Boosting Patient Volume at Your Practice
Successful practice production depends on patient volume and your ability to convince patients to accept dental treatments.
Everything that happens inside your practice, namely the quality of your clinical operations, is directly within your control. Once your clinical operations are humming like a well-oiled machine, it’s time to examine your approach to boost patient volume.
A straightforward approach to increase patients is by dividing your efforts between acquiring new patients and retaining existing ones. Let’s look at some guaranteed methods for each focus area, which when applied consistently, drives patient volume and improves practice production.
Building Momentum for New Patient Flywheel
A top-notch website:
A website is the digital shop-front for your practice and is a foundational investment to run your new patient flywheel. Offering high-quality dental services doesn’t matter if your website can’t convey why patients should choose your practice. Patients generally have their own checklist and a set of parameters by which they rate and choose a service. As per leading practice consultants, professionalism and personal attention are the leading parameters considered by patients when choosing a practice.
A website is a perfect platform to align with patient perception and generate a steady stream of new patients to your practice. A fancy website doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s top-notch. If your website has the vital elements listed below, then it becomes the engine that funnels in new patients.
- Highlight your unique value proposition: What differentiates you from the competition and why does it even matter? Simply put, if you don’t stand out from your competitors, your patients will choose the least expensive service available to them. Your website should have key messages that appeal to your niche. This includes the services you offer (extractions, implants, restorative services), the people you wish to serve (seniors, children, young adults, ethnic or religious communities, women, working professionals), the locations where you serve, and the value benefits that are unique to your practice.
- Generating leads: The cardinal rule for generating leads is to provide value-based content for your audience. Content can be classified into awareness-based content and consideration-based content. Blogs, videos, how-to guides, testimonials, and success stories fall within awareness-based content. Consideration-based content generally includes industry-specific whitepapers or e-books which are fact-based, includes supporting data, and provide valuable insights. These help you establish credibility as both a professional and an expert in the eyes of your audience. Professionalism and credibility are key factors that influence patient purchase decisions.
- Scheduling appointments: The scheduling button on your website is a vital call to action that qualifies as a ‘must have’. These need to be embedded across most pages in your website and should allow visitors to schedule their appointments, within minutes. A good practice management system can be linked with your website to instantly log appointments. It also helps you with reminders, confirmations, and easy-to-fill online forms that make scheduling a breeze for new patients.
- Optimized SEO: To understand the importance of SEO, just think back to your recent google search. It’s likely that you selected a search result that showed up among the top 5 listings. As the SEO landscape continues to become increasingly complex and competitive, hiring a qualified SEO professional is a worthy investment.
Optimizing your website for SEO gets your site ranked in the top cluster of local search listings and in the top search results for long-tailed keywords. For instance, “Dental implants for teens in Florida” is an example of a long tail keyword while “Dentist Florida” is a more direct keyword used while searching for local listings. Suitable long tail keywords can be identified by the keywords patients use when researching oral health ailments. A solid SEO strategy ensures that your web content delivers maximum dividends.
Building an active online presence
It takes consistent efforts to influence your audience and see tangible results as you build your online presence. In the digital age, if a business can’t be found online, it doesn’t exist. Remember, the patients you seek are also seeking you.
If a website is your digital shop-front, the approaches listed below will help you carve out multiple paths from the highway of the internet to your practice website.
Let’s look at the methods that will help you find and be found by your patients and build a strong online presence for your practice.
- Social media marketing: An active presence in social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ helps add a human element to your business. People love interactions and the ease of access to their brands and services that is made possible by social media. Ensure that the content you share in such platforms adheres to the formats that are best suited for each.
Do not hesitate to repurpose content from your website and re-package them as eye-catching video reels and infographics. The added bonus of being active in social media is how it improves your search listings and provides the opportunity to directly engage with prospective patients. This is a great way to validate your marketing efforts, get to know the pulse of your audience, conduct surveys to refine your service offerings and channel new patients to your website and eventually to your practice.
- Manage online reviews: Experts in dentistry claim that dental anxiety among patients is a leading factor that impacts visitations. Thanks to Amazon, reading reviews before every purchase is the new norm among consumers. Negative reviews will add fuel to the paranoia that patients already have about dental procedures. But what happens when you do get a negative review? During such instances, it is crucial to take the interaction offline and ensure that you resolve patient concerns. Follow this up with a request, asking them to reconsider and update their reviews.
Handling negative reviews is one half of the coin, the other has to do with religiously collecting positive reviews from your existing patients. Practice management software allows you to collect reviews from your clients in a manner that is convenient to both the practice and the patient. Use the law of averages to work in your favor. A higher count of reviews reflects positively on the professionalism of your practice and encourages new patients to choose you over your competitors.
- Utilize google business: Inarguably, Google is playing a major role in how users find products and services near them or for any given area. With an active google business account, patients don’t have to spend time browsing through search listings to find your website and get your location and contact. Google business provides a section on the right-hand side of the results page that lists key information like contact, working hours, map-location, patient reviews, and testimonials. This way, patients spend less time finding your practice. If a new patient feels that your practice can meet their needs, then they are highly likely to contact your practice, rather than scroll down to the next listing on the search results page.
Be active in your local community
Being actively involved in your local community is a great way to build awareness and generate goodwill. Members in your community are much more likely to choose a practice that’s familiar, trustworthy, and easy to connect with. Sponsoring local events for charity, hosting meet-ups that benefit the community, or circulating flyers at events like a concert or football games are opportunities that shouldn’t be missed.
Delight Patients to Inspire Loyalty
Studies indicate that the cost of bringing in new customers is 5 times higher than the cost of maintaining existing ones. Additionally, it’s 3 times more likely to bring in an existing client than a new customer.
Customer satisfaction is a good place to start when it comes to retaining clients. Satisfied customers feel that they receive 100% returns on what they pay. However, when you consider today’s consumer mindset and the increasing competition in the market, customer satisfaction doesn’t always guarantee loyalty. The customer loyalty equation in the current business context is simple. “Customer Delight = Customer Loyalty”.
Expanding your client database to include details on family members, birthdays, anniversaries, their choice of beverage and other preferences will help you personalize your care experience. When your practice delivers an experience that goes above and beyond what they expect, you delight your customer. This means you deliver more than 100% of what your customer expects to receive.
A delighted customer:
- Always chooses your practice for future treatments
- Recommends your practice to their acquaintances
- Won’t try to bargain with the practice on service prices
Let’s examine the focus areas that can help boost patient retention at your practice.
Front office systems
Your front office marks the first interaction that patients have with your practice. This system includes your team of receptionists, scheduling & treatment coordinators. The front desk handles activities that range from answering phone calls, resolving queries, handling new patients, verifying insurance, managing registrations, scheduling appointments, follow-ups, rolling out reminders, and presenting patients with their treatment plans.
While patients acknowledge the need to visit a dentist, they have to pay for a service and put their faith in the expertise of the dentist. There are no trial runs or tangibles to measure the quality of care. Patients are left with no choice but to rate treatment and assess a practice based on its conduct towards them. This includes how they’re greeted at the front desk, the cleanliness and hygiene of the practice, how quickly their concerns get addressed, conveying the importance of hygiene and oral health, payment plan customizations, and how treatment plans get discussed. This is not the best way to rate treatments but this is how patient perception works. To ensure loyalty and revisits from patients, it’s important to delight your patient through every stage of their journey within your practice.
The hygiene department at a dental practice can contribute up to 1/3 rd of the total revenue received from treatments. A large chunk of these treatments come from recare patients. The primary objective of a dental hygienist is to provide a framework of patient care that helps identify the oral health conditions that can be prevented by dental hygiene care. Having a patient coordinator dedicated to driving engagement for recare patients ensures that you grow your patient base while having ready alternatives to fill in your schedules in case of no-shows and cancellations. The bottom line fact is, focusing on your recall systems is a guaranteed way to grow your production volume.
An in-house membership program is where your patients receive special benefits and discounts for a yearly or monthly subscription to the services offered at your practice. The obvious benefits of such programs are it guarantees a predictable source of recurring revenue and helps you stay prepared to streamline insurance payments from known patients.
When patient referrals account for a major chunk of new patients for a dental practice, it becomes vital to pay attention to your referral programs. Thanks to social media, people are connected like never before. It plays a vital role in multiplying word-of-mouth referrals. Once you’ve managed to nurture a loyal pool of patients, it’s important to acknowledge their contributions when they refer a new patient to your practice. Create referral cards, send out thank you notes, offer incentives, and leverage email & social media marketing to reward loyal ambassadors of your practice.
While the creative strategies to boost patient volume are endless, it helps when you define a structure that helps you focus and coordinate your efforts to both attract and retain patients. A great way to start is by applying the methods listed on this list in a consistent and organized manner to increase patient volume and practice production.