Written by TeleVox Friday, 01 October 2010 12:50
Advances in technology and communications mean that patients are reachable almost anywhere. Patient communication tools are giving practices the means to engage and activate patients in entirely new ways. Combined, they help increase patient loyalty, encourage patients to follow treatment paths, attend appointments on time, pay their bills promptly and even encourage them to refer their friends. These tools solve many of the challenges practices are experiencing and offer patient engagement and business growth opportunities.
A holy grail of practice management is found in successfully maintaining the highest quality of patient care while keeping a strong hand on operational and financial performance, another hand on bringing in new patients and another hand on making timely and relevant new products and services available.
If only we had three sets of hands.
Certainly there is the option of increasing staffing overhead. However, that creates additional expense and smaller profit margins, while diverting management resources away from focusing on the two most important business criteria—patient and practice health.
Technological advances in the area of engagement communications are making it possible for practices to juggle all of these areas, without taking any focus off patient care.
Advances in technology make patient engagement more effective
Advances in web-based software and services, and their integration with advanced communication and mobile devices, have been the catalyst to a profound evolution in practice management tools. While practice management software is nothing new, integrated web-based services that help manage all aspects of a practice through the entire patient lifecycle are new. And, they are the equivalent of several extra sets of hands—expert hands at that.
Web-based software and services such as TeleVox’s recently launched Engagement Communications portal provide transformational practice management tools that help practices find, market, engage and activate their patients. The outcomes show measurably improved business performance from increased on-time payments, reduced no-shows, improved patient care, increased patient referrals, higher revenue per patient, reduced cost of marketing and new patient acquisition.
This report discusses common issues and challenges surrounding marketing and practice growth faced by dental and orthodontic practices of all sizes. Research clearly shows a need for a solution to these challenges that doesn’t require a shift in resources away from other important practice objectives. A new breed of engagement technology is quickly proving to be a viable option for many practices.
Most practices share the same struggles with social media and marketing
This new category of practice management software and services couldn’t have come at a better time. A recent survey of more than 9,000 dentists and orthodontists from across the United States highlights common issues and challenges being faced by practices of all sizes. This paper shares the findings of the research and how advanced web-based practice management tools help bring new levels of business performance and patient satisfaction.
A challenge that many dentists and orthodontists face is that they are experts at dentistry or orthodontics, not marketing—and definitely not marketing in the evolved world of digital and social media. However, the TeleVox research shows that almost 50 percent of dentists and orthodontists are taking on the marketing responsibility of their practices. It also shows that almost three quarters of the staff responsible for marketing the practice have no qualifications or experience in the field.
Most practices now have two shopfronts, one on ‘Main Street’ and one on the web, because the means to connect with patients and potential patients through online and social media channels represents a powerful marketing and business tool. This is where new web software, services and portals such as the latest portal release from TeleVox provides the equivalent of a marketing team to help practices create and capture web eyeballs. And they do so with features such as quality HTML emails that link to their websites, outbound email communications that integrate with Facebook and Twitter pages, and promotional tools that help drive traffic to particular web pages to promote new products and services or provide expert advice on dental care. TeleVox’s engagement communications portal allows practices to choose from a set of creative email and e-newsletter templates, which promote new products and services, patient-to-patient promotions, oral health reminders and interpractice promotions. The e-mail templates have been created by a team of industry experts, so customers are assured that the style and content will maximize audience engagement. Combined, these tools provide all the ‘know-how’ to leverage quality and innovative marketing tools without needing a degree in it.
These web-based tools are simple to use. Because practices can use preinstalled templates to create marketing and patient referral campaigns, there is no learning curve involved, and intuitive tools allow everything to be executed and tracked from a single portal. The issue of simplicity is key. Perceived complexity of marketing and web-based marketing is holding many practices back, with survey data showing that more than 50 percent of practices not proactively promoting and marketing their products would do so if it was made simple. TeleVox provides this simplicity.
The ability to market and get referrals is critical to practice growth
The demand for patient referral campaigns and tracking tools is also clear. When asked where the biggest future revenue growth opportunity lies for practices, 92 percent of respondents stated it will come from patient referrals. It is concerning that while 92 percent of practices see their biggest revenue growth coming from patient referrals, nearly a third do not have referral tracking systems in place. While there are different rules in each state for patient referrals, many allow proactive campaigning. And, regardless of which state a practice resides in, practices should all be tracking patient referrals even if unable to proactively market to them.
Web-based intuitive database tools that can be integrated with marketing tools such as out-of-the-box patient referral campaigns allow practices to both target potential patients as well as easily track when referrals become patients. When a suite of integrated web-based tools can be accessed through a single portal, the process of patient referral marketing and tracking becomes a breeze, removing staff burden and lowering the cost of new patient acquisition.
Multiple methods of patient engagement are a must
Practices are looking at the Internet, mobile marketing and patient engagement at warp speed. Practices not investigating or deploying tools such as web and email marketing, Twitter and Facebook engagement, and SMS texting will be left behind. Nearly all practices plan to or are currently deploying these new forms of patient communications in the next year.
It is critical that practices adopt these new tools in a managed and informed way. The TeleVox portal allows practices to engage in web and mobile Engagement Communications in a manner that conforms to privacy and HIPAA compliance, with the back-up of a robust infrastructure to ensure integrity and security of data. Technical and specialist customer support teams also help ensure that practices adopt new tools in the smartest, simplest manner to the greatest advantage to patients and the business.
Imagine being able to reduce appointment no-shows by having an informed insight into patient trends and the means to send ‘just-in-time’ reminders. The TeleVox research shows that there are some very clear trends around appointment no-shows. More than 50 percent of respondents confirmed that Mondays are the worst days for missed appointments, more than three quarters of appointments are missed by men, and nearly half of missed appointments are in the 14 to 25 age group. With this knowledge and insight, practices can take proactive steps to minimize missed appointments by, for example, booking more appointments for women on a Monday than men or increasing the number of reminders. In the case of the 14 to 25 age group, engaging with them via text messaging might be most effective.
Practice success is dependent upon quality data
While evolved practice marketing and patient engagement tools present huge business advantages, they will, as most marketing tools, only be as successful as the data supporting them. The single most important element of success lies in accuracy of patient data. Perhaps the biggest bane of the practice manager’s life is that of patient data accuracy.
A major barrier to maintaining accurate, quality data lies in the costly administrative burden of capturing and updating data. Patients often forget to inform practices of changes to home address, email addresses and contact numbers. Considering that accurate data is such an asset to practices, it is odd that nearly half of the practices surveyed only capture and update patient data once a year.
It is also interesting that while practices invest much time and resources into capturing patient mailing addresses, very few actually use them for appointment reminders. Similarly, while most respondents of the survey rank text messaging as one of the most successful means of reminding patients of appointment times, only 40% of practices are currently collecting information to send text messages.
These are areas where having a partner expert such as TeleVox delivers value by helping practices capture and protect valuable patient data in the most cost and resource efficient way; and providing counsel on which communications media are best suited to engage and activate patients.
Considering how much time, practice resources and profits are lost through appointment no-shows, the means to increase accuracy of patient data so that appointment reminders are actually getting to the patient is a compelling business proposition. Web-based patient record tools are increasingly intuitive and easy to use. The TeleVox system offers integration across all patient communications and engagement features such as HTML email campaigns and voicemail. Considering that 75% of dentists and orthodontists agree that providing regular personalized care information during treatment is important, the ability to reach patients at the right address, telephone number, email or SMS number is fundamental to being successful.
Connecting with patients digitally and online
Practices recognize the importance of connecting with patients in multiple ways to remind them to attend appointments on time, and they are increasingly focused on digital notifications to do this—primarily through voicemail and text messaging. However, there is significant opportunity for practices to connect with patients via social media. While 95% of practices have Web sites, only half have Facebook fan pages—an important means to drive patient referrals.
Portal-based practice management tools provide simple access to patient data and an easy means to send email and SMS texts. Reporting features show real-time pictures of which patients have confirmed their appointments and who needs extra communication. These tools significantly reduce the cost of managing patient reminders. A web-based, highly secure portal allows patients access to their own data to update contact information and manage their account balance.
Advances in technology and communications mean that patients are reachable almost anywhere. Patient communications tools are giving practices the means to engage and activate patients in entirely new ways. Combined, they help increase patient loyalty, encourage patients to follow treatment paths, help them attend appointments on time, pay their bills promptly and even encourage them to refer their friends. These tools solve many of the challenges practices are experiencing and offer patient engagement and business growth opportunities.
Most practices now have two shopfronts, one on ‘Main Street’ and one on the web, because the means to connect with patients and potential patients through online and social media channels represents a powerful marketing and business tool. This is where new web software, services and portals such as the latest portal release from TeleVox provides the equivalent of a marketing team to help practices create and capture web eyeballs. And they do so with features such as quality HTML emails that link to their websites, outbound email communications that integrate with Facebook and Twitter pages, and promotional tools that help drive traffic to particular web pages to promote new products and services or provide expert advice on dental care. TeleVox’s Engagement Communications portal allows practices to choose from a set of creative email and e-newsletter templates, which promote new products and services, patient-to-patient promotions, oral health reminders and interpractice promotions. The e-mail templates have been created by a team of industry experts, so customers are assured that the style and content will maximize audience engagement. Combined, these tools provide all the know-how to leverage quality and innovative marketing tools without needing a degree in it.
About T.LINK EC
T.LINK EC is the latest release of the most powerful online patient engagement system in the industry. With easy-to-navigate precision, T.LINK EC allows you to positively impact your business through proactive engagement with patients, potential patients and referring doctors. T.LINK EC moves people to action and enables your business to perform better through increased patient retention, reduced no-shows, improved patient care, increased referrals and more. T.LINK EC offers powerful tools that make it easy for you to find new patients, market your practice, connect with your patients and engage your patients.