Through the Eyes of a Patient by Lina Craven

Many practices often come to me for advice on how to increase case acceptance. Increasing case acceptance is not just about using closing techniques; it happens through a combination of Systems, Processes and People. But what really ensures practice success is delivering an outstanding patient journey, one that not only meets but exceeds a patient’s expectations.

More recently, my existing and prospective customers are wanting support on how to prepare the practice as a whole for the challenging times ahead and ultimately increase patient starts. Every practice is different and will adapt my advice accordingly, but every practice is united in its aim to deliver patient satisfaction and increase profit.

Let me start with a gentle reminder that the patient’s journey can make or break the success of any practice. A successful patient journey begins long before the patient has crossed your threshold. It starts even before they have picked up the phone to call you. It begins when they smile. When they look in the mirror and are not happy with what they see and decide to do something about it. It might begin when they walk past your practice or when they are referred to you. 

Whatever the trigger, then their smile becomes the focus of their thoughts, it marks the beginning of the patient journey. Does it ever end? Successful Practices maintain continuous positive patient engagement throughout thus ensuring long-term relationships. 

Digital opportunity 

Marketing is the art of providing the appropriate message to your target audience and the techniques you employ to position your brand correctly in their minds. Current pandemic circumstances have highlighted the need for a robust online presence. 

Let us use these unprecedented times as a vehicle for change, steering us to a digital opportunity that most of us have underestimated the impact it has on our businesses. Dental practices among many businesses know the importance of a digital footprint but have never experienced until now the real need for it, to not just survive but to continue to flourish.

Brands considering their messages carefully will be remembered when we are finally back to some sort of normality. Clear, honest and responsible messages will reassure current and prospective patients. Sam Taylor head of Commercial Marketing at Direct Line says “Brands that have a relationship with people will be in a different place than brands that don’t; therefore a brand you trust and one you want a relationship with.” 

There are three immediate objectives to consider when assessing your digital brand: to drive awareness, to drive brand consideration and to drive intention to buy. Importantly, however, your brand must reassure and build trust in current patients and prospective ones. 

As part of your priority ‘To Do’ list, answer the following questions:  

  • What are we trying to achieve short term and long term?
  • What are the key messages we want people to know about
  • How are we going to deliver them?

Look after your own customers first  

These are valued customers. They have invested money and trust in your brand. They want reassurance more than ever before. It is about trust. It is a fact that it costs more to attract new customers than to retain the ones you already have. There are wonderful opportunities that lie within your patients: routine patients, patients on review, patients who have not made contact for a while and new patients that have made contact but are in a pending status.

As a principal or associate, you must not be invisible to patients. It is not the sole responsibility of your staff to communicate with them. Have you considered using personal video messages to reach out to your patients?

This crucial step if taken appropriately now, does not only increase your current patients’ trust but also supports the immediate need to increase your treatment starts. 

Here are suggestions for your priority ‘To Do’ list:

  • Define which group of patients you need to contact and in which order of priority. You may want to contact patients with pending treatment starts, patients who are considering treatment, new patients enquiries (never seen) and patients who are on a recall system who may be ready to make a commitment.
  • How will you make contact and what will the key message be?
  • What is the outcome desired from each call? i.e. book a virtual consultation? Book a face-to-face consultation?
  • Ensure there is an accurate tracking system for all of these groups, so no patient gets lost in the system.

It is not going to be easy and it will take determination, patience and working together with the team. The results however will compensate for the long exhaustive hours spent. Be creative in how you use your staff and resources. 

In the meantime, lay aside your clinical expertise for a moment and think of yourself as running a business. Think how you as a consumer, would like to be treated during this unusual time. What are the brands you trust? What messages do they give that allow you to trust them and to remember them? Look afresh at your patient journey and make a list of appropriate changes that can only enhance this experience. 

Article by Lina Craven


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