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How to build patient loyalty for your dental practice

According to the Levin Group Data Center, the average dental practice loses 12% - 15% of their patients every year. Dentists that don’t actively work to combat attrition will see their patient numbers shrink quickly. Patient loyalty is the name of the game.

Whether you are looking to get more new patients in the door or are having difficulty retaining your current clients, it’s essential to stay up-to-date on industry trends and technology so you can remain competitive today - and tomorrow. Here are a few areas to consider when trying to improve loyalty.

Your practice’s persona

Many people, both children and adults, avoid the dentist out of fear or anxiety. Others are concerned about how they are going to afford their care or are unsure if their insurance will cover their treatment. A newer, yet serious hurdle is a general mistrust of healthcare providers and dentists. These factors can add up to big challenges. But, maintaining a trustworthy persona, the character of your practice that is presented or perceived by others, will help keep patients – even nervous ones – coming back.

Demonstrate your expertise alongside showing empathy whenever possible. Ease anxiety by creating personal relationships, sharing knowledge and making them feel comfortable in your office. Use everyday terms to talk about their dental health – industry jargon can be intimidating. And, keep notes from visits in patient files – ask about the home project they were planning at the time of their last visit or how their favorite after school activity is going. Keep in mind, you may only get the opportunity to interact with patients that have good oral health twice each year, so keep your approach consistent and caring. You may even see new referrals come your way as a result.

An aging population

More than 10,000 Americans turn 65 years old each day. And over the next few years, close to 20% of the population will be 65 or older. As patients age, new challenges can affect their oral hygiene, therefore it’s critical to understand these changes and adjust their care accordingly.

Chronic medical conditions can have significant impacts on oral health, particularly if the patient is on medication that causes dry mouth. Declining vision or coordination can also limit the effectiveness of flossing and brushing. To help remedy this, collect detailed health histories of your patients, including a list of all medications they are taking. Some senior citizens have limited access to dental insurance, so preventative care should be emphasized throughout your patients’ youth and early adulthood. Remind them that it’s never too late to start good hygiene at home. Maintaining your trustworthy persona by explaining the long-term value of dental upkeep will show your patients that you care and may help to prevent future issues in their geriatric years.

Digital-friendly marketing

Making a good first impression is no longer limited to a friendly front desk receptionist or a grand building entrance. While this is still important, today’s first meaningful impression comes from your online presence.

As potential patients search for a new dentist, they head to the internet. Your website, social profile and online search results will dictate where you land in their research. In 2018, Google switched to mobile-first indexing, which means if you have a website that is mobile-optimized, you will rank higher in their search engine results page. As most consumers use smartphones to find healthcare information, your website should be easy to read on such devices with properly scaled images and a variety of “contact us” methods such as phone, email or text.

According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 75% of people that search the internet for health information also use social media. This emphasizes the importance that your marketing efforts are mobile-friendly and targeted to social media sites, but it shouldn’t be all promotional marketing. Provide some educational videos, fun photos of your staff or a few before-and-after photos to help keep your patients engaged through social media so that you can tap into their own social networks to gain additional awareness of your practice – and a little free advertising.

Technology

Modern technology revolutionizes the industry with each passing year, but knowing which of the latest advancements make sense for your office is key. For example, 3D printing has been around for years, but with today’s small desktop printers, it’s possible to bring the production of tooth replacements, crowns and more services in-house while drastically reducing manufacturing costs and time. It can also mean same-day dentistry, allowing you to see more patients which equals more revenue.

Laser dentistry has also become a popular trend of practices today. By offering rapid recovery times, reduced discomfort and less chance of developing complications post-treatment, it’s easy to see why so many practices are implementing this option - and we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of what lasers will be able to accomplish in the medical field.

These are just a couple of examples, but every practitioner knows the importance of equipment when providing high-quality care – and keeping up with the latest and greatest technology isn’t easy. Who wouldn’t prefer an office brimming with new technologies and equipment over one with out-dated models? While your heart might tell you to focus on the amazing advances new equipment offers to today’s dentists, your brain might be slamming on the financial breaks. The decision to expand or upgrade your dental office can be an expensive proposition – but it might just be the thing you need to grow your practice. A key component to building a successful practice is the selection and timing of expenditures combined with the financing solution that will enable you to meet your business goals. A conversation with your banker can help you do the math and determine what solutions are right for you.

Patient feedback

No matter how new and updated your dental technology may be, the patient experience plays the ultimate role in the success of your practice. To truly put your patients first, be sure to give them opportunities to offer feedback and make decisions based on their experiences.

Start by reviewing your current patient experience from the moment someone visits your website for the first time until they walk out of your office after paying their bill. Are there ways to improve? Can they schedule an appointment online? Do you send convenient reminders of their appointment time and date? Is that on a physical reminder card, phone call, email or text? Do they need to fill out forms every time they enter the office? While you may think you are doing the best you can, it’s always good to send post-visit feedback surveys so you can review your clients’ thoughts and experiences while demonstrating that you seek their opinions.

And if you do ever make a change at your practice based on patient feedback, be sure to let all of your patients know, especially those who alerted you about the issue in the first place. This further enhances the idea that you truly care about their perspective which will increase overall patient satisfaction.

The roots of a strong relationship

With successful practices only losing 7-8% of their client base annually, dentists can increase their patient base by 70% every 10 years. That means that over a 40-year career, a top practice patient base will be almost 400% larger than the average practice. That’s hard to ignore.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of best practices for dental offices. Dental practices that stay ahead – or at least keep pace – with the latest trends will increase their chances to stay competitive in the market and will set themselves up for sustainable growth, just like our friends at Accent Dental. You don’t need to adopt everything at once, but rather look within your practice and determine areas that could be enhanced or become more efficient.

To learn more about different ways to enhance your dental practice, talk to your Commerce Bank representative as well as download a copy of our complimentary eBook “Is your dental practice ready for 2020 and beyond?” here.