Technology is here to stay and will continue to become more sophisticated and advanced. It's sometimes hard to keep up with the many continuing technological advances, and unless your practice is fully prepared, stress and inefficiency may follow. Unfortunately, the major problem for most practices is the lack of team training in necessary technology. Dentists invest a great deal of money in technology, and itÌs vital that they receive a return on their investment. Equipment that sits collecting dust is a waste of money. Computers especially are underutilized to monitor practice success and find out where thereÌs lost revenue. In addition, using the computer for marketing purposes is inexpensive, fast, and efficient, yet rarely taken advantage of.
TEAM TRAINING ON COMPUTER SYSTEMS
Full and efficient training with computers makes for less office stress, more organized systems, and a more efficient office. One office I recently worked with could not get proper contact lists from its computer. It turns out that the team members were not putting in correct contact codes, so they could not generate an accurate recall list. This simple computer input error affected hundreds of patients and cost thousands of dollars in lost revenue over the year until the error was fixed. And it's not just about lost revenue; it's also about quality patient care. It's vital that we promptly follow up with patients to show them that we care. ItÌs also not just about tracking and monitoring; it's about evaluating what you have and implementing systems to get results from follow-up.
Doctors invest in the best technology and clinical programs, but more importantly, they must make an investment in team training to complement the technology. You should be tracking patients each month for the following: new patients, missed appointments, no-show and will-call-back patients, incomplete periodontal care, incomplete treatment, overdue recare patients, inactive recare list, and overdue list.
You should be tracking the following statistics for discussion at team meetings: treatment presented, treatment accepted (dollar value), treatment declined, predeterminations sent, predeterminations booked, number of recalls preappointed, recall patients due this month, and overdue recalls. You should also be tracking patients who have not been into the practice and are long overdue for a recall appointment (1 year or more).
If these things are not being done, then your team is not as efficient as it should be. To combat this common problem, itÌs advisable to train someone in the office to become the office "computer expert." This person keeps up with computer updates and ensures that the entire team is trained.
Set aside team training time for any person on staff who is not yet fully proficient with your system. You should set aside 1 to 2 hours each week until your team is fully proficient. Create a training sheet and give it to all team members to plan proper training time. Everyone on the team should know at least the basic functions of the computer system, and everyone should have full knowledge of computer systems where their specific job areas are concerned.
MARKETING WITH YOUR COMPUTER SYSTEM
When you were in our office last week, we discussed the opportunity and options available for aesthetic dental treatment.
We realize that you need time to make a decision before committing to treatment and hope that we were able to answer all of your questions. When you are ready to schedule an appointment, if you have any questions about treatment and fees at that time, we would be happy to spend some more time with you.
We have attached before and after photos that we produced with our computer imaging system so that you can visualize how the final results could look.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Your computer system, when used efficiently, can be one of your best marketing assets. Marketing is not always about sending sparkly newsletters and flashy brochures; itÌs also about consistent patient contact and quality care. Consistent contact and quality care can be achieved by sending out the following on a regular basis (this is not a complete list):
•Welcome to our Office Letter
•Before Treatment Letter (Figure 1)
•After Treatment Letter (Figure 2)
• Predetermination Follow-Up Letter
•Thank You for Your Referral Letter
•Periodontal Treatment Letter.
Let your patients know that you are ahead of the game when it comes to their dental care. Let your letters say, "We know how to take care of you!" Send out your letters and notices consistently and use your computer as a primary marketing tool and an enhancer of case acceptance.
USING TECHNOLOGY TO ENHANCE CASE ACCEPTANCE
Dental technology has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 10 years. It's now possible to show your patients how their smile will look after extensive treatment, a tool that most dentists only dreamed of having at their disposal in the past. Now that we have these wonderful tools available, I find that many dentists donÌt use them to their fullest extent.
Imaging systems are a fantastic way to use a patientÌs own photo to provide a realistic outcome of treatment. Giving your patients this realistic view is probably the best way to show them how beautiful their own smiles could be. When printing photos, put in a disclaimer that the images were produced by a computer and that final results may vary. If you have an imaging system in your practice, using it to the fullest extent would include the following:
•providing your patient with his or her before-and-after photo in a take-home package
•before-and-after photo attached to a follow up Treatment Pending letter
•before-and-after photo attached to a Treatment Acceptance or Undecided letter.
We hope that you are enjoying your new smile and are sure that you have been receiving many compliments from family and friends. You are a great patient, and we appreciated your commitment to your scheduled appointments and treatments.
This treatment was an investment into your looks and health. We have attached your before and after photos to this letter. As you can see, the final results are dramatic and show a much nicer smile.
It is our goal to help you maintain your new look by offering you the very best care available. At this time we would like to confirm that we have reserved time for your next Preventive Care Appointment with our hygienist Name on Date/Time.
We look forward to seeing you then.
Offices without imaging systems have a number of excellent options as well:
•intraoral cameras to show patients treatment options
•before-and-after DVDs and videos
•computerized patient education systems (eg, CAESY)
•before-and-after books and photos
•PowerPoint presentations, either chairside or with a treatment coordinator
•patient education brochures.
There are many fantastic imaging systems on the market today, and I highly recommend that each practice make a formal investment in the technology to help improve patient education and case acceptance rates. To complement your imaging system, incorporate Power-Point presentations for your patients, simple presentations that you can make on an office computer in your consultation room. PowerPoint presentations can also be uploaded to your Web site for patients to download at their leisure. If at all possible, it would be nice to have a terminal with your presentations available in the greeting area for patients to look through. If youÌre not overly computer literate and donÌt have the time or the staff to invest in creating your own presentations, a number of companies design presentation templates specifically for dental practices.
POWERPOINT PRESENTATION SUGGESTIONS
New Patients: A Practice Overview
•Meet the Dentist
•Meet the Staff
•Our Preventive Dentistry Care
•Patient Education in Our Office
•No-Show & Cancellation Policies
Children and Dentistry: What Every Parent Should Know•
•Tooth Care for Babies
•Sports & Dentistry
•Preventive Dental Care for Children
•Proper Brushing and Flossing for Children
•Our Preventive Dentistry Care
•Our No Cavity Club
General Patient Education: Cosmetic and Restorative Dentistry
•Introduction to Cosmetic Dentistry
•Crown & Bridge
•Preventive Care Program
MAKING THE INTERNET WORK FOR YOUR PRACTICE
In this day and age, a dental practice Web site is a necessity. Many of your new patients may still be finding you through the Yellow Pages, but you can be sure that the Internet savvy will be seeking information about you and your practice online.
Developing a Web site is a big project and one that is out of the technical comfort zone of many dentists and staff. However, for a reasonable fee plenty of independent Web site designers can help you create the perfect patient Web site.
Here are 5 top reasons to have a practice Web site:
•New, existing, and potential patients; people are looking online!
•It is an excellent marketing tool for your services.
•It provides information and answers questions.
•It presents a confident, up-to-date, successful practice image.
•The Internet is here - itÌs staying, so get on board!
THE LAST WORD