very least, enable patients to:
- View and manage appointments
- Customize contact methods and preferences
- Access financial records and image data
- Pay bills online
- Provide feedback and referrals
Systems that only cover a component of the online patient engagement process, such as automated reminders, severely shortchange a practice's overall opportunity to improve the patient experience. A practice that wants to optimize its service to patients needs to make sure the system it chooses addresses a broad spectrum of patient engagement touch points.
To ensure the success of an online patient engagement management strategy, a practice must also have an intuitive portal to administer the system and monitor analytics. These tools should provide timely information on key practice metrics and ROI, improve staff productivity, and identify clear opportunities for improvement.
Leverage Social Media for New- Patient Acquisition
An effective patient engagement management strategy not only enables patients to transact and communicate with your practice, it also helps accelerate new-patient acquisition through social media. An effective social media strategy will allow patients to share experiences on popular platforms, provide feedback, and post reviews on relevant third-party sites. This will easily facilitate referrals to friends and family.
What your patients share is just as important as how and where they share. An effective online patient engagement management system should provide an easy method to facilitate these activities by providing communication channels for the practice through a diverse set of social media and web channels.
Your practice faces a supreme challenge: Implement a loyalty-generating patient engagement strategy without straining your resources or budget. Effective patient engagement tools are a cost-effective means of decreasing your no-show rate, helping your staff improve productivity, and strengthening patient commitment. The results of an effective system are improved practice production, efficiency, and profitability.
Search for "Diana Friedman" on www.dentistryiq.com for more information.
Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA, is president and chief executive officer of Sesame Communications. She has a 20-year success track record in leading dental innovation and marketing. Contact Diana at [email protected].
- "Digital Set to Surpass TV in Time Spent with US Media." August 2013. eMarketer.
- Sesame Member Survey, 2010, Sesame Communications.
- Sesame Member Study, 2013, Sesame Communications.
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