Howie Horrocks and Mark Dilatush
Are you ready to bring sleep apnea patients into your practice? Here’s your roadmap to success.
I.Understand medical billing.Every patient will ask what their medical insurance pays. If you look like a deer in headlights, they will be gone.
II.Build a relationship with a sleep lab and/or sleep physicians, or use home sleep monitors.You need these so you can easily get your patients diagnosed.
III.Have a good understanding of the airway.You need this plus the various options for treating sleep apnea. Know the consequences if left untreated.
IV.Face reality. Many dentists believe their patients understand the complete menu of services, amenities, technologies, and conveniences they provide. Here is the truth: you can assume (with an astounding degree of accuracy) that NONE of your existing patients are aware of ANYof the services, amenities, technologies, and conveniences you provide—unless you have provided those services directly to them.
So, with that as a background, here is our first recommendation.
Invest in advertising the new sleep apnea aspect of your practice internally first. Generate your first few cases and start a “buzz” from within your own four walls. Here are some projects to consider.
• Sleep apnea brochures (in print and .html form)
– Mail them and email them twice per year (no more than that)
– Keep a supply in reception and available in the operatory or consultation room
– These canbe combination brochures. They can include offerings for the same market segment (implants, implant-supported dentures, dentures).
• If you don’t have one already, consider a flat screen on your reception room wall with a looped presentation that highlights eight to 10 of your most marketable attributes—one of them being sleep apnea treatment. You should do this whether you offer sleep apnea treatment or not.
• COMPLETELY INFORM YOUR TEAM! We used capital letters for a reason. Your team (business staff, assistants, and hygienists) learn MORE about your patients than you do. Patients open up to your team. Patients may not confide in you that their spouse snores like a bear with a head cold, but they will confide in your staff. Prep your staff. Role-play the conversations until your staff knows how to convert the interest from your patients.
There is an endless list of internal promotions, so start with these. Doing the above internal projects should get you your first few cases.
Like internal promotion, this is an almost endless topic. Here is a list of to-do items in the order we would use if we were doing this in our practice.
• On your website, add a web page specifically devoted to nothing but sleep apnea. Now add a link to that page on your home page and on all pages on your website. Don't hide it. Put it front and center. Definitely do this before you do external mail. Contact your SEO service provider and alert them to your need to have your new page recognized and ranked by search engines (like Google for instance). They should know what to do.
• If your practice has an active Facebook page, try "boosting" Facebook posts to a very narrowly targeted audience: female Facebook users over 40 within 30 miles of your practice location. You have your choice here. You can drive them to your new sleep apnea page on your website, or you can drive them to your Facebook page and engage them in conversation there. If you are going to offer free seminars on the subject, boosting Facebook posts may also be a good way to drive attendance.
It is unlikely you will continue to grow the sleep apnea part of the practice through just internal and Internet promotion. It is now time to reach out to the community. Properly targeted mail is the only media choice with an almost endless list of targeting options. First, design a brochure. It can be just like your internal brochure. You can target your mail list by age (over 45), geography (closest to your practice), household income, credit-worthiness, and marketability index (top 30% of the available population). In most markets in the U.S., you will accumulate 5,000 to 10,000 qualified targets within about 10 miles of your practice. If you plan to promote sleep apnea to these people for the next 24 months, print four mailers per target. Deploy no more than two per target, per year.
Ninety percent of the dentists doing sleep apnea reach a nice comfortable level of interest for the service by doing these three main things first. Of course, if your thirst for more sleep apnea patients grows, just do more of what is already working (within reason), or start exploring your media options. We hope this helps you help more people with their sleep apnea.
Howie Horrocksis the founder, CEO, and partner of New Patients Inc., the marketing firm exclusively for dentists. Mark Dilatush serves as president and partner. Horrocks wrote and sold the first two books in the bestselling series, Unlimited New Patients, and coauthored a third book in the series with Dilatush. Together they have written articles in popular dental trade journals, published seven hours of online CE, and provided live education events to thousands of dental professionals on the topic of effective promotion of dentistry to today's consumer.