To run a successful dental practice, you have to stand out from the competition. Patients have never had more options for dental care, and they expect more than ever from healthcare providers. While quality care remains crucial, you also need to seek out other ways to improve the overall patient experience. This may include incorporating new technologies into your treatment options, streamlining office operations to improve efficiency, and maintaining a professional online presence. Continue reading to learn several techniques that dental practices of all sizes and specialties can implement to make their business more profitable.
What makes a successful dental practice?
Successful dental practices have several characteristics in common, but most of them center on improving the experience between the doctor and the patient. Take a closer analysis of where your practice is already strong and identify areas in which you wish to improve, focusing on these key elements:
- Provide excellent dental care. Stay abreast of the latest developments in the dental industry, including new types of treatments, best practices for dental exams, and scheduling solutions. For example, many patients like the ability to schedule appointments online, or to confirm appointments via text message rather than over the phone.
- Maintain an interactive, user-friendly website and positive social media presence. More and more, people look online before making a decision, and their first stop is often either your website or social media profiles. Making it easy for patients to connect with you and learn about your practice contributes to a positive patient experience.
- Create a welcoming environment for all patients, including chairs that can accommodate all shapes and sizes, and additional measures for patients with dental phobia.
- Adopt proper business management practices to control costs. Setting a budget and managing controllable expenses reduces your overhead, while leveraging smart marketing efforts and patient retention practices increases revenue. These together contribute to a more robust bottom line.
All of these elements are important for running a successful dental practice, but in order to truly thrive, everyone at the practice must share the same values and focus. This means creating and actively promoting a company culture that supports your goals. A positive, unified company culture goes a long way towards increasing patient compliance, reducing attrition, and reducing employee turnover, all of which ultimately make the business more profitable.
How can I make my dental practice more profitable?
You can implement several specific techniques to improve profitability for your dental practice.
Become less reliant on dental insurance
While being less reliant on insurance may seem counter-intuitive, in fact, relying too heavily on insurance can cut into your profits. Insurance companies determine how much they’re willing to pay for a particular treatment, as well as which kinds of treatment are covered. This can lock you into the insurance company’s pricing, and have a negative effect on patient treatment. If you recommend a course of treatment for a patient, and their insurance company rejects it, the patient may not be willing to proceed with treatment.
Communicating the value of the treatment is essential, as is making it easier for patients to pay out of pocket. Consider establishing alternative options for payment, such as installment plans for major procedures, discounts for payment in full, and a rewards system for regular patients.
Offer additional training for dental assistants
Your dental assistants can be a valuable resource; consider giving them more responsibility. With the proper training and certification, an expanded functions dental assistant (EFDA) can take X-rays, apply sealants, or conduct coronal polishing for your patients. This can free up your hygienists and yourself for more complex dental work, or allow your practice to accommodate more patients who need simple treatments and cleanings.
The requirements for EFDAs and the functions they can perform vary from state to state. Consider making arrangements with your assistants to cover the cost of the necessary training and certification. While this will result in some additional costs for the practice, having an EFDA on staff will help your practice become more profitable in the long run.
Automate time-consuming tasks
The newest generation of dental practice software can help automate many basic tasks, such as scheduling, appointment reminders, and other types of patient communication. Upgrading your software and adding capabilities that include email reminders and SMS can help reduce the number of no-shows, and free up time for your front office staff. They, in turn, can work more closely with your patients and handle more complicated requests.
Many good dental software and client management programs will also allow you to go paperless, which can cut down on storage, and reduce the time spent filing and retrieving files.
How can I make my dental practice stand out?
Differentiating your practice from other dentists in your area can be challenging for a small business owner, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience in marketing or sales. However, implementing a few strategic practices can make all the difference in attracting and retaining patients.
Proactively seek referrals and reviews
Positive reviews and referrals are essential for building a successful dental practice. Often, people trust the recommendation of someone they know or a review written by an actual customer more than an advertisement. Don’t leave these valuable marketing techniques to chance! When you have a patient who has a positive experience with your practice, ask them to leave a review on your website or Google, and to refer their friends and family to your practice.
Phrasing the request as a personal favor can often increase the likelihood that the patient will follow through. For example, saying “it would mean so much to me if you left us a positive review” can be far more effective than simply making the request in an email. Give patients a card with your social media profiles on it so they will have a visual reminder after they get home.
If you’ve already upgraded your dental practice software to automate many of your routine tasks, you can add one more task to that list: send an email to each patient after their appointment thanking them for their business and including a link to a short survey or place to leave a review.
Understand your target clientele
While it may be easy to assume that your target customer is “anyone who has teeth,” it can often be more effective to highlight a certain specialty. For instance, if you are a pediatric dentist, make sure that your marketing efforts center on parents. Make your practice family-friendly, and hire staff who are good with children.
Or, you may notice that many of your patients suffer from dental anxiety. In this case, focus on implementing techniques and practices intended to ease dental phobia. This may include taking additional measures to create a calming environment, and using tools such as the DentalVibe Comfort Injection System, which eliminates the pain associated with dental injections.
The elderly are another demographic that can be a good niche to focus on. Making sure that people are able to maintain good oral hygiene as they age can reduce the chances that they’ll need a full set of dentures, which many seniors will appreciate.
Regardless of what your niche is, ensure your advertising and marketing strategies center on addressing the needs and pain points of your target customer.
Update your website
Your website can be so much more than just a listing of your location and hours. It’s easy to overlook the importance of a professional website, but if your website is ineffective and outdated, prospective patients will wonder what other areas of your practice are in need of an upgrade. A great business website allows patients to book, change, or cancel appointments online and make payments on their outstanding balances. Make sure that you have a secure site, including an SSL certificate to protect your customers’ personal information.
Your website can also add value to your patient’s lives in other ways. A well-written blog and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page can help patients understand the details of their upcoming procedure and implement oral health tips to improve the health of their teeth and gums.
Hire a professional website designer to make sure that your site is secure, and that it’s scalable, meaning that it can grow as your business grows, without interrupting a user’s ability to navigate the site. Also make sure your website is mobile friendly, as more than 50 percent of website traffic typically comes from mobile devices.
Offer pain-free injections
The fear of pain keeps many people away from the dentist. The DentalVibe Comfort Injection System allows you to tap into this market by offering pain-free injections. DentalVibe applies a light vibration to the tissues around the injection site while injections are administered. Research has shown that when vibration and injection sensations occur simultaneously, the vibration feeling reaches the brain first and essentially blocks the pain sensations from being perceived by the brain. Dental patients of all ages no longer have to be afraid of the needle. Interested in becoming a certified pain-free dentist? Request your no-obligation consultation to learn how DentalVibe can help you grow your practice!