As in any fast-paced industry, innovation plays a critical role in dentistry. Today’s dental practice owner is both entrepreneur and health practitioner, and adaptability in both roles is crucial to success. While it’s true that innovation can mean playing an endless game of “keeping up with the Joneses,” it doesn’t have to be expensive. There are several ways that dental practices can adapt to changing times and improve performance while sticking to a budget.
Innovations in treatment: Educate your staff and patients
When you think of innovative treatments, technology may take center stage in your mind. While it’s true that clinical technology is an important investment for any dental practice, there are ways to improve your quality of care without spending much.
Acknowledging the mouth–body connection is one way to provide better service, and all it takes is some training and a plan. By educating yourself and your staff, you’ll equip your office to provide more comprehensive care. So choose a topic and study up. A few examples:
- The TARGET Center says that dentists can help with early recognition of HIV infection. They can also provide better care to HIV-infected patients by being aware of how their medications affect oral health and what side effects their medical treatments may have.1
- The Oral Cancer Foundation reports that “a thorough, systemic examination of the mouth and neck need only take a few minutes and can detect [cancer] at an early and curable stage.”2
- Nutrition can play a big part in oral health, especially in children. Taking the time to discuss nutrition while counseling patients shows your commitment to personalized care and can help improve their overall health.
Consider training your dentists and hygienists to assist patients in recognizing early warning signs and dealing with health issues. This can be as simple as reading authoritative websites and articles, or you can invest in outside training.
Innovations in customer service: Show your patients you care
Although most dental practice owners go into dentistry for its clinical aspects, customer service is a huge part of growing a healthy business. Younger generations are gaining spending power and making their own health decisions. That means dental practices must adapt if they want to keep a strong customer base.
A no-cost way to retain patients and gain new ones is to provide outstanding, personalized service. It may not sound so innovative, but too many practices neglect this vital area. Making a few notes in a patient’s chart about his or her family, job, or hobbies will help you engage in friendly conversation at each appointment.
Also, consider whether your staffing situation is appropriate. Do you need more staff, fewer staff, or a change of staff to better suit your needs? Patients don’t like to wait, and they love friendly, personal service. If you need to add staff on a temporary or permanent basis, consider using a modern, cloud-based job-matching platform instead of a temp agency. Platforms like Cloud Dentistry might seem like a traditional staffing agency, but are different than the usual dental temp agency. Save time and money compared to traditional staffing firms. They also make it easier to choose the right person for the job.3
Staffing should be considered when it comes to specialty services, too. Today’s dental patients value seamless experiences. They have a limited amount of time. They’d rather not spend it tracking down specialists and going back and forth between offices. Large corporate practices may offer special procedures in house. Smaller practices may insource specialists, bringing them into the practice when they are needed. This keeps revenue in house and makes life easier for patients. Today’s advanced job matching platforms can help practices hire specialists on an as-needed basis.
Innovations in marketing: Meet your potential customers where they are
Any discussion of innovation in the twenty-first century must address the internet. There’s room for innovation in both online marketing and the way practices manage their internal data.
Pew Research reports that nine-tenths of American adults are online.4 Many of them use the internet for health research. According to a report in the Journal of the American Dental Association, “patients are directly accessing information on new dental care technologies and treatment methods, then coming to their dental appointments with questions on these new therapies.”5
For dental practices, this means more than just having a website. Innovation in online marketing is multi-faceted:
- An informative, user-friendly website is critical. Patients want to check out a practice online before they visit in person. It’s a great idea to include a blog that shows off your knowledge, highlights your customer service, and boosts your search engine ranking. Hire a web guru or research the process and do it yourself.
- Ranking high in search results can bring you business, but only if you’re targeting the right audience. A professional can ensure that your site uses the right keywords, has an optimal meta description, and targets a local audience. If money is tight, you or one of your tech-savvy employees can do this.
- Reviews can go a long way in growing (or damaging) your business. Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews on your business’ Facebook page, Google, and review sites like Yelp. You can even respond to reviews. It’s a great way to mitigate bad reviews, resolve issues for unhappy patients, and demonstrate to the public that you care.
- Content marketing is taking off. Building an online presence through blogging and social media can boost your business, but only if it’s done thoughtfully. Innovation is useful here. As with website creation and search engine optimization, you can hire an expert. Alternatively, you can do some research and optimize your corner of the web on your own.
Internally, your dental practice can take advantage of cloud technology. Transitioning from local servers to cloud-based services may save you money in the long run. If you’re still storing your data in your office, consider switching to a cloud-based service that takes care of maintenance. This change can also make accessing your files more convenient.
Consider your investment
Each practice is unique, of course. Before you take on any change, it’s prudent to analyze the costs and benefits. Innovation can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether you decide to take on loads of new technology or focus on wowing your patients with personal service, your practice can benefit from innovation at any level.
- Integrating HIV Innovative Practices. Module 1: Treating the Whole Patient — The Importance of Oral Health in Total Patient Care of PLWHA. TARGET Center website. http://ift.tt/2ockGsY. November 2013. Accessed February 11, 2017.
- The Oral Cancer Foundation. Cancer Screening Protocols. The Oral Cancer Foundation website. http://ift.tt/2olsN3l. Accessed February 11, 2017.
- Cloud Dentistry. Why Cloud Dentistry? Cloud Dentistry website. http://ift.tt/2ocFwIp. Accessed February 12, 2017.
- Pew Research Center. Internet/Broadband Fact Sheet. Pew Research Center website. http://ift.tt/2jskpzi. January 12, 2017. Accessed February 11, 2017.
- Douglass CW, Sheets CG. Patients’ Expectations For Oral Health Care In The 21st Century. The Journal of the American Dental Association. 2000;131:3S-7S. doi:10.14219/jada.archive.2000.0397.