Dentists can help to identify patients who are in danger of dying of a heart attack or stroke, reveals a recent Swedish study from the Sahlgrenska Academy. Thanks to the study, six men who thought they were completely healthy were able to start preventive treatment in time.
Dentists are really proud of their profession and feel no need to encroach upon doctors' territory," says senior dental officer and professor Mats Jontell at the Sahlgrenska Academy. "However, we wanted to find out if we as a profession could identify patients at risk of cardiovascular disease."
The study involved 200 men and women over the age of 45 who did not have any known cardiovascular problems. During a routine visit to their normal dentists in Borås and Gothenburg they were also checked out for known risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
"These risk factors are not normally manifested in the mouth, which is why the dentists went beyond their normal check-up routine," says Jontell. "They also took the patients' blood pressure and checked total cholesterol and blood sugar levels."
The risk of a fatal cardiovascular disease was calculated using software known as HeartScore. The dentists felt that twelve men had a ten per cent risk of developing a fatal cardiovascular disease over the next ten years and advised them to see their doctors. Six of the twelve were subsequently prescribed medication to lower their blood pressure.
"Dentists regularly see a very large percentage of the Swedish population, and if there is sufficient interest they could also screen for cardiovascular risk factors which, untreated, could lead to a heart attack or stroke," says Jontell.
There are certain necessary steps that need to be taken, in order to get all the new patients you could ever imagine. Take these steps and enjoy the ride.
There are a ZILLION ways to increase new patient flow. Not literally of course, but there are more ways than 20 pages of 12 point text can hold, let’s put it that way.
To have a steady flow of new patients ready, willing and able to pay your fees (and I hope your fees are HIGH so you actually enjoy practicing dentistry), you have to do what is often referred to as an economical, innovative, simultaneous and massive action.
You CANNOT do just one or two things at a time and expect to have more patients than you can handle. It doesn’t work that way. You have to be overwhelmed and wondering where to put those that are calling. You have to have an abundance of patients demanding your services. This happens when you get off your rusty dusty and DO/GET more than one way working for you. Preferably a half dozen or more since two or three will carry the weight/freight and deliver the large majority of those patients you need.
Here are four ways to increase new patient flow.
1. Free Standing Inserts: Once a month or more place a full-page, 8.5” × 11” sheet of paper inside your daily newspaper (almost ALWAYS on Tuesdays).
Every time you do this, you generate patients with a cost of $25 to $100 per patient. Can’t beat it. You always have an offer, testimonials, a great headline, a relevant photo, and so on. The ONLY thing you do is prepare an electronic file for the printing company you work with.
You send the electronic file to your printer. They print the inserts and deliver them to the newspaper. The newspaper then inserts it on the day of their choice. You generally have 15,000 or so inserted into the newspaper for a cost of about $0.08 each. WHERE else can you get 15,000 flyers in the hands of people who like to read?
Your local paper is about one of your only options. To me, it’s one of the best values in advertising today.
2. Newsletters: In my world, patient newsletters are the easiest way to generate new patient referrals without any effort on your part. Referrals are the best new patients you can ask for, and we all know that already.
They feel like they already have an established relationship with you and trust you. You can’t BUY that kind of respect and trust and it’s important you respect it and use it to your advantage by encouraging your patients to refer more often and reward them and recognize them when they DO refer. Positive reinforcement, right?
In your newsletter, there are very specific actions you should be taking to generate the best return on your investment. Your results will be spectacular, especially considering how little it requires from you and your team (a trivial few minutes each month spent by an appointed team member).
Plan and budget for spending each and every month to KEEP your best patients in your practice. If you don’t they WILL go somewhere else. This is just one of the very important contact points to keep going 12 months in a row, year-long.
3. Referral Letters: I like referral letters. They are easy, to the point, and frankly, they work. Three of my clients sent out one such referral letter to all of their A & B patients, asking gently, for their assistance this summer in keeping them busy (the best story to tell is the truth, right?). This is cheap to do. It’s straightforward and can be done in a matter of minutes by one of your team members.
4. Endorsed Mailings: These are really easy, again, no-brainers. Here’s the principle behind them - You find another local business person that has customers you’d like to have since they could easily mimic the customers you already have.
If all of your patients are females age 40 to 50 and without kids and there’s a divorce attorney in town that specializes in representing women in that age bracket in divorce cases without kids, there’s a match, right? So you simply ask the attorney to lunch, let them know you have the kind of clients each other wants and see if you can work out a joint marketing effort. If you both are doing newsletter article submission, it’s real easy and you can just insert a flyer (your free-standing insert from above should work). This kind of thing works well with high-end car dealers as well.
One of my local clients does this once a year with the local Mercedes dealership. They ALWAYS pick up some great patients at or near ZERO cost and they are great folks especially since they like to spoil themselves!
The most successful practices don’t make marketing decisions. They don’t have to. The most successful practices have a marketing plan, and a system.
Have you ever given any thought to franchising? Some of the most successful companies don’t expand by building more stores. They sell franchises.
The franchisor sells a recognizable name with its accompanying goodwill.
The franchisee buys a system. He/she pays handsomely to use the names, and proven systems of such companies as Hardees, 24-Hour Fitness, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Baskin Robins, or One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning.
Those systems provide consistency. Consistency in product and service, and consistency in customer contact, including marketing.
The power of frequency
Every media sales representative will explain the importance of frequency of repetition of your marketing message. They’re right. A message not repeated is quickly forgotten. But, a dozen repetitions in a single day followed by four weeks of no contact is also quickly forgotten.
Consistency of message is as important as consistency in customer service. Or patient care.
Consistent high frequency of contact creates top of mind awareness. It increases the odds that when someone thinks “dentist,” Dr. Cuspid’s name is the one that comes to mind. Whether that person needs dental services herself, or is being asked for a referral, he/she thinks of Dr. Cuspid. Top of mind awareness is effective even when the person has no first hand experience.
But consistent frequency doesn’t necessarily mean buying more ads.
Create a system
Most practices have used simple tactics to make additional contact with patients. They’ve sent notes, made follow-up calls, mailed newsletters, but they don’t do it consistently. And those efforts are forgotten.
But a system keeps these, and other contacts, happen on schedule. No patient is forgotten. No step is skipped.
1. New patient, referred by a current patient, calls for appointment.
2. New patient receives a new patient information packet.
3. Dr. Cuspid personally calls and introduces himself to the patient.
4. The patient comes in for initial exam, and is warmly greeted by the receptionist.
5. Patient sees framed testimonials from other satisfied patients.
6. Patient schedules second appointment for treatment.
7. The patient receives a “thank you note,” signed by the entire staff.
8. The patient receives a postcard reminder of his treatment appointment several days in advance.
9. The patient receives a telephone reminder the day before his appointment.
10. The patient is greeted by name at treatment appointment.
Are we done?
Doctor Cuspid’s staff also sends a handwritten thank you note, and a coffee cup with the practice’s logo to the patient who originally made the referral. This also happens automatically, because the doctor has a system in place.
Do you have a system for frequent, consistent patient contact? Shouldn’t you?
Would you ever advertise for your competitor’s benefit? It might be the smartest way to grow your own practice.
Here ’s the scenario: You’re booked one and a half months out, new patients are calling (about one a day) and you just can’t seem to catch up with all the treatments you have diagnosed…What do you do?
Well, the answer I get most often is to STOP MARKETING. Why have patients call when they have to wait two months just to get in for their first appointment. It seems better to stop marketing, and start up again when you need patients.
There is one very important thing to consider when you decide to stop marketing. Some call it the snowball effect, I call it MARKETING MOMENTUM.
Newton’s First Law of Motion
Every object in a state of motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it. This simply means if something is moving or standing still, it will continue moving or standing still unless a force is applied. A force like friction, gravity, or a physical push.
When a doctor starts up a marketing program, I talk about average results, the momentum, and what they will see happen in the next few months. They’ll see schedules start to fill up, and patients will seem to “drop out of the sky.”
These same patients can’t wait to start treatment, and pretty soon you’re booked solid, whether it is directly traced to the program or not.
When you put a marketing program in place that is hands-free, simple, and consistent, it creates a buzz, an excitement both inside and outside the office, and things start gaining momentum. You’ve put an object in motion, and as long as you continue that object will stay in motion.
Think of Your Marketing as a Playground Swing
You push at timed intervals and the swing goes higher and higher. Finally, you’ve reached the highest the swing will go, so you stop pushing. The momentum of the swing dies down until eventually it comes to a stop.
It takes a lot more energy to get that swing back up to the top again rather than the small amount of effort it took once you had things going.
Back to dentistry; you still have a problem with booking people two months out. This is a problem many practices would love to have, and frankly, it’s not a problem at all, but another marketing tool. One of the biggest selling points of a practice is its exclusivity.
You now have a schedule that is booked solid for two months, it doesn’t get more exclusive than that.
When patients look at it, they’ll ask themselves what dental practice they would rather go to; the one that has no patients, or the one that is so good, it has patients lined up at the door.
I personally would choose the latter option, because that practice must be good and must be doing something right. And trust me; people don’t mind waiting to go to the dentist. In fact, people love to wait for anything, just look at the line for Starbucks every morning.
So You Want to Stop the Marketing to Catch Up with Your Schedule
Here’s what happens:
The patients that would have called your practice, scheduled, and waited to be seen are now going to the dentist across the street (your direct competition). This does accomplish your goal and your schedule empties out.
Congratulations; the patient flow has now ceased to exist, and now, not only are you not booked out two months, but you now have the openings to schedule same-day appointments (if a patient calls) because you stopped marketing for new patients a few months ago.
Now you struggle to fill a day's schedule, pay a front office worker and hygienist full-time pay to sit around through the empty appointments, and, to top it all off, the dentist across the street is booked two months out, and every time you look out the window they have new patients coming in.
The worst part is, your marketing momentum has now stopped. In order to increase the new patient flow to the same level it was, you’ll have to make a big push.
Just think how great it is to show up at the practice and know you have a full schedule every day for the next couple months. Sounds like a perfect practice to me. Why would you want to stop it?
What is the answer to your problem?
· Instead of stopping the new patient flow, you could hire some help, or add a day to the schedule
· If it got really bad and you really didn’t want patients, you could even refer them to another practice
· Do anything but stop the flow of new patients. There is no quicker way to kill a practice