Th 75709

The power of the written word

Oct. 1, 2001
The information materials that doctors give to patients is as important as the services they provide.

The information materials that doctors give to patients is as important as the services they provide.

by Carole Eaton, RDA

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Effective marketing of a dental practice requires communicating your practice message as well as establishing ongoing relationships with your patients. Your written materials play a large part of the visual appeal that connects a patient with your practice. Most people are visual learners and will use this avenue to learn about you and your practice.

Orthodontists are in the business of providing improved aesthetics; therefore, all paperwork and written materials should reflect the same standard, as well as provide educational and promotional information about their offices.

Creating and maintaining uniquely written materials for your patients' use and to send to referral sources accomplishes many marketing goals, including:

  • Establishing an aesthetic image associated with your practice
  • Making a good first impression
  • Project your desired practice image
  • Conveying a message of confidence, quality, and experience in your field
  • Educating your patients about your unique services

First impressions are judgments based on appearances and limited knowledge. Your written materials can provide information about your practice to potential new patients as well as reinforce your practice message to your current patient base. From the new-patient welcome letter to your financial invoices, each piece of paper sent out of your office should speak of the quality care and service provided by your practice.

Let's take a look at some of your key written communication materials and review the impact they have on your overall practice message.

New patient welcome packet. In most cases, this is the first visual contact with your office. The welcome packet should contain a warm, inviting, and informational welcome letter on your office letterhead that explains what to expect on the initial visit. It should include the amount time needed to provide a thorough examination, any diagnostic records taken, and discussion of a treatment plan. To utilize your time more efficiently, you'll want to include the new-patient acquaintance form, health history information sheet, and an insurance form for verifying benefits. Make sure you send either a map and/or detailed directions to help patients locate your facility.

Practice brochure. A practice brochure is a great marketing tool to add to your welcome packet. This brochure can summarize your personal philosophy while providing initial answers to commonly asked questions. You can create a custom brochure, semi-custom brochure, or use one of the high-quality generic brochures that are available. The visual appeal of this brochure speaks loud and clear about your practice and your commitment to quality care and patient education. These brochures can also be given out to your referral offices and community contacts for broader exposure.

New-patient exit packet. This packet goes home with new patients following their first visit. It serves as an introduction to your practice, procedures, and protocol and as a review of specific dental concerns and treatment recommendations. By creating a presentation folder with pertinent information for the new patient, you instill the commitment to education and ongoing communication as well as provide reference materials. This is also an ideal format for delivering promotional information about new techniques in dentistry and the unique qualities and services you provide.

Suggested items to include are: your mission statement and treatment philosophy, a page introducing your team members, detailed information that guides the patient through the course of treatment, your appointment hours and guidelines, a payment option sheet that shows your financial flexibility, and a summary letter of your initial findings and treatment recommendations.

Cohesive series of letters. These letters are utilized as part of your ongoing communication with your patients. Keeping your patients informed about their treatment progress, current financial status, insurance benefits, and changes or updates about the office is essential.

Before using your automated computer-generated letters, take the time to make sure the letter represents your office in content and is consistent with other communication materials from your office.

Many of your referring doctors and specialists also want to stay updated via these letters as they work with you on mutual patients.

If your practice utilizes the latest in technology, consider combining written communication materials with a practice video or CD. Create an impressive Web page to interact with your patients while keeping them updated on new technology and services. Utilize your digital camera to enhance and customize your communication letters and office forms.

Look at each piece of paper sent from your office and evaluate it for consistency in content, visual appeal, and promotional value. Remember, these letters, forms, and packets of information represent you and your office. These materials can market your practice seven days a week, 24 hours a day. As you review these written materials, follow the guidelines in above table. Be prepared to make some changes or additions.

Communication materials checklist

  • Utilize a logo on all correspondence that can easily be identified with your office.
  • Combine logo, color, and layout design in an aesthetic format for greater visual appeal.
  • Utilize proactive language that helps develop trust and confidence in your practice.
  • Add benefit statements to your written materials to add value to your services.
  • Provide patients and referral sources with pertinent information about your office for increased retention, clarity, and as reference materials.
  • Give out quality written materials as a tangible impression of your office and a constant reminder.
  • Distribute key written materials in the community at school or health-related functions.
  • Submit an educational article or ad in a local magazine or neighborhood newspaper.

Carol A. Eaton, RDA, has more than 25 years of expereince within the dental community. Best known for developing successful strategies for new patient integration, she also has expertise with internal marketing, enhanced communications and staff relations. Eaton has lectured at regional, national, and internal programs and is available for study club presentations, custom referral programs, staff retreats, and in-office consulting. Contact her at (559) 432-3825 or email [email protected].

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