Can you hear me now?

A young dentist opens a small office in his neighborhood. He spends a conservative amount on dental equipment and leaseholds, and sets aside space for future expansion.

A young dentist opens a small office in his neighborhood. He spends a conservative amount on dental equipment and leaseholds, and sets aside space for future expansion. His wife works the front desk and helps run the business. The first patients consist of friends, neighbors, and employees from local businesses. In its first months, the number of patients grows to 200. As the years go by, the dental office realizes significant growth.

A large dental office builds a huge multidiscipline facility in the same area. The facility has state-of-the-art equipment, breathtaking architecture, and sophisticated computers. But within a few years of its grand opening, the new facility is sold and is no longer a dental office.

While this example may seem far-fetched, it’s not. Why is it that the smaller office withstands the test of time and competition? The answer is simple - communication. The most successful dental offices have found ways to communicate effectively with their patients.

Unfortunately, the average dental office has a ratio of staff-to-patients that is far from ideal. With the average office employing the equivalent of five full-time staff members to service more than 1,000 patients, each employee is responsible for providing positive experiences for more than 200 patients, and that’s in addition to their primary roles within the office.

There is no secret about what dental offices need to be successful. The more important question is, “How can offices with limited resources and staff communicate more effectively with their patients?” As patient populations increase in size and diversity, new technologies must be adopted to better maintain the “small office” feel in a “big box” world. By understanding their patients, an office can tailor schedules, specialty programs, and hours of operation to better suit their unique needs.

Traditional forms of office communication have included signs, posters, and newsletters. These take time, money, and effort to produce, but are viewed by only a small percentage of the patients on a regular basis. These modes of communication offer only minimal benefit.

With vast improvements in the quality and functionality of hardware and software for message-delivery systems, advanced technologies now make it possible to communicate with large groups of people in a short amount of time and in a personal, professional, and interactive way that is also cost effective.

Two such technologies are the PhoneTree automated telephone and e-mail messaging system (www.phonetree.com/dental/ptdental.htm) and MyProAudio’s Instant Audio for e-mail and Web sites (www.criticalmotion.ca/MyProAudio.html).

The dental business has been exposed to companies such as PhoneTree for many years. The technology of using audio on e-mails sent out by MyProAudio is a new concept. In the struggle to get your message across on an increasingly crowded Internet, MyProAudio.com President Doug Comstock recommends a communication channel neglected by most businesses: audio.

“We are more receptive to an offer made with audio than one in text alone,” notes Comstock, citing research concluding that people remember only 10 percent of what they read, 20 percent of what they hear, and as much as 50 percent of what they read and hear. “Audio increases sales because when we hear a voice, we feel the presence of a real person. A voice can convey warmth, sincerity, enthusiasm, and many other appealing qualities, helping to build a personal relationship.”

Some of the ways to customize these services include:

Use voice testimonials. Honest, unrehearsed voice testimonials furnish instant credibility.

Use staff voices to welcome patients to your practice.

Inform your patients about holidays, schedule changes, etc.

MyAudioPro.com provides Ear-mail Audio Postcards, Audio Testimonials, Instant Audio Players, and Web Audio Buttons all for one low, annual fee. Its products begin playing instantly when clicked on, and couldn’t be easier for a novice site-builder to integrate into a page design.

Whether you are a small dental office or part of a multidisciplined health center, effective communication is vital to the success of your business. By offering patients the products and services they want, your business is only addressing one piece of the puzzle. Increasing patient awareness through modes of communication which “touch” your patients can increase patient interaction, case acceptance, and ultimately, patient satisfaction.

Lorne Lavine, DMD, practiced periodontics and implant dentistry for more than 10 years. He is an A+ certified computer repair technician, as well as Network+ certified. He is the president of Dental Technology Consultants, a company that assists dentists in all phases of technology integration in the dental practice. He can be contacted by e-mail at drlavine@thedigitaldentist.com, or by phone at (866) 204-3398. Visit his Web site at www.thedigitaldentist.com.

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