By Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA
As a successful dentist, you know that production is the key to practice growth. However, it is the practice production model, along with your ability to affect positive change at key inflection points, that ultimately determines the sustained success of your practice. There are many levers available to improve production performance, but these are not as intuitive and straightforward as you might think. Understanding patient flow patterns within the production model and how to influence them will ensure you a consistent flow of new patients. It will also help you maintain a loyal patient community.
The Dental Practice Production Model: a schematic presentation of patient flow patterns in the practice
Revenue in your dental practice is created from production. Production is determined by the following factors:
- New patient flow: This includes examinations and case presentation, which ultimately results in larger treatment plans and significant production.
- Recare patient flow: There are both direct components (hygiene cycle) and indirect components (treatment needs and new treatment diagnosis).
No-shows and last-minute cancellations
reduce production, which reduces practice revenue that can never be recovered. Negating these is therefore critical to practice growth and profitability.
Collections in a dental practice are entirely a derivative of production. They include both payments while a patient is in active treatment and collections on outstanding accounts receivable.
Integrated Digital Solutions to Drive Practice Performance
New patient flow and production require a comprehensive strategy directed both at your local prospective patient community and your existing practice patient base. There are three primary
digital levers you can easily flip to drive new patients to the practice:
1. Practice Website and SEO
Ninety-seven percent of consumers use online media when researching local products and services.1 This includes prospective patients looking for your practice. Your practice website is the cornerstone of your online brand and provides the content that prospective patients use to make a decision to schedule an appointment. It also provides context to search engines, which is used to rank you in search results. To increase production, you need to make sure you have a trusted vendor, focused exclusively on dentistry, to manage this effort. Further, you need to ensure your website uses responsive design, which is the technology Google recommends because it is easier to index for search results and automatically optimizes the user experience on smartphones and tablets.2
2. Social Media
Given that 81% of U.S. online consumers' purchase decisions are influenced by their friends' social media posts, your practice should leverage social media.3 This includes using Facebook (e.g., offering sweepstakes and contests), YouTube, and your practice blog to increase production. To take full advantage of the strength of this lever, make sure you partner with a vendor who intimately understands these channels in the context of dentistry.
3. Patient Engagement Platform (a.k.a. Patient Login) with Review Syndication
Automated appointment reminders are standard fare as part of a patient engagement platform. In fact, an astounding 85.5% of doctors using automated reminders say it is important to the success of their practice.4 The reason is simple: It helps reduce no-shows and cancellations. However, a comprehensive patient engagement platform also provides a digital marketing campaign engine to encourage treatment plan acceptance, reactivate patients who have fallen off their recare schedule, and engage patients through educational e-newsletters and personalized e-cards. It gives your patients secure, 24-7 access to their information, financial reminders, and the ability to pay bills online. Like your website, it should use responsive design so that it is optimized for use on smartphones and tablets.
A final component of a robust patient engagement portal is online review syndication of post-appointment surveys. This is critical not only to protect your reputation, but to promote the value of your practice to prospective patients. A recent study conducted by Sesame Communications found that when post-appointment patient reviews were syndicated to Healthgrades Enhanced Profiles, they drove, on average, 11 appointment requests to the practice per month.5
Synergy is key to a practice's success. While you may choose to work with different vendors on specific components of your digital strategy, the best results are achieved when a single provider delivers an integrated solution that builds a consistent solid practice brand in your community that utilizes all the levers of your solution to optimize new patient flow, patient engagement, and, ultimately, production.
Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA, is president and chief executive officer of Sesame Communications. She has a 20-year track record of success in leading dental innovation and marketing. Contact Diana at Diana@sesamecommunications.com.
1. 103 Compelling Social Media and Marketing Statistics for 2013 (and 2014), Business 2 Community, November 2013.
4. 2014 Sesame Member Survey, Sesame Communications.
5. Research Brief, Healthgrades Enhanced Profiles™: Patient Acquisition Performance Metrics, Sesame Communications, February 2014.