Labeling the average dental practice as “busy” is a drastic understatement. I have talked to dentists that only have a handful of new patients coming in every month, that are on the verge of due shutting down due to lack of production, but everyone in the practice is still working hard all day, every day.
I believe that the busyness of the average dental practice directly negatively affects the business of that practice. This is because it is hard to see improvements that can be made to work more efficiently and effectively when you are “in the trenches” of the daily grind (a term that is astoundingly appropriate at describing what it is like working in a modern practice).
While we work to close our margins, match our shades and remove all that calculus every day for our patients, our world has been rapidly transforming.
Take, for example, the relatively obvious result of a recent Cedar study that 61% of patients aged 18 to 24 consider switching providers over a poor digital experience. The same study also showed that over 1 in 5 patients aged over-65 population would also consider switching doctors due to a poor digital experience.
It is important to note that the “digital experience” that Cedar was surveying is likely quite different from what the average dental professional thinks it is. The patient digital experience has very little to do with how we deliver our care, and everything to do with how convenient we make our care available to patients.
The digital experience that patients require today are relatively simple technologies that are available everywhere else our patients go from restaurants, auto body shops and even other traditional institutions like schools. Technologies that allow for easy payment solutions, transparent pricing, convenient communication and easy access to records are expected today by most of our patients.
It doesn’t matter how we in dentistry feel about this change, if we do not react and implement these technologies, we are the ones that will be left wondering why we are getting negative reviews, employees leaving and low profits.
Now is the time to implement the same conveniences that we expect of other businesses into our own. Frankly, it is past time. Our research shows that over 85% of dental practices lack at least one major convenience that patients are looking for today, be that paperless forms, online payments or a mobile friendly website. A shocking number of offices don’t even have a website or social media presence.
In my opinion we, as dental professionals, have a responsibility to do what we can to elevate the oral health of the patients we serve, yet we all know that approximately 50% of the population does not see a dentist regularly. In today’s world, I believe that the biggest barriers to patients not receiving the care they desire is not cost, accessibility or education. I believe it is making dentistry more convenient and comfortable.
I know many would argue that it is the cost of dentistry that is the “problem” (especially patients), yet the same patients have no problem buying the new iPhone, streaming service or cars, if you can even find them available. The reason why people can afford these services is that the providers have flexible pricing options and less costly options for people to choose from.
So, ultimately even the barrier of cost comes down to convenience.
I get it, you’re busy. Maybe too busy to implement the changes that your patients are demanding. The good news is that if you pause on incorporating these simple changes, you may have enough patients leave so you will have time to put them in place soon