Three Marketing Must-Haves for Every Practice
How do new patients come to choose your practice over another? What separates your practice from the one down the street? Until the time in which they need a dentist, new patients aren’t giving you or your practice much thought. But when they do begin their search, will they find you quickly and easily? How will your practice penetrate the noise generated by every other practice in your area?
As you’ve likely discovered, drawing new patients into your practice is a little different than attracting new customers to Best Buy or Walgreens. Traditional marketing approaches, such as a smattering of ads, aren’t effective or economical over the long-term. And, I’m sorry to say, there are no “silver bullets” that will guarantee success if you just “do this” - whatever “this” new trend might be on any given day. Keeping current and prospective patients flocking to your doors requires effort that goes well beyond a one-time ad, a clever pitch, or simply creating a Facebook page. Although there are multiple components to effective new patient marketing, I consider these three to be essential to a solid marketing foundation.
#1 Consider your Brand
#2 Practice Website
#3 Make Marketing Part of your Budget
Marketing can be thought of as an invitation to a party. No matter how great a party is, if no one knows about it, it will be a bust. Successful dentists realize the great return on investment that marketing can yield, and they budget significant funds to invest in marketing. How much is enough? For startup practices or practices wanting to market and grow aggressively, 6-10% of projected production should be allocated for marketing. For established practices, 3-4% for marketing maintenance and 6-10% for growth of projected production should be allocated.
Marketing is an investment in the success of your practice. If you cut the marketing budget or have an insufficient budget, you are cutting the flow of patients to your practice. Without patients there is no practice, plain and simple.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email email@example.com
Recordkeeping - What Do We Need?
Patient records are the backbone of a dental practice. Without detailed records we lack a format for comprehensive treatment and sequencing, as well as the legal documentation needed in the case of a malpractice suit, or demand for refunds from an insurance carrier on grounds of utilization review findings. Without detailed records, chaotic planning can occur. What happened at the patient’s last appointment impacts what is going to happen today. If not described accurately, mistakes on today’s services may be made. We cannot rely on a staff person’s memory of whether or not the patient was pre-medicated at their last visit or had an untoward reaction to an anesthetic. Even in the absence of a possibly serious consideration such as these, lack of coherent records can make an office appear unprofessional.
Paper records are disappearing in favor of computerized formats. Patients expect their dentists to be up-to-date. While they may value old-fashioned concern and care for their treatment needs, they do not value old-fashioned systems. With this in mind, what do we need for accurate recordkeeping? How can we document our patients' appointments to include what is necessary in a reasonable and organized fashion?
Many computer record formats allow a template for notes, with headings appearing and staff filling in the documentation. Some allow for “pre-packaged” notes that provide a “canned” entry that will be correct the majority of the time, perhaps with a slight modification. Some are completely free-form with all notes needing to be generated at the time. Offices need to be careful that if pre-packaged notes or headings are used, today’s entries must be totally accurate for this patient’s treatment. For example, if a canned entry is used for local anesthetic because the dentist uses the same type most of the time, be sure the entry reflects how many carpules and the type of injection. It would not do to have #3 MOD, #4 MOD and #5 MOD listed with a canned entry for each tooth of two carpules of anesthetic. This would mean the patient is documented as receiving six carpules for treatment that likely was completed with only two or fewer. The problem associated with this is obvious. As an example, let’s look at a “heading style” format for documentation for an adult hygiene appointment.
MH (Medical History): A patient’s medical history should be updated no less than once annually. This means going over what the patient had listed at their last update and documenting anything that has changed. The medical history notes need to contain today’s date and the initials or other identification of who is making the entries. The patient may be asked, “Have you had any changes in your health or medications since your last appointment?” This is a good beginning, but often it is helpful to also ask for specific changes such as, “Are you taking any medications for bone-strengthening or have you had any surgery for your heart or joints?” Implications for oral and general health related to these questions are important, which patients may not realize.
DH (Dental History): Note if the patient has a concern today, or if treatment was not completed or is pending since their last appointment.
OCS (Oral Cancer Screening): Note the fact that a screening was accomplished and what was revealed.
RAD (Radiographs): List radiographs taken and give the reason. It is no longer considered appropriate to take x-rays “because we always take them once a year.” In addition, ADA guidelines tell us that radiographs need to be ordered by the dentist. For example, “Four BWs taken as per Dr. Smith to check for interproximal decay.”
PERIO: Describe the patient’s condition today. Generally healthy, gingivitis, etc. Document probing depths (at least once a year) on a separate screen. List bleeding on probing, furcations, mobility and recession as appropriate.
HYG: Note assessment and procedures completed. For example, “Moderate plaque and calculus. Ultrasonic and hand instruments used. Polished and flossed all areas including under lingual fixed retainer #22-#27. Reviewed brushing and use of rubber tip in the patient’s mouth and in the mirror. Gave new brush, floss and rubber tip. Recommend 3X a year prophys due to calculus build-up.”
DENTAL: “Recall exam with Dr. Smith. #3 has existing inadequate MOD amalgam restoration with crack on DL cusp. Recommended full crown.”
NV: Next visit, 1 hour for crown prep #3
RECALL: 4 months. Appointment made for Sept. 30, 2013, 10am with Carol
Anyone reading these notes will have a complete and accurate picture of what the patient presented with today, what treatment was provided, and what the next step will be in this patient’s care. In addition, the person filing insurance knows what surfaces are involved with the crown needed for #3 as well as the fact that a crack is apparent. A photo, which was taken today as documentation, can also be included. The insurance coordinator doesn’t have to search through all the radiographs and photos in the patient record, s/he knows a photo was part of today’s appointment because of the detailed patient notes.
If there is ever a question about the appropriateness of the #3 crown, these notes will derail any endeavor by an insurance carrier for a utilization-review based refund. And if a malpractice problem occurs due to any unforeseen circumstance, these notes will back up the dentist and hygienist’s treatment.
Recordkeeping is not glamorous or exciting, but it is essential. Our computerized formats make it easier than ever. Taking the time to do it right is an important facet of dental care in today’s modern world.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pushing, Pulling or Motivating?
Andrew Carnegie once said, “You cannot push someone up a ladder unless he is willing to climb.” Influencing another person to take a course of action is a difficult task, one that requires patience and perseverance. Regardless of whether you are trying to improve employee productivity or increase treatment acceptance from patients, influence is about shaping others’ thinking and/or actions.
Keep in mind that whatever motivates you may not motivate someone else. In fact, if you expect others to be like you, you’ll be trapped into disapproving of them and being angry that they aren’t doing what you want them to do. Resentment builds, creating tension and conflict.
Unfortunately in our frantic pace to get things done, we’re often too busy ‘telling’ instead of ‘selling’. If you’re going to succeed in influencing someone to change, find the carrot and put away the stick. People are motivated for their reasons, not yours. And your ability to understand what drives the people on your team and the patients in your operatory is a key factor in productivity and profitability. If you want to influence an employee to change, you have to help her/him see that change is in their best interest.
There is no ‘right’ way to influence because it is situational and contextual. For example, if there’s a fire in the office, ordering people to the nearest exit is quite effective, not to mention necessary for survival. But that approach just doesn’t work in non-emergency situations. If you try to overpower others with your knowledge and expertise, you’ll have staff turnover and patient departures because nobody likes that style.
Influence starts by connecting with your employees and your patients. Learn about the person/people you want to influence. Try to understand their perspectives and beliefs. By knowing their concerns, fears and assumptions, you increase your ability to gain cooperation. This also enables you to counter any resistance by pointing out how it will help them. The real benefit in truly understanding their perspective, however, is that you make employees and patients feel valued.
Even if you disagree with an employee or a patient’s view, acknowledge their perspective. Don’t point out the flaws in their thinking, even if you can find 10 reasons why they’re wrong. Part of the reason people resist change is that they don’t feel validated or respected.
When I am coaching leaders, my first step is to ask about the obstacles that are preventing progress. Asking in this manner removes the suggestion that the person is a failure. It still identifies the problem(s) but the shortcoming is mine - I'm the one who does not understand. Of course, once the person identifies the obstacles, the next step is to get him/her to begin suggesting how the obstacles can be removed. This helps them to see that THEY are the problem solver and I can reinforce that he/she has the ability to promote his or her own success.
Once you know more about another person’s issues and you acknowledge their perspective, then - and only then - help them see a different point of view. Talk to them about the differences in your perspectives. Reduce their fears. Build a clearer picture of the future after the change, explaining the parts of it that will be of greatest interest and benefit to them.
Persevere with patience. Give people some time. Let them reflect on what you have asked of them. Give them time to adjust to a new perspective in their mind. By allowing some time to pass you also help them to 'save face' as they start to agree with a change that they had previously resisted.
Successfully influencing others is an invaluable skill you can learn to do more effectively. I assure you that the more adept you are at appealing to the needs of others, the sooner you’ll negotiate your way from confrontation to cooperation.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
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