Top 5 professional habits you should commit to in 2014

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With every new year, comes an overwhelming amount of commentary on new year resolutions and goals. A lot of them are common sense no brainers mixed with an equal amount of recommendations we know are unattainable. Reflecting upon 2013, I would like to shift the conversation to some things I believe have become overlooked.

I have discovered that many people have forgotten the basics. It annoys me when the professionals I work with don’t afford me these common courtesies. If you want to gain respect from your colleagues, patients, customers and employees and you want them to offer you the same respect in return, it is absolutely essential that you follow these very basic rules of business etiquette in 2014.

Here are my TOP 5 No-Brainers every business professional should commit to in the new year:

Number 5: Don’t interrupt.
Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule and if you made it through high school, you can surely figure out what those are. I’m talking about people who cut you off in mid-sentence because they believe what they have to say is more important than what you are expressing. It indicates they are not listening. It comes off as rude, disrespectful and confrontational. If you are guilty of this, listen more, talk less. If someone else violates this rule, let them know you weren’t finished with your thought.

Number 4: Do what you say and say what you do.
If you tell someone you are going to do something, don’t just talk about it. Do it! If you aren’t sure you will follow through, don’t commit to it. How many times have you been disappointed by someone who has said they were going to do something then dropped the ball? And it adds additional insult when they don’t give you the courtesy of letting you know, which leads me to 4a:

4a) If you commit to something then discover it was unrealistic or you can’t follow through, own it.   It’s as simple as saying you’ve discovered you’ve bitten off more than you can chew or your time commitments have gotten the best of you. You will continue to earn respect from your peers, co-workers, and employees when you are honest with them about your shortcomings.

Number 3: If you change your mind, say so.
Everyone has that right. But changing your mind and not telling us is not OK. People will have different expectations and you will inevitably disappoint them – possibly make them angry – if you don’t tell them your thinking has changed. We will continue to think you have your original mindset unless you tell us otherwise.

Number 2: If you are in a meeting or conversation, DO NOT LOOK AT YOUR CELL PHONE!
We’ve all been on the receiving side of someone who shifts their attention from us to their “next-best friend”. Why would anyone think this is appropriate? This is rude and disrespectful. Period. But it is occurring at epic proportions these days. Just because others engage in this behavior doesn’t mean it’s OK. It says they could care less about what’s happening outside the edges of their smartphone screen – so why should we? Business owners and CEOs can often be the biggest violators of this. Regardless of how important someone is, your time is equally important. If someone does this to you, stop talking until they look up and tell them you’d be happy to continue when they aren’t pre-occupied. Let’s shut this behavior down in 2014.

Number 1: Reply to emails. And do it in a timely manner.
Just like the sign in the public bathroom stall that says; “please flush after use”, this is so basic that I shouldn’t have to mention it. That being said, a large percentage of the emails I send out go unanswered. If email isn’t your thing, tell people up front or simply don’t give out your email address. Otherwise, people expect an acknowledgement or reply – THAT’S WHY WE SEND EMAILS! If you don’t reply, it’s the same as saying you don’t care or the sender isn’t worth your time. Your lack of response indicates your lack of interest which erodes your credibility, regardless of your position or role in any business.

Are you starting to see a pattern here? Every one of these has to do with professional courtesy and respect. And if we want people to respect us and behave in a certain way, we have to commit to that behavior ourselves. That is the hallmark of a leader. And yes, these are basic. That’s where we have to begin to build a solid foundation of professionalism, gain respect from others and to further develop our effective communication skills.

Do you have something you would like to add to this list? Let’s start a dialog and spread the word in 2014.

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We Need More Help at the Front Desk!

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We Need More Help at the Front Desk!

Why is it that team members in the non-clinical roles, often referred to as the “front desk staff”, complain about the amount of work they have to do and always seem to be stressed out? Here are a few of the comments we hear all the time:

The people in the back don’t understand all the stuff we have to do”.
“How can I do the insurance when I keep having to answer the phone?”
“We never get caught up.”
“I’m constantly having to stop what I’m doing to take care of a patient. Then when I come back to it, I forget where I am.”

We have a couple of theories about the traditional front desk configuration and why it sets most teams up for failure.
THEORY 1: The front desk isn’t the area in which the dentist works. He or she doesn’t fully understand the challenges the staff is faced with and is less likely to know how the systems work against them, not to mention the outdated equipment and software challenges. For instance, many practices have only made a partial transition to paperless charts, making the practice dependent on two systems (paper and  computer), which makes locating information more difficult, causing duplication and increasing the chance of error. The dentist rarely understands the challenges this poses for the team. (This is a subject in itself!)DISCONNECTED

THEORY 2: People who work in this arena often develop tunnel vision and have difficulty
seeing new ways to structure their work. The result is that the front desk staff keeps doing the same old things in the same old ways, and not doing any of them at optimal level.

THEORY 3: When the non-clinical staff complains long enough, the dentist usually breaks down and adds another person to the team to do the same things the other team members are doing, creating more confusion, more errors and even less efficiency and effectiveness – not to mention more overhead!

So, what’s the answer? Consider separating the tasks into two areas of specialty and assign the responsibilities to the individual who has the right skill sets. Let’s look at the responsibilities of the non-clinical staff and how those duties break down.

There are three distinct areas of focus in every practice – what we call the A-B-Cs :

A – Administrative:
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Responsibilities that support the business of the business. They are related to paper and tasks – not patients. They can occur “behind the    scenes” and in most cases, are not ones that must be addressed in the moment.
The key in this role: to be EFFICIENT with THINGS.

Just some of the responsibilities that might fall under this heading are:
– review chart entries at dayʼs end to balance against deposits
-insurance pre-authorization, submissions, review and followup
-opening and sorting mail with distribution to appropriate person
-entering payments from mail and over the counter
-printing receipts for patients
-monthly statements
-daily deposit
-monthly and annual closing and archiving
-organizing invoices and packing slips before matching to statements for payment
-payables entry in accounting system
-preparation of a/p report for dentist review and approval
-preparation of checks for dentistʼs signature
-mailing signed checks
-inventory of office supplies
-purchase of office supplies and patient amenities
-errands as assigned
-correspondence
-maintenance of office equipment and machinery
-computer system oversight and IT
-maintaining patient amenities (ie: coffee station, water, etc)
-hourly upkeep of patient washroom and reception area
-implementation of marketing, promotion
-communication and follow up with the lab
-communication and follow up with vendors
-planning continuing education
-planning meetings

These responsibilities require focus, attention, detail, someone with self-direction and organizational skills -an analytical thinker.  This same concept can also be applied in the clinical area of the practice – responsibilities associated with sterilization, operatory preparation, inventory and lab duties. They are all essential to providing patient care but occur independently of patient care.

B – Behavioral:
Depositphotos_24330021_mThis arena has to do solely with the business of our patient’s business and is often the most overlooked area. These responsibilities often occur with patients and are focused on patient care, connection and communication. While some of the duties require planning and preparation, events often occur in the moment, can not be predicted and must be responded to in real time. This job requires an individual with big picture thinking. The best people are those with sensibility, grace, maturity, empathy, curiosity, good listening skills, confidence, good command of language, and the ability to think on their feet.
The key in this role: to be effective with PEOPLE.

The responsibilities that most often fall under this heading are:

-working with new patients from initial telephone call through treatment planning
discussion
-supporting patients in the moment whether on the telephone or in person
-urgency triage and establishing clear expectations with urgency patients
-maintaining oversight of patients in process – those for whom treatment has been
recommended but not yet completed
-organizing and managing the “lost souls” project – those for whom treatment has been
recommended and have dropped out of sight
-handling fees and financial arrangement discussions that are not properly handled
elsewhere
-addressing patient complaints and issues in a timely manner
-ensuring that patient interests and concerns are clearly understood by all
-supporting patients by helping them price-test their treatment options
-ensuring that all patient-contact staff are prepared behaviorally for patients before they
arrive
-identifying patterns and trends with patients as they occur
-maintaining oversight of the schedule and making appointments as necessary
-managing patient correspondence and followup
-coordinating non-clinical aspects of care with specialists and referrals
-internal training on communications and patient relations
-connecting with referral sources, public relations, networking

C – Clinical:
Depositphotos_24330067_mEvents related to the delivery of care. Commands most of the focus of the practice and is often the most up-to-date area. Requires the attention and oversight of the dentist/business owner. Removes the dentist/owner from constant oversight of the two other areas, making it even more important that self-directed, well-matched, highly-effective people are placed in the non-clinical roles.

As you can see, the non-clinical staff is responsible for two of the three critical areas of the practice. These staff members are often asked to perform both Administrative and Behavioral roles simultaneously while the responsibilities are very different from one another and require different skill sets.  It becomes clear that when we ask them to assume both roles, they are split between two very different responsibilities, making them choose in the moment which is more important. This usually creates more problems, and sets them up for failure, making them less effective or efficient in either of these areas.

It is our opinion that when you separate the Administrative from Behavioral roles and hire/assign responsibilities based upon strength in one of these two areas, you encourage deep competency, similar to your competency in the area of dentistry. Each person performs at a higher level when they are focused on only one arena and they become more successful than if they were asked to do everything with less effectiveness.

This is not to say that a person who is assigned administrative responsibilities can’t support the one who is responsible for patient connection by answering the phone, welcoming patients or checking patients out when necessary. There are always exceptions. Some practices opt for a third person to act as a greeter or to handle phone triage and appointment scheduling. Remember, the goal is to encourage deep competency in their skill set and prevent team members from performing in areas where they are not as skilled.

This concept may require you to think differently about the individuals, skill sets and responsibilities in your practice. A good exercise for each of your non-clinical team members is to have them make a list of their duties and determine whether it is administrative or behavioral (we hope you aren’t asking them to also perform clinical roles too!). Ask them to assess how much of their work load is in each of these arenas and discuss how roles might be shifted to better serve this new model.

Take home message: You most likely don’t need more people serving in a non-clinical role – you just need the right people, with the right skill sets, in the right positions, which creates a better, more efficient and effective systems.

A caveat here – you may discover that you have team members who share similar skill sets leaving you with no one to serve an administrative or behavioral role. This may be the eureka moment that explains why certain problems keep occurring in your practice.  This process may also cause you to consider restructuring your non-clinical staff altogether. We can help you consider your options and sort through the implications of making changes to better serve the practice and your patients.

Great Expectations

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girl full of dreams      It’s prom season! If you or your children have gone through the prom experience, you know there are a lot of expectations about this life event – your date, the friends you will go with, what you will wear, the transportation to get you there, where you will have dinner beforehand and what afterparty you will attend. If you were like me, my expectations for this magical night were not the same as my reality.

What does this have to do with dentistry? While as teens, we gave a lot of thought to prom and we discussed it at length with our friends and our parents, the expectations our patients have may not be as thought-out or clear.  BUT THEY DO HAVE EXPECTATIONS.

These expectations aren’t tattooed on their forehead – they are internal. And they are formed over a period of time based on previous experiences. Patients rarely leave a practice and move on if they are happy with their dentist. Consider that most people who call your practice are recycled patients who, with the exception of having just moved to the area or their dentist has retired, have likely not had their needs or expectations met.

In a recent Facilitator Study Club teleconference, we discussed this topic and gathered a list of some expectations patients might typically have:

Time: How much time do they think it will take? Do they want an appointment quickly? Do they want to get in and get out quickly or do they want the dentist to spend a lot of time explaining or answering questions?

Conditions and treatment: What do they believe the dentist will find? What do they hope the dentist will find? What do they believe the solution will be?

Pain or discomfort: Do they think it will hurt? Do they expect it not to hurt? Are they hoping to have sedation?

The practice: Do they expect simply the basics or do they anticipate amenities like refreshments, entertainment options, warm blankets and the like? What about clinical standards?

Communication: How do they expect to be treated? Do they have a certain way they wish to be addressed? Are they accustomed to getting a reminder call, or text, or email about their next appointment? Do they like to interact socially or prefer you cut to the chase? Would they prefer more specifics and detail or just the bottom line?

Fees: How much do they believe it will cost? What are they prepared to pay? What role are they thinking insurance will play in their decision-making? How do they expect to pay for their treatment?

I’m sure you can come up with your own extensive list.

If you don’t know what your patient’s expectations are, how will you ever be able to meet, or better yet, exceed them? You would hate to find out what those expectations are by disappointing them. And more important, if your patient’s expectations are unrealistic, you would want to know sooner rather than later so you can prevent misunderstandings before they occur.

Your patients will tell you their expectations if they believe you:

1)    are genuinely interested

2)    will do your best to meet or exceed those expectations

How do you find out? The natural answer is YOU ASK.  But as simple as this sounds, it is often overlooked and not practiced consistently.  We see this play itself out in practices all the time. Team members guess, make things up, base it on assumptions, which are based on previous experiences with patients. Our own personal expectations or preferences may also play into our assumptions.

And because some patients may not be good at expressing their expectations without prompting, it is essential for you to create a curious culture and a framework for finding out. Make time at the onset of the relationship to have a conversation with your patient about what they expect and come to an understanding about what you can and, in some cases, cannot do. Don’t hand them a form to fill out. Instead, you might use a questionnaire as a guide to help you in this process. (If you would like a sample questionnaire, email me). Allocate time in the schedule for these conversations and assign the responsibility to the most behaviorally gifted person on your team. Provide this team member with additional support and training as well as the private space in which to have these conversations with patients.

The fact that you work at understanding your patients in this way sets you apart from most other practices. Through this information-gathering conversation, patients become clearer about what is important to them, you become clearer about how to serve them better and you establish the foundation of a strong relationship with more successful outcomes. Less patients will move on to be recycled again somewhere else.

NEXT TIME: Conveying practice expectations to patients.

Contact me for a copy of our sample questionnaire or to learn more about the Facilitator Study Club,

Why Dialing for Dollars Doesn’t Work

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Recently, ProSynergy added a new phone line. As you probably know, there is a period of time before the number gets added to the “Do Not Call” list, and during this time, we have received more than our fair share of marketing calls. First of all, the callers struggle with pronouncing my name. With the last name, “Head”, you would be surprised how many times they get it wrong!  They are hesitant, sound like they are reading a script or have rehearsed a couple of lines, and just want to get to the next call. I want them to move on too!

Why do these types of calls annoy us so much? I find them impersonal, the timing is never good and what they have to say is irrelevant to me. In many ways, follow up calls to patients are very much like telemarketing. Why else would we call it “Dialing for Dollars”?

Because the economy is not as good as we would like and people’s financial situations are challenging –  many patients may be choosing to delay dental care they perceive as not vital or that can wait until times get better. Others may be putting off even basic care that is not urgent. Of course, we want our patients to re-think that strategy and in some cases there is a lot of pressure being put on staff, usually the “front desk” or the scheduling coordinator, to call and “get people in.” Thus, the DENTAL TELEMARKETER is born.

Team members,who experience the frustration of calling patients and not getting them to answer and leaving endless voice mails without returned calls are likely to question whether this futile effort is worth their time. And they would be right to wonder.

Let’s examine this a little closer. The first thing you must understand is that your financial anxiety cannot be laid on your patients. When dentists get fearful about the “holes” in the schedule they put pressure on the staff to fill them – as if it were merely a matter of calling the thousands of people who have been dying to get in but who have been put on hold by the practice. Let’s be honest. The only people who will respond to this kind of approach are those who have asked either to come in sooner or be seen at a time more convenient to them. It is a wanted call that delivers a wanted service. No problem here.

But for those other patients who, for one reason or another have chosen to put their care on hold, the call – leave a message – rinse – repeat approach will do the opposite. It will discourage people from following up with you when their circumstances do change.

Let’s think like our patient for a moment; Things are a little tight right now. You have some dental concerns and Dr. Baker has offered some solutions. You agree with his recommendations and you’d like to proceed but you heard layoffs are coming at work. You share this with him and, buying a little time, you mentally put it on the back burner.

Two months later, although you didn’t get laid off, your car is towed to the repair shop for some needed repairs at about the same time you get a message on your voicemail from Barbara, Dr. Baker’s receptionist:

“Donald, this is Barbara from Dr. Baker’s office. I’m calling to see if you’re ready to schedule those crowns yet. We are concerned about your dental health and what could happen if you neglected this needed care. Please give me a call to make your appointment.”

Ugh. The car thing is something you hadn’t planned in your budget and since your teeth aren’t hurting, you’ll have to wait on the dental work.   A month later, you see on caller ID that it’s Dr. Baker’s office again. The voice message she leaves pretty much says the same thing. You’re still paying off the car repairs and now your visit with the hygienist is coming up. If you go, you know they will ask you again to schedule the crowns and you really aren’t up to having that conversation. You begin to feel guilty because you hate to disappoint Dr. Baker but you don’t know how to tell him “no” without hurting his feelings.

Then you decide to call after hours one night to cancel your hygiene appointment saying that something has come up and you will have to call them back to reschedule. Now you are avoiding the calls to reschedule your hygiene appointment!

Crown call. Hygiene call. Crown call. And you can pretty much guess they are not happy with you now. You ignore them all.

Several months later, work is going well. In fact, you’ve gotten a promotion. The bill for the car repairs is long gone. You are ready to take care of your mouth but you are so embarrassed that you just don’t know how you can face Barbara or Dr. Baker or your hygienist. Instead, you decide to start fresh and call a new dentist.

Another patient lost.

You can begin to understand how the method of calling, reminding and finally, nagging and guilting has caused another patient to leave. And it could easily have been avoided with a different, more effective approach.

Consider a personalized letter outlining the patient’s concerns, the doctor’s findings and recommendations and what the implications of the decision to delay might mean for them. By thoughtfully putting it in writing, it provides a relevant, clear opportunity for your patient to safely re-engage when the time is right. A detailed example follows:

Dear Donald,

We have been thinking about you lately, and since a bit of time has elapsed since we last spoke, we wanted to give you a written review of what is pending. You may remember that we made some recommendations when we saw you last April. At that time, you were quite concerned about the appearance of your front teeth, the food that was packing between your back teeth and the puffiness you were experiencing in your gums. We suggested the following:

*Porcelain veneers on your four upper front teeth which would replace the stained old fillings and eliminate the new decay that has formed around those fillings. If you choose this option, we will be able to not only stop the disease that is progressing but also create a beautiful appearance for your front teeth. We are concerned that delaying this will only make the situation more difficult to treat, and, of course, we would wish to avoid that if possible.

*An aggressive approach to battling the gum disease you have developed. We are as concerned as you are about this ongoing problem, and we believe the most appropriate clinical approach is to begin treating the disease before it gets worse (which you know it inevitably will do, if left untreated) and causes other problems you wish to avoid. The treatment would consist of four sessions with Jean, our dental hygienist who would deliver thorough yet comfortable therapy. We remain concerned that in delaying this treatment, your disease may progress and be harder to treat.

*Gold crowns for those four teeth in the back which are allowing food to be caught and annoying you to no end. New crowns will solve this problem by making sure there is enough space between teeth for you to clean yet not so much as to allow normal chewing to pack food into the gaps. While this is not the most pressing situation for you, this situation can contribute to further decay and gum problems if left unaddressed.

Donald, we certainly want to offer you the right help at the right time. From a clinical perspective, the time is now, for none of these problems, or the conditions that are causing them, will get better on their own.

Perhaps there are some personal issues which have made it difficult for you to choose this care for yourself right now. If that is the case, we may be able to suggest an interim approach to getting your disease under control until you can opt for the more long-lasting and durable solutions. Of course, we can only help you if share with us what you are thinking now, so I hope you will take this letter as encouragement to call for an appointment to re-evaluate your condition and strategize with us.

I have asked Barbara to give you a call in a few days to follow up and learn what you are thinking at this point, so I do hope you will respond to her call.

Best regards,

Dr. Randy Baker

PS – Please let us know if this is not the right time for you so we can look for another approach which might work better. While we have expertise on clinical matters, only you know what will fit into your life. For these reasons, you will always be in charge of the timing that will best suit you.

More work? Yes.  Lost patient? Highly unlikely.

This approach to contacting and maintaining an open link of communication with your patients will give you a better chance of helping them when they are ready.

Dialing for dollars? Leave that to the telemarketers.


			

Using video to market your practice

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Lately, I have been asked about new and innovative ways to more successfully promote and market a dental practice. Aside from the traditional channels of advertising and the somewhat still-controversial idea of television commercials, I encourage you to consider the many other ways in which video can be a useful tool. Consider these convincing statistics:

Did you know that YouTube is the #2 search engine? And video results from YouTube will show up in Google search results, boosting your SEO rankings.

A Pew research study showed that Emails containing video received, on average, a 5.6 percent higher open rate, and a 96.38 percent higher click-through rate than non-video emails.

According to the BIA Kelsey Group, viewers engage more after watching a video, with clicks for more information increasing by 30-40% and phone inquiries by 16-20%.

A DoubleClick survey revealed web video based advertisements saw their brand awareness improve amongst its audience by 10% more than standard print or audio ad formats. DoubleClick also noted that audiences appeared to favor the businesses with web video content much more than those without.

Video can help your practice stay connected and relevant. Video can raise your credibility, send a message, attract, educate and inform. Consumers respond favorably to video, especially if it is executed well.  If they are “just looking”, a video gives them a sense of what to expect before they pick up the phone or walk into your practice. It is a safe way for your prospective patient to peak inside your door and get to know you and your team in a new dimension that goes beyond a traditional web site, print ads or photos.

How often do you implement this amazing tool in your practice?  If you are, bravo! Read on to discover some uses you may not have thought of and if you would like to learn how to improve the quality of your programs, contact me using the form below this blog. If you aren’t using video, think about the ways in which video can enhance your practice’s marketing efforts.

Consider these examples of videos you might create:

1) Dentist introduction to the practice
Personal introduction to viewers: The spokesperson style delivery is presented directly to the camera (viewer). Use this technique if you are comfortable with speaking in front of a group and you present well.  The camera can be more intimidating than an audience but the beauty is that if you make a mistake, you can do it again.

Interview style: This is an edited version of an interview with the dentist that gives a sense of your personality and style. This is a great alternative for those individuals who are uncomfortable doing a spokesperson-type delivery. With this style, you will need to edit the content. There are consumer video editing options available but if you don’t have the expertise, you would be better served by getting a professional to help you edit the piece.

Caution: If you still aren’t pleased with your performance, use the medium in other areas that shine. Do not use a video for video’s sake. It can do more harm than good.

2) Special subject videos
You may also expand outside a simple introduction to the practice and create an entire library of videos discussing a variety of subjects. Any one of your team members can present these segments. Start small and test the water first. For instance, one idea we recently discussed with an orthodontist was an instructional trouble-shooting video for parents and patients with broken wires or brackets.

3) Hygienist: How I help you stay healthy
If you have a hygienist who is personable and passionate about her work, chances are she will be comfortable doing a video. This is a great way to showcase the expertise of your hygienist and raise the value of her role in the practice.

4) Patient Liaison/Coordinator: What you can expect
This should be presented by the person likely to answer the phone and work with new patients.  You must have someone who is warm, engaging and comfortable with herself. They will likely have little trouble creating a video and may be a great alternative if the dentist lacks the on camera charisma to present well to new patients.

The most successful liaison/coordinator video is presented spokesperson style, directly to the camera/viewer.

5) Virtual tour of the practice
What a great way for prospective patients to visit your practice. This can be a simple walk through the practice with pans of each area. Add music and you’re done. They get to see your reception area, your clinical area, and the environment in which you work. If your practice is clean, uncluttered and attractive, this is a nice marketing tool. If your place is cluttered, cramped, dark, or needs the expertise of an interior decorator, skip this for now and focus on improving the look of your physical plant.

6) New patient discovery process
In so many cases, patients are disconnected and uninformed about their conditions and do not have an ownership of their problems. And for most people, listening, participating and retaining information is difficult when one is reclined, mouth open and a light shining in their eyes. A video can be a powerful tool to help patients become engaged in the process and take ownership of their conditions. With the use of an intra-oral camera and simple headset or wireless lav microphone, the dentist can record the discovery process during the patient’s first visit. Add a simple pre-recorded introduction along with the recorded oral findings, burn a DVD copy and the patient leaves the first visit with a personal account of the discovery process. How many dentists do you think provide this valuable service? How might your patients respond to this level of service?

7) Happy patient testimonials
There is nothing more valuable than hearing someone’s positive story and how thrilled he or she is with your practice. Conducted interview-style, patients can provide viewers with a unique and independent perspective. Keep on the lookout for patients that are outgoing, attractive and will come across believable and natural on camera.

Patients will be most excited about their experience just after the two of you have completed your work together. Make sure you have them sign a release allowing you to use their testimonials.  You may want to set aside a special time to conduct several interviews and combine it with an appreciation reception for a select group of patients.

CAUTION: You do not want to violate confidentiality so avoid using your patient’s full name when identifying them in your video.

8)Pre-treatment Interviews
We know Before and After photos are valuable but Before and After videos are photos on steroids. Pre- and post-treatment interviews can provide a complete picture of the patient’s journey. Viewers can relate more fully as they see and hear from a patient who is about to start treatment and can follow him through the process.

One caution: Conduct these interviews only after you have reached an agreement on treatment and financial arrangements. You do not want to manipulate the patient into going ahead with treatment by using the video as a commitment tool. Instead, get the patient’s permission after arrangements have been agreed upon and finalized, and plan the interview for the day treatment begins.

9) Document special events
Tooth Fairy Day, Free Dentistry Day, a visit to the local pre-school to teach children about brushing, and other special events should be documented and included in your marketing mix. They are powerful tools that can easily be uploaded to YouTube and linked to your Facebook page or distributed to media outlets to increase the public’s awareness of the contributions you make in your community.

Distribution avenues:
So how might you use the video content? There are two avenues: web-based and hard copy distribution.

Web based distribution:
Web site:
You can plan for and post your videos on various pages of your web site.

Social networks:
Post your videos on your Facebook fan page or blog or YouTube site and create buzz. Provide links for your collaborative web partners to post on their pages too.

Hard copy distribution:
Design a DVD, or mini DVD business card that features several of your videos in an interactive format. Viewers can pick and choose what to watch based on what is relevant to them. These marketing pieces can be distributed in various venues:

-Health fairs or other community events
-Offer as part of a welcome package to the area
-Provide to your referring doctors to distribute to their patients
-Leave at health clubs, spas, urgent care facilities, etc. for people to pick up

Video can be a valuable marketing tool. It can set you apart in the marketplace. Start small, experiment and implement slowly. You will never look back.

If you would like to start the process of implementing video in your practice,  request a copy of  my HOW TO production tips: The Dentist’s Guide to Video Production

 

Reconnecting with Wayward Dental Patients

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Once a month, we teleconference with a group of dedicated Patient Care Coordinators, Facilitators – team members whose primary role is to work with patients and help them make choices about their care. During our Facilitator Study Club, these smart women come up with some great case studies for our learning and contribute great ideas for being more successful with patients.

Our November discussion had to do with the most appropriate ways to follow-up with patients without being aggressive or overbearing. They wanted to know; when is too much? And what are the most effective ways to connect with patients outside the practice? What came out of our discussion were some helpful ideas that I wanted to pass along.

First, what may be appropriate for one patient may not work for another patient. There are some generational and lifestyle differences that may determine the way in which a patient responds. For instance, an older person might appreciate a personal phone call. The elderly woman who lives with her cats might be much more receptive to a call and return a phone message than the busy single mom who works full-time. The graduate student may respond to a text or email while your voicemail message will go unanswered.

How do you know what might work best and when?  You ask – preferably at the beginning of the relationship. Simply state that there will be times when you will want to follow-up with them about treatment or appointments and ask what he or she prefers. If treatment isn’t scheduled on the day the patient is in the practice, ask them when, how, and how often they wish you to follow-up.

If you are following up in the hope that your patient schedules treatment, it will require more than a phone call or text.  We all have busy lives and forget about things so you will want to provide more details than simply; “We are concerned about your dental care and are calling to schedule your treatment”. An effective tool, regardless of your patient’s age or lifestyle, is a letter. Patients often don’t easily comprehend examination findings at the time they are discovered, and usually aren’t presented with a review in a way that is easy for them to understand. The environment for learning about their condition is less than optimal. The office offers distractions. They may be fearful, worried about finances, or not very motivated at the time. And even though your examination may have been quite thorough and engaging, what was discussed is often lost with the passage of time. A letter with a simple recap can help jog their memory and encourage them to reconsider your recommendations. We have also found that although they may not respond the very day they receive it, the letter rarely goes in the trash. They set it aside for reference when they are ready to take action.

The key things to remember when composing the letter are:

1) Be sincere

2) Make it personal and relevant

3) Write it in easy-to-understand language

4) Encourage action

It needn’t be long and detailed. The point is to recap where you left off with the patient, what they expressed concern about/interest in (OUTCOME), and the implications of doing nothing. Also, hand write the address when you send it. This insures that they will open it. Here’s an example:

Patient follow-up letter

Notice that the letter asks the patient to call the practice.  This hands the responsibility back to the patient. Even though the letter encourages the patient to call the practice, you may opt to make a follow-up call/text/email about a week or two after the letter is sent. A simple, “Just following up on the letter I sent you” will do, with an invitation to call if they wish to make an appointment or have additional questions.

Give it a try and see whether this helps bring some results. Let me know what happens.

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