How a Well-Designed Website Can Help Your Dental Practice Thrive

Someone has just moved to a new city and is suddenly experiencing tooth pain that won’t go away. They need to find a new dental clinic, but how do they go about finding one and what criteria do they use?

If they’re like me, the first thing they’ll do is a quick Google search to see what dentistry options are out there. After checking out the websites of a few nearby clinics, they’ll probably book an appointment with the one that looks the most promising.

Once they’ve had a check up and are in the dental practice system, they’ll probably keep going back to this dentist by default unless they are truly unhappy with their service. This means that the clinic they selected online won a new client simply by having an accessible web presence.

Therefore, if you run a dental practice, designing an attractive website needs to be one of your top priorities. Here are a few ways that proper web design can turn digital visitors into real-life patients:

Design: Why it Matters

Making things look good online takes a lot of work and for the practically-minded healthcare professional it can all seem like a lot of extra effort. As long as you have all the necessary information on your website, why should things like videos or search engine results matter?

The truth is that good web design has a profound impact on establishing the trustworthiness and legitimacy of your clinic. A website that is able to quickly establish the credibility of your business through solid organization and attractive visual cues will dramatically improve the chances that increased web traffic will translate into new patients.

Content: How Much is Too Much?

This leads us to another frequently asked question – What kind of content and information should you put up on your website?

While there is no one-size-fits all web design solution, it is important to remember what kinds of information potential patients will be seeking. This includes service hours and location, but also any special services your practice offers.

It’s also important to balance different kinds of content. First time visitors to your website may be put off by large blocks of dense text, so try to incorporate visuals, diagrams, embedded videos and bullet point lists to keep things visually interesting.

Statistics show that engagement tools like video dramatically increase the amount of time users will stay on your site – and increase the likelihood that they will become patients.

In my own experience interacting with patients and clients interested in dental practice management online, creating a website that allows viewers to connect immediately with what is distinct about your service will help win their attention while providing them with the information they need to make an informed decision. This includes portraying a practice personality.

For example, if your practice name is ABC Dental, it is important to let prospective patients know who is behind the name. Make sure to provide detailed profiles of your dentists and at least some background on the rest of the dental team. The way you describe your dental team may have some influence on whether potential patients ultimately decide to check your practice out so give them a good impression of your services!

SEO Ranking: How Do I Get People to Notice My Site?

Setting up a great website is only the first step to attracting traffic. If you want to increase your number of visitors, you need to ensure that your site comes up on the first page of Google search results (try to remember the last time you went to the second page of Google!).

This isn’t always easy, especially if you aren’t regularly updating content. Before hiring a company that specializes in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you can take some initial steps toward increasing your Google rankings yourself by including more external links on your web pages and starting a clinic blog that will help you increase the amount of content you are posting – each of which make your site more likely to appear higher in a Google search.

Savvy business owners will also rely on a user-friendly web platform such as WordPress that allows you to easily curate what’s known as meta-data (a secondary language that you post behind the scenes) to heighten the ranking potential of your webpages.

Hidden keywords as well as special titles and descriptions can help your site climb the search engine results page, bringing more users to your site. The science behind it all is easy to learn and articles like this one will help you become SEO-literate in no time.

In summary, think about your clinic site as a way to make a good first digital impression on potential patients. With solid design, awesome content and a strategy to increase your Google rankings, your website can become a serious business booster!

The Importance of Cross-Training

A lot of different skill sets are needed to make a dental clinic run smoothly, and successful clinics are usually ones where all of these skill sets work together to provide the best possible patient experience.

Administrative staff book appointments, handle patient intake and receive payments. Dental Assistants sterilize instruments, prepare treatment rooms and assist the dentist with procedures. Hygienists handle routine dental care and refer suspected conditions to the dentist. The dentist naturally focused on diagnoses, treatment planning and performing the required treatments. With each person playing their own role as required, patient care and processing appears seamless and efficient.

But what happens when these systems break down? Illness, staff turnover, or a sudden crisis can throw even the most carefully scheduled day into chaos, creating bottlenecks and reducing your clinic’s efficiency.

In my time working in the dental industry, I’ve heard from many dental practice owners about how frustrating and dangerous this can be. If staffing problems put your personnel in the position of needing to operate equipment, use software, or perform tasks they are unfamiliar with or haven’t been trained on, you run the risk of breaking established workflows and that can cause costly downtime.

This is why cross-training is important. If your receptionists, assistants, and hygienists are provided with the fundamental information that will allow them to step into each others’ roles in a crisis, your clinic will be much more viable in the long run. Here’s why.

Cross-Training Makes Your Clinic More Resilient

Intelligent scheduling is central to a smoothly operating dental clinic, but as the saying goes, even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and a good schedule is nothing if you don’t have a plan B in the case of emergencies.

Let’s say one of your receptionists calls in sick and you can’t find a replacement: does the rest of your staff know how to answer the phones, use the appointment scheduling software and handle integrated payment card processing? Have they been trained on patient intake?

In situations like these, the first thing to suffer is often patient experience. Having your staff scrambling to process payments and book appointments is a bad look for any dental clinic, and if these problems persist you will be lucky if bookings remain stable.

Cross-training ensures that in the case of emergencies, your staff has the resilience to step into roles that are not part of their regular jobs. The day might still be stressful, but if your staff knows how to pinch-hit for their colleagues, you can save it from becoming a nightmare.

A Cross-Trained Team is a More Cohesive One

One of the biggest problems any highly specialized workplace faces is siloization. You know how your job works and the daily challenges that are involved in doing it, but you don’t necessarily know much about the problems the rest of the team is facing. They in turn don’t always understand why you need things to be done in just the right way.

When a team lacks cohesion, it can cause problems down the line. If your administrative staff doesn’t understand just how involved a process preparing a treatment room for a patient is, they might place unrealistic demands on assistants and hygienists. If hygienists don’t understand how the dental software works, they can create huge problems for the administrative team.

Cross-Training Makes Clinics More Efficient

In the world of dental management software, we have come to realize that cross-training helps workplaces run more smoothly even when there isn’t a crisis.

Having an entire team understand how to locate patient files and book appointments using the practice management software, for example, improves workflow by making it significantly easier for hygienists, assistants, and dentists to find information they need without going through administrative staff.

Not only can assistants and hygienists make bookings when they need to, they will also be able to retrieve bookings, and can add relevant information themselves.

And as the following video explains, cross-training staff can also be good for your bottom line in other ways:

Given how much sense cross-training makes, why isn’t it standard across the industry? Unfortunately, the biggest reason is simply the time investment required to make a cross-training program work.

Doing cross-training properly means taking time out of an already busy schedule to teach your staff how to do jobs that are not their own, and given how busy most clinics are, this can be a hard sell. But there are some straightforward, easy-to-follow ways to accomplish this goal.

When cross-training for assistants:

  • Make notes on how to check patients in and out, either manually or digitally
  • For more complicated scheduling software, plan ‘field trips’ and have admin train other staff one hour per month
  • Have a document handy noting what reports need to be run on which days and what calls need to be made and when

Remember that the most effective time for cross-training is when you can fit it in – whenever there’s a break in the chaos of your clinic’s day-to-day, you have your window.

Clinics that take this extra step quickly find that training pays dividends by making everyone’s work easier – and by giving your team the tools it needs to pull together and thrive even when key members are missing. This is why, if you haven’t already done so, you should make cross-training a key priority for your clinic in 2019.

Consider New Dental Software – Tips On Getting The Best Fit

Whether you’re choosing dental practice management software for the first time or looking to replace your current system, it may seem like a daunting task. There are many choices and at the end of the process how do you know you’ve made the right choice until well after implementation?  And, if you’re tempted to skip the necessary due diligence, be aware that:

  • It is one of the most important practice decisions you will make
  • It has a huge impact on the ability to run an efficient and profitable practice
  • The cost of a bad decision can be substantial in more than just the cash outlay
  • It is more than just a purchase – it is about establishing a long-term and trusting relationship with a vendor
  • There is no one best system for every practice – the key is to find the system that best meets your goals, objectives and future growth plans

Let’s keep it simple to start. By looking at just four main decision criteria, you will be well on your way to narrowing your choices and significantly increasing the probability of finding the best solution for your practice. Consider these important factors: 

Vendor

  • Track Record/Years in business: A vendor’s length of time in business tells you a lot about their stability, customer loyalty and ability to adapt to changes in technology to meet customer expectations over an extended period.       
  • Integrity – track record of trustworthiness: Check with colleagues about their experiences dealing with their dental software vendor and ask whether expectations are meet in a timely fashion.   
  • Scope of resources: Vendors with a large staff have the resources for new product development and comprehensive customer support whereas smaller vendors are typically spread thin in these areas.
  • Number of customers: Software vendors with large customer bases have the financial resources to invest in product development and the capacity to gather a wide range of user feedback that informs development decisions. Smaller/newer vendors are more likely to spend their limited resources attracting new customers.
  • Customer retention rate/satisfaction rating: A vendor’s customer retention rate is a good reflection of overall customer satisfaction. Contact multiple practices to get an overall feel of their level of satisfaction of the software they are using.
  • Positive reviews and number of referrals: Check out dental software reviews but be wary that many reviews are “sponsored” or “planted” and therefore are not likely to be completely objective. 

Software Application

  • Scope (breadth) and Quality (depth) of features: It is easy to get caught in the feature comparison trap and simply conclude that the solution with the most features is the best for your office. It is wise to focus on the features you need and evaluate how well they actually work.      
  • Ease of Use and Workflows: For high priority functions, determine how many steps each takes, whether the workflows are intuitive and whether the net results meet your expectations.
  • Degree of Integrations offered: Dental software vendors typically offer a number of third-party applications that have varying degrees of integration that can contribute to increased administrative and clinical efficiency. They include imaging software, accounting software, payment card processing, reputation (review) management, and advanced reporting/productivity tools. Determine which ones are important to you and how well they integrate with the dental software.

Support/Value-added Services

  • Consistency and quality of upgrades: Updates should consist of improvements to existing features as well as new functionality rather than simply “bug” fixes.
  • Training: Look for a vendor that has the resources to offer a variety of training methods including onsite, classroom and webinar based, and what training materials are available such as tutorials and videos. The number and experience level of trainers on staff is also a good indication of the quality of training your team will receive.
  • Customer support: Ask for audited customer support statistics and determine whether the support department is sufficiently staffed with enough qualified people to support the size of the customer base. Check out the type of support plans offered and the scope of service hours (24/7/365 is ideal) to see whether they meet your requirements. 
  • Customer engagement/Patient Portal: Review the vendor’s customer newsletters, blogs, eBooks, training materials, etc. to gauge how informed they will keep you if you become a customer. Ask whether they offer a customer portal.  

Platform/Security

  • System platform: Most dental practice management systems are local server based where the dental practice management software and patient data both reside on site at the dental practice. However, due to data security advantages, cloud-based dental systems are starting to appear on the market. For these systems, practice data resides on cloud servers where it is kept protected from cyberattacks, break-ins and natural disasters. Vendors who provide platform choices give you the most flexibility.
  • Cloud backup services: If you choose a local server solution, be sure that they offer a cloud-based backup service so backups are not stored on-site and subject to undue risk. 
  • Role based data/function access: For added security look for dental software that can enable data and function restrictions based on user-defined roles.  
  • Audit Trails/Privacy Compliance:  The dental software should also include the functionality to report on changes in data including edited or deleted financial records as well as comply with regulatory body requirements such as CASL

Final Thoughts

  • Make a software short list and see each one in “live” action
  • Evaluate features based on ease of use, intuitiveness, workflow adaptability and functional depth
  • Compare long-term costs – not just up-front costs when evaluating return on investment
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of vendor track record and customer support
  • Choose a software vendor with the intent of developing a long-term relationship
  • Remember – lack of due diligence during the process of making an original software purchase is the main reason that dental offices wind up unsatisfied – and then have to go looking for new solutions

Top 6 Ways Your Dental Clinic Can Cater to Millennials

Much has been written about the ways the Millennial generation is re-shaping the market for everything from taxicabs to diamond rings. But will this generation’s tastes and preferences really affect dental clinics? After all, everyone needs to have their teeth cleaned, right?

While dental clinics do offer a timeless service, I’ve heard a lot of concern from some clinics that are struggling to reach out to younger patients. Millennials approach healthcare in different ways than their parents did, so if you want your dental practice to continue to grow, it is important to find ways to connect with this segment of the market.

Millennials approach healthcare in different ways than their parents did, so if you want your dental practice to continue to grow, it is important to find ways to connect with this segment of the market.

Here are a few ways you can make your clinic more Millennial-friendly:

1. Invest in a Good Website

In order to attract Millennials as patients, you have to connect with them. Unlike their parents, Millennials much prefer being able to explore a dental clinic’s website before they get in touch to book an appointment, so make sure your clinic is searchable online and has an easy-to-navigate website.

And reaching Millennials isn’t just about creating a new public face for your clinic, it also requires a re-imagining of how to explain what services you offer and how you differentiate your practice from others.

2. Invest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Millennials are natural born web surfers. In fact, because they are so Internet savvy, the digitally-minded Millennial generation relies on very specific keyword searches to locate the products and services they want.

In layman’s terms, SEO is the practice of encouraging Google’s ranking system to place your business higher than your competition in a Google search based on industry terms.

When a Millennial searches for ‘Dentist Toronto’ for example, Google displays links to the web pages it thinks are relevant and authoritative – which is measured mostly by analysing the number and quality of links from other web pages back to yours. Simply put, a person searching for services within your industry is more likely to find your homepage the more frequently other reliable web pages (including other pages on your own site!) are linking back to it.

Once they find your site, remember that Millennials want a variety of engaging content that is informative and emotive. Research shows most Millennial purchasing decisions are based on an emotional connection rather than a logical one. Furthermore, your site’s content should not be preachy, overly long or boring – if it is you’ll lose their interest. So, try to offer vibrant, fun content rather than a lecture on dental hygiene!

3. Update Your Social Media Marketing

As the following video explains, successfully marketing to Millennials requires different strategies and a different emphasis compared to marketing to Baby Boomers.

If you want to reach this segment of the population, simply tweaking your current advertising strategy will not be enough: you need to target Millennials specifically, and the best way to do that is by increasing your social media presence and strategically using tools like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

When it comes to reaching the under-forty market, no marketing tool is going to be quite as effective as social media, and paid social media marketing campaigns can be a huge boon to dental clinics that are trying to reach new patients.

4. Expand Your Digital Services

It’s also a good idea to make the scheduling, appointment confirmation and billing experiences as seamless as possible. Millennials like to request visits and confirm appointments online rather than in-person and they will prefer that bills and statements be available from a patient portal. Using practice management software with these capabilities makes it easy for dental offices to meet these expectations.

5. Recognize the Challenges They Face

As the American Dental Association has noted, only thirty percent of Millennials report having gone to the dentist in the past year, which is seven points below the national average. There are several factors driving this trend, but one of the most significant is the fact that Millennials are often not insured at the same rate as previous generations.

In order to attract (and more importantly, keep) Millennials as patients, you need to understand that broader economic forces are making it harder for them to afford regular care, and be sympathetic to this fact.

As Gary Radz noted in a piece he wrote for Dental Economics, Millennials aren’t kids anymore: as they begin to enter middle age and raise families of their own, they are becoming a key demographic for all healthcare-related businesses. And, the reality is that if you want to reach this growing market you need to do so on Millennials’ terms.

6. Don’t Expect Them to Pick Up the Phone

One of the key challenges for healthcare businesses today is figuring out how to adjust service to varying customer expectations. Older patients tend to prefer phone calls and paper, whereas younger patients prefer text and email attachments.

Attracting Millennials while keeping your older patients happy means tailoring service to individual customer preferences, which is why we’ve designed the ABELDent platform to make customization easy, so you can keep detailed notes on how each patient prefers to be contacted.

Millennials are the first generation of digital natives, so earning their trust and meeting them on their turf will require investing in new marketing strategies and new software. If you want to make your clinic more appealing to this audience, check out ABELDent’s dental management software to learn how it can help you achieve that goal.