It’s that time of year again—the time when all the dental magazines and websites publish articles on which New Year’s resolutions you need to make to build your practice and boost your bottom line in the coming year.
In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” but aren’t these reports and top 10 lists merely telling you how to put a new coat of paint an old business model?
When you stop to think about it, aren’t your social media, search engine optimization, public relations, and other strategies just different shades of marketing paint that are used to spruce up the same old dental business you’ve been operating for years or perhaps decades?
What if I told you about a few dynamic new business models that can create a marketing buzz while also attracting new patients and revenue? Would you be interested in learning more about new practice models that will attract new patients including busy professionals and millennials? Now, what if I told you those new business models are made possible by teledentistry?
You may think of teledentistry as the use of communications technology to expand access to care in public health dentistry, usually by enabling hygienists to provide oral care services within their scope of practice while working under the remote supervision of a dentist.
This model has been field-proven and is now ready to be applied to building your private dental practice. Teledentistry’s superior ability to deliver secure connectivity and streamline remote clinical collaboration is propelling the development of exciting new business models that are now well within your reach.
How Does Teledentistry Work?
Think of teledentistry as a digital dentistry hub. For example, teledentistry applications aggregate and integrate several components of digital dentistry including digital clinical imaging, electronic health records, and telecommunications technology while using an internet connection to link dental clinicians with their patients or dental clinicians with their colleagues.
One example of this type of digital dentistry hub is TeleDent, our all-in-one teledentistry platform, which includes scalable and secure cloud-based software that enables both real-time streaming and “store and forward” clinical data collection including diagnostic images, videos, clinical notes, treatment plans, and more, enabling the clinician to remotely conduct an evaluation and recommend next steps from anywhere.
This increased opportunity for simplified clinician-to-clinician connectivity and collaboration is the win-win that will build interdisciplinary care teams, improve patient outcomes, and help you explore new business models. And there are several new business models that are worth considering if you truly want to turn over a new leaf for practice building.
Expanded Hygiene Hours
Today’s busy consumers have very low tolerance for inconvenience. They really don’t care what your profession’s traditional day off is or appreciate it when they must take time off of work to get an appointment.
By using teledentistry, your practice can offer expanded hygiene hours during weekends and before and after the traditional 9 to 5 work day. In this scenario, hygiene appointments can be scheduled at a more convenient time, which increases the likelihood that appointments are kept.
What’s more, if a patient needs to cancel an appointment, there are more scheduling options to ensure that the patient is put back on the calendar quickly and doesn’t fall through the cracks.
Here’s how it works. One or more hygienists along with a front office person are scheduled to work during off-peak hours without the dentist on-site. Of course, this is contingent upon state dental board regulations.
If a hygienist finds a suspicious oral lesion, evidence of periodontal disease, or a tooth that may require restorative intervention, the dentist can be contacted via the TeleDent platform for a virtual consultation to discuss next steps.
This consultation may also include the patient to get the patient’s buy-in for followup treatment. Once the patient agrees to continue with the recommended treatment plan, the front office person schedules the appointment with the dentist.
This way, implementing extended hygiene hours not only provides additional patient convenience, it also helps build a pipeline of restorative, cosmetic, and periodontal treatment appointments.
Pop-Up Screening Clinics
There’s been a lot of controversy regarding the advent of tooth whitening kiosks in storefronts and other public areas. Much of the controversy has to do with the fact that most of the operators are not trained and licensed dental clinicians.
You can take this model and improve upon it by using licensed clinicians. For example, free oral health screening clinics under your practice’s brand can be set up in shopping malls, during health fairs, and at other places where the public gathers.
If necessary, the dentist can be contacted for a consultation, which is something the potential patient most likely never experienced. “Wow, these guys are really high-tech!” the patient might even say. In any event, the examination and patient data are captured and used for followup and potential new patient conversion.
Another scenario that may possibly have a higher return on investment than a pop-up clinic in a shopping mall is working with local HR departments to set up oral health screening days on their company premises. Just think of it—teledentistry can transform every office building and industrial park within driving distance of your dental office into a new patient generator.
Dentist-Owned Hygiene Clinics
How can private practice dentists expand their service areas without investing in an additional, fully equipped dental office? By taking the hub-and-spoke approach, a full-service dental office can be linked to hygiene clinics that the dentist owns and operates.
These remote, standalone hygiene clinics should be located on the periphery of the dental office’s service area but remain within reasonable driving distance. In this manner, the satellite hygiene clinic can consult with the dentist in the hub office to coordinate treatment or, if needed, schedule an appointment with the dentist in the main office.
This can also be seen as a self-referral business model. While currently this approach is restricted to states where the practice allows this type of general supervision, it appears to be a legislative change that is gaining momentum.
Total Health Practices
This will be an area of continued growth as we continue to bridge the gap between dentistry and medicine. For example, teledentistry can help dentists and physicians co-manage medically compromised patients diagnosed with oral disease to reduce systemic disease progression, mitigate risk, and achieve an improved state of wellness.
In the case of the growing field of dental sleep medicine, dentists can use teledentistry to cultivate referrals and collaborate with certified sleep physicians who have patients who are not CPAP-compliant and are seeking alternatives.
Additionally, your practice can increase patient touchpoints by building effective referral relationships with medical offices, pediatricians, and more, turning a simple referral into an approach of whole patient care.
With a new year ahead of you, it may be time to rethink the annual marketing resolutions rehash and instead embrace some new business models that not only are worth promoting but also will truly excite current patients and new prospects alike. Remember, what was impossible only a few years ago can now be a reality thanks to teledentistry.
Mr. Herman is the CEO and Founder of MouthWatch LLC, a leader in innovative teledentistry solutions, digital case presentation tools, and intraoral imaging devices. The company is dedicated to finding new ways to constantly improve the dental health experience for both patient and provider. To discuss teledentistry-enabled business models with Brant, contact him at Brant@MouthWatch.com.