Embracing the electronic revolution

March 1, 2009
You might be surprised to learn that “saving the planet” and reducing your carbon footprint are just the “tip of the iceberg” on the thousands of real dollar reasons to make a digital transition in your dental practice.

by Vicki McManus, RDH

You might be surprised to learn that “saving the planet” and reducing your carbon footprint are just the “tip of the iceberg” on the thousands of real dollar reasons to make a digital transition in your dental practice. By using more electronic media you can make a positive change for the environment and your community. However, you can also feel good knowing this is a very profitable decision for your practice.

Cell phones & e-mail

One of the best ways to reap the financial benefits of going paperless is to implement a patient messaging service. Your patients are no longer tied to their home phones or traditional forms of print communication. They're using cell phones and e-mail as their primary means of contact. If you can reach them where they are, you have an opportunity to build strong patient loyalty and make your practice more profitable, not to mention you'll save thousands of dollars on print costs for throw-away postcards and ad campaigns.

Electronic patient messaging services typically allow an office to send out appointment reminders, recall notices, educational newsletters, patient surveys, referral requests, and promotional offerings. The economic impact can be astonishing. For example, here's a case study of a Louisiana doctor who uses Smile Reminder in his two medium-sized practices:

  • $17,000 per year saved from print media and office time for phone calls
  • $78,240 per year in recare income
  • Thousands in new appointments in response to electronic newsletter and e-mail promotions
  • Missed appointments reduced by 30%

Actual financial benefits will vary from office to office based on client base, fees, and more, but if properly implemented, the overall effect will be a net decrease in money spent and a significant increase in incoming revenue.

Managing records, cash flow, and patient trust

What about electronic patient files? After Hurricane Katrina the government instituted the National Health Information Infrastructure Act, which requires patient records to be electronic by 2014. This will help protect against loss of patient histories, contact information, lab results, X-rays, and claim filings. Losing patient information can be devastating to a practice and can lead to having to close its doors. Moving to digital records and backing up at a secure location can protect a dentist's income and patients' records.

Day-to-day financial benefits can also be achieved with electronic record processing. If your office processes claims electronically, you know you can process them faster, and you have a better idea of which claims are rejected and for what reasons. This makes it easier to predict spending and reduces the amount of time claims wait to be paid out from months to weeks, which keeps cash in the practice.

Another paperless tool is in-office educational videos, which are great for getting patients involved in choosing their health care options. Movies explaining the benefits of various dental procedures, viewed in the waiting room or at the chair side, are said to increase per patient revenues by up to 25%.

Trends in consumer Internet use

It's time to take the leap from the yellow pages to the Internet. A full page Yellow Page ad can cost between $8,000 and $50,000 per year, depending on the size of the market. Consumers are moving away from using the Yellow Pages. Now, more than 60% of consumers search for local businesses on the Internet, and only 33% use the Yellow Pages.

One new tool I recommend to get word-of-mouth advertising on the Internet and found in search engines is vSling by Smile Reminder. vSling software uses recording video patient testimonials in the office, or patients can record at home with a webcam. Testimonials are automatically tagged with key words. You can approve the testimonials for distribution online to video sharing sites likeYouTube®.

The bottom line

Digital dentists' offices should be commended for their environmentally friendly methods, as well as their financially savvy decision-making.

Vicki McManus, RDH, is a business development coach. She is the managing partner and is on faculty with Productive Dentist Academy in Dallas. McManus can be reached at (800) 757-6077 or on the Web at www.productivedentist.com.

U.S. cell phone statistics

  • 86% of Americans own a cell phone
  • Text messaging has increased 37% every six months since 2003
  • The median age for a cell phone owner is 38
  • Text messages have a 95% read rate and 90% are read within nine minutes

U.S. e-mail statistics

  • 88% of all adult Internet users have personal e-mail accounts
  • 76% of Internet users check their e-mail at least once a day

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