Why You Should Work Harder to Manage Your Dental Clinic Reviews

When it comes to choosing a dental clinic, patients have a lot of options. Even people who don’t live in a large city probably have at least a few clinics within easy travelling distance, and this means that patients are in a good position to weigh the pros and cons of different dental service providers before making their choice. Increasingly, they are relying on reviews written by other patients to help them make an informed decision.

Reviews have always been important, but websites like Yelp have made it easier than ever before for ordinary people to critique the services they use, which in turn has made consumer reviews an essential part of all kinds of industries.

According to recent data, ninety percent of consumers consult reviews before trying a new product or service, and a recent survey conducted by Search Engine Land suggests that a whopping 72% of consumers place as much value on online reviews as they do on recommendations from friends and family.

Many of the dental clinic operators I talk to have expressed concern about this aspect of business marketing – you can roll out a new advertising campaign, and invest money in digital and social media advertising, but how do you make sure that your clinic is getting positive patient reviews?

While there is no way to guarantee that you only get good reviews, as I have discussed before on this blog, there are a few things you can do to improve your odds. Here are three strategies that can help your clinic cultivate and manage online reviews most effectively.

Make it Easy

While most people consult online reviews before they visit a service provider, the number who actually post a comment themselves is significantly lower – and unfortunately, people are more likely to leave a review if they have had a negative experience compared to if they have had a positive one.

This means that you need to make it as easy as possible for people to leave reviews (especially positive ones), as this will increase the likelihood that people who had a pleasant experience will be moved to comment.

Reviews not only build your clinic’s credibility, but they also pave the way for new customers to find you online, which is why it pays to invest in software that can help you manage and encourage patient engagement.

The right review management platform will provide your practice with a simple, straightforward, and unobtrusive way to ask and remind your customers to leave a review on the sites that matter most to you.

This type of software allows you to not only amplify the voice of the patients who love what you do, but also offers you a way to reach unhappy patients in an effort to improve their overall brand experience.

Best of all, review management software will allow you to monitor your reviews and share the best ones on your site and on social media.

Ensure the Best Possible Service Experience

Naturally, if you want positive reviews from your patients, you’ll need to give them something to be positive about! This isn’t the first time I’ve written about the important role a good receptionist can play in making patients feel welcome and valued, but they are also ideally positioned to encourage your patients to share their experience online.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to make sure your receptionists are encouraging patients to write reviews and provide public feedback about their experience with your clinic.

Good service isn’t only about reception, of course, and another good way to make sure your patients leave your clinic with a smile on their face is by using cutting edge dental management software to facilitate a smooth experience booking appointments and receiving notifications. A dental management platform designed to meet these needs can also help you remind patients that they have the option to review once they’ve gotten home.

Don’t Be Afraid of Negative Reviews

In a blog post for Entrepreneur.com, Toby Nwazor distinguishes between bad reviews and negative reviews. If a patient leaves a positive but vague comment like “the service was good,” this doesn’t really provide potential patients with any helpful information about your dental clinic.

A negative review that criticizes specific aspects of your service, on the other hand, can be extremely helpful insofar as it tells you where you need to improve.

Even the best clinics will get negative feedback from time to time, but the important thing is to not run away from the criticism. Instead, use it to improve your service, and take the opportunity to engage constructively with your patients.

In terms of spreading the word about the superior service your clinic provides, good reviews have become the new coin of the realm. But if you really want to increase the number of positive reviews you are getting, you need to increase the number of reviews you’re getting, period.

Making it easy for people to review your clinic and responding constructively to negative feedback are practical strategies you can implement today to help increase patient engagement.

Engaging Staff Make for Engaged Patients: Spotlight on the Dental Assistant

We’ve been talking a lot on this blog lately about big picture ideas and how mission statements and value propositions contribute to the success of your dental practice. Today I want to remind readers that it really is people that keep a practice running and, with a focus on the key role of the dental assistant, explore how finding the right person for the job can increase practice production and improve workflows.

There are those outside the industry who don’t understand the many facets of this position – even some clinicians may not always appreciate the complexity of the role and the multi-dimensional value that the right dental assistant brings to any practice. So, I’m putting a spotlight on this often-undervalued position to show how the right dental assistant will keep your patients engaged and your business growing.

Look for Well-Rounded Staff Members
To perform at the essential level, dental assistants must be well-versed in anatomy and physiology, dental radiography, oral microbiology, and preventative and emergency care. And, they must be skilled at:

  • Preparing treatment rooms with tray set-ups and equipment while keeping a sterile environment
  • Seating and preparing patients in the treatment room
  • Checking blood pressure
  • Taking and processing radiographs (including a keen understanding of the safety protocols surrounding radiation exposure)
  • Preparing materials for dental impressions and other procedures
  • Assisting the dentist at the chairside during procedures
  • Sterilizing instruments according to proper protocols and maintaining equipment

When you are looking for your next dental assistant, be sure that they not only have the hard skills listed above but that they also have soft skills such as the ability to communicate effectively, strong attention to detail, and compassion for the patient. These are skills they can’t teach in dental college and you need to be sure that your new hire will bring them to the job.

Communication Skills Matter
While dental assistants need to know about all the typical dental procedures you perform, it’s their ability to communicate with patients about how the practice will help with the state of patients’ oral health that makes the dental assistant an important pillar of your practice.

Dental assistants are one of the members of the dental health team that help guide patients through the process of comprehending, accepting and then eventually completing treatment – all of this takes the ability to speak well and know when to listen.

Assistants need to take down pertinent patient histories, learn from patients the specifics of their oral health care routines and explain how treatments will be beneficial to their unique situation.

Attention to Detail is Key
Being a detail-oriented worker is another key trait for dental assistants. In order to complete treatments requiring many steps, dental assistants must carefully pay attention to each step in the treatment protocol and focus on assisting the dentist at the right times to maintain a fluid workflow.

Proactive thinking and attention to detail means that patients get the level of treatment they deserve.

Compassion Counts
Fear of the dentist’s chair is the second most common fear in the Western world and your clinic will be catering to people with this fear week in and week out. Nobody wants to think about it but when a patient starts to cry in the dental chair because they are terrified of their dentist, a dental assistant’s compassion can be the key to comforting them.

Form a Bond
The best moment to connect and engage with patients and form a bond with them is throughout stages of the appointment queue. Every dental assistant should have training on how to approach a patient, how to make them feel comfortable and how to acknowledge and help them overcome any fear they may have of the procedures to be performed.

Engaging in small, light conversations can be a great ice-breaker as long as staff are careful not to be too intrusive or pushy. Often, a calm demeanour and pleasant approach are enough to do the job.

Maintain Patients Bonds Between Appointments
For small dental offices it is quite common for dental assistants to do double duty in that they may also be responsible for tasks such as booking appointments and patient post treatment follow up. In these cases, the dental assistant will need additional skills that include how to use the basic functions of your dental practice management system. In particular, the dental assistant will need to know how to schedule appointments, update patient files and locate patients that require follow up.

Performing these extended duties is also a great way for dental assistants to stay on top of patients’ health and demonstrate that the person who assisted with their treatment in the operatory is continuing to take an active interest in their well being. This can forge bonds that lead to lifetime patients.

These days, taking patient engagement to the next tier requires having your entire dental staff on board – working as a cohesive whole. Team-wide, high-level communication skills come with practice, but once implemented, the patient experience can really skyrocket – especially when each office administrator, hygienist, dentist and in this case the dental assistant, operates beyond their basic training.

Remember this and watch your practice grow.

3 Ways Software Can Help Reduce No-Shows and Short-Notice Cancellation

I know from experience that few things are as frustrating for dental clinic administrators as when a patient doesn’t show up for their appointment, or cancels at the last minute. Dental clinics run on efficiency, and nothing is more wasteful than having large blocks of time open up during business hours because a patient couldn’t be bothered to cancel in advance.

While it might be tempting to blame the patient for being disorganized, if you want to understand why short-notice cancellations are so common – and you want to explore strategies for reducing the number of no-shows you have to deal with – it can be helpful to put yourself in the patient’s shoes.

Numerous studies have confirmed that the average person finds going to the dentist to be an extremely stressful experience, so it shouldn’t be surprising that many patients decide to back out when their appointment comes around. Instead of getting angry, it is far more productive to explore what tools are available to help patients keep their appointments, and re-book far in advance when they have a legitimate scheduling conflict.

At ABELDent we’ve built a dental practice management software platform explicitly designed to help clinics modernize the way they handle booking and patient communications. Here are three ways you can use practice management software to reduce no-shows and short-notice cancellations.

1. Software Keeps You Connected

Patients cancel appointments for many reasons, but the root problem is often a sense of disconnection. As a health care provider, it is your job to make patients feel safe and comfortable. Patients who feel cared for and valued are far more likely to follow through on their appointments, and to provide advance warning when they need to re-book.

Dental practice management software can help you cultivate this sense of connection by helping you keep detailed notes about each one of your patients, making personalized care easier and communication more fluid.

Over the years, ABELDent has helped countless dental clinics leverage the power of tools like patient reminder software to make patients feel more connected, and as our testimonials page shows, ABELDent software solutions have had a major impact on clinic success across the country.

2. Software Puts Patients in the Driver’s Seat

Making your patients feel more connected to your clinic is important, but it is perhaps even more essential to make them feel like they are in control of their own booking. If it is hard for a patient to contact your clinic to re-book an appointment, they probably won’t, and in the digital age we live in, patients may consider calling the clinic and talking with a staff member to be too much of a hassle.

If the patient decides to miss their appointment without contacting you, not only does this leave you with a gap in your schedule, it also means having to follow up with the patient and find a new time to see them.

One of the reasons patient portals are so effective is that they allow patients to control various aspects of their booking from their personal device. In addition to being able to view their health records and update personal information, most portals enable patients to view their upcoming appointments, request changes, and even cancel a visit (if you choose to provide this option).

Empowering patients to take charge of their bookings through their smartphone or computer is a great way to ensure that they provide you plenty of warning if they aren’t able to make it to an appointment.

3. Software Makes Sending Automated Reminders Easy

Sometimes, however, short-notice cancellations or missed appointments simply happen because the patient forgot they had an appointment. Given how far in advance bookings are typically made, it can be easy for patients to lose track of time and accidentally double-book themselves. Helping these patients keep their appointments is as easy as sending them an automated appointment reminder with the click of an icon.

Studies have shown that automated appointment reminder systems play an important role in reducing cancellation numbers, and are why sending reminders to patients is becoming a standard practice across the industry. Without this tool, a busy staff faced with a full schedule can result in reminders slipping through the cracks and remain unsent. Using automated appointment reminder software to make sure all patients are contacted in advance via email or text should be an important part of your communication strategy.

Given how many different things are involved in dental practice administration, it can be easy to lose site of the fact that dentistry exists for one reason: to serve patients. Last-minute cancellations are annoying, but cultivating a person-centred approach with patients when dealing with this issue can help. Effectively communicating to patients the importance of keeping their appointments or giving sufficient notice if there is a problem can be a preventative strategy to reduce missed appointments and the associated stress.

Adopting software tools that make patients feel more connected to your clinic and more in charge of their own booking is a great way to increase follow-through, and ensure that anxiety or hectic schedules are not keeping your patients from taking care of their oral health.

Automating Patient Communication for your Dental Practice: A Smart Business Decision

In recent years, my experience has been that the dental industry has shifted to a more value-based and patient-centered care model. This transition has made improving the patient experience a major focus for many dental practices. Implementing automated communication by way of automated email, texts and patient portals is a great way to achieve this objective since it provides convenience and time savings for patients that ultimately lead to increased patient satisfaction. The added benefit for dental practices is streamlined patient communications and more efficient practice administration.

But Will Patients Embrace Automated Communication from You?

For many (including your patients), checking their mobile device is the last thing they do at night and the first thing they do in the morning. In fact, smartphone owners report using their device more frequently today for mobile email and texting than to actually make phone calls. Furthermore, 97% of mobile users will read a text within 15 minutes of receipt and 84% will respond within one hour (Neilsen Mobile survey). 

Although open rates for emails are reported to be much lower than texts, they are on average, still a respectable 22% https://www.textanywhere.net/faq/what-is-the-average-sms-marketing-open-rate. However, you could expect your own email open rates to be significantly higher since your patients can identify you as the source of their messages.  

So automation of messaging that caters to convenience has become the communication standard for today’s marketing and consumer-focused organizations. It helps build one-on-one relationships with existing and new clients (or in this case patients), providing personalized options and direct connections. Since it offers quick, easy solutions to day-to-day routines and tasks, it’s the perfect “A click-and-it’s-done” tool for a busy dental practice (or one looking to get busier with more patients!)

Appointment Reminders/Confirmation

The most common message type sent by dental practices is appointment notifications, confirmation requests and outstanding treatment notices. As an example, with a keystroke, the software application sends individual “request for confirmation” messages for a selected group of patients using the preferred communication method/s of each individual (text or email).  Message recipients can respond using their smart phone, notebook or computer and in many cases, automatically update their e-calendars. With fully integrated systems, patient responses automatically update the affected data fields within the practice management software such as scheduled appointments now showing as confirmed. In short, there is a tremendous time and cost savings opportunity when managing appointments.

Validation

A User Study recently conducted by ABELDent confirmed similar time/cost savings as suggested above. One Office Manager reported that by changing telephone appointment confirmation and patient information requests to a methodical, automated SMS approach, she saved at least 25 hours per month (approx. 300 hours/year). That’s over $7,500 in annualized savings based on average dental practice labour costs. This real life example does not even factor reduced no shows or consider the more revenue-producing initiatives that she was able to undertake using those recovered hours. https://www.abelsoft.com/dental-software/Products/online-dental-appointment-scheduling-software

Patient Portals – Electronic Communication Facilitator

Patient portals are the preferred conduit to send potentially sensitive automated messages as they provide encryption protection and data does not need to be stored anywhere during transmission. Patient portals also provide a secure online website that gives patients convenient 24-hour access to specific information (as determined by the dental practice). Put another way, patient portals enable individuals to carry out an array of tasks that previously had to be completed either via telephone or during an in person visit.  It’s a smart next step in giving your practice the platform and the power to move towards increased patient engagement

Josh Gray, vice president, Athena Research, says online access translates into patient retention and financial rewards: “If you can get a patient on a portal, they’re 13 percent more likely to return. The value of the patient who returns is eight to 20 percent higher.”

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/patient-portals-saving-medical-practices-overhead-improving-collections-managers-say

Patient Portal screen allowing secure patient access to personal information

Conclusion 

Automated patient communication portals are a way to give your dental practice a more dynamic, modern edge while also enabling you to realize administrative efficiencies, cost savings, reduced no-shows and increased patient growth. Since portals cater to patient comfort and convenience by utilizing familiar mobile technology, they are rapidly becoming the preferred method for both patients and healthcare providers to exchange select information. User interfaces and data security measures also ensure that unauthorized data changes, patient confidentiality and data breaches are not a concern.

In most cases, the preferred patient portal solution is one included as a component of dental practices management software due to tighter integration between the two applications and in many cases, lower cost. In a business model where client communication can extend to six or nine-month intervals, it only makes sense to take advantage of a quick, convenient and welcome opportunity to build better relationships with your patients.

Building a Dental Team for Practice Success

Building a great dental practice means putting together the right team of people. I know from my own experience just how difficult this can be: not only do you need to find candidates with the right skills for the job, but you also need to find people who will be a good fit and who share your vision for what good dental care means!

I’ve explored the topic of building a better dental team in this space before, but given how important this is to the overall success of your practice, I thought it might be helpful to share a few more outside-the-box considerations when looking to build your team.

Don’t Just Look for Competencies, Look for People

One common mistake many small businesses make when hiring new team members is to focus on the candidate’s credentials to the exclusion of everything else. Obviously, when hiring new staff you want to make sure they have the training, knowledge, and expertise to do the work – but you also want someone who will fit in well with your workplace culture, and has the soft skills to help your clinic thrive.

People with the following soft skills will help improve efficacy and efficiency, while contributing to a positive atmosphere:

  • Self Confidence – From receptionists to hygienists, employees who exude confidence contribute to a sense of calm and trust throughout the clinic.
  • Compassion – Going to the dentist is the second most common phobia in the world, so when you work in dentistry, you need to bring compassion and a soothing demeanour to the job to help patients through the process.
  • Attention to detail – Being detail-oriented and having a mind for the little considerations goes a long way in a dental practice. Missing small details can lead to scheduling conflicts, and in the chair, it can mean that patients may not understand the rational for treatment and/or may have unrealistic expectations about the outcome.
  • Time management skills – In any job, it’s essential to use time wisely, but it is especially important in a dental clinic, as everything from scheduling dental procedures efficiently to lab case tracking to patient follow-up requires managing time efficiently.

Many recruiters have noted that often the most “impressive” candidate ends up not being the best fit, because the things that make a candidate look good on paper and in an interview – extroversion, charm, and an elite education – don’t necessarily mean they will perform well in the context of your clinic. 

Look for Workers Who Can Grow Alongside Your Clinic

Hiring a new team member is an investment, and just like with any other investment, you want to make sure they will grow alongside your business.

This is why it’s important to ask candidates lots of questions about their career goals and overall direction. Someone might seem like a great employee, but if they are only considering a short-term commitment, it may be more advantageous to find someone else looking for long term stability.

Invest in Onboarding

Finding good people is only the first part of building your team. Once you’ve made your hires, you also need to take the time to integrate them into your team. All too often, promising new employees are given a cursory tour of the clinic, introduced quickly to the rest of the staff and then thrown into the deep end.

In my recent post about dental staff training I noted that training new staff offers a great return on investment when done properly. But it isn’t just inexperienced or junior staff who require training: even people who have been working in the industry for years require some investment in onboarding if they are to gel with your staff and become productive members of your team.  

Onboarding should involve going over technical tools that team members will be expected to use like practice management software, automated patient communication and digital radiography, but it should also be designed to ensure that new hires know where they can go to find help and support when they have questions. 

Investing extra time and energy upfront will pay off down the road in the form of fewer errors and less turnover.

Engagement is the Key to Reducing Turnover

Building a dental team isn’t just about making good hires – it’s also about retaining them (just like patient retention is also critical for practice success!)  Once you’ve got your dream team in place, you’ll want to hold on to it. Experts have been saying for years that the healthcare industry has a major turnover problem – industry-wide turnover is hovering at twenty percent.

High turnover rates are bad for morale and threaten your bottom line. It can cost thousands of dollars to replace an experienced employee – losing good workers comes with a serious price tag!

Working at a dental practice can be stressful, dentists and hygienists are held to high performance standards every day, which is why it is important for owners to make special efforts to ensure their team feels engaged, happy and fulfilled in their work.

Building a strong team for your dental clinic takes time and effort, but securing the right people for your growing team is always going to be a good investment. Putting together a sensitive, collegial, and patient-focussed team will pay dividends in terms of patient loyalty and long-term success.