Consumerism: A Practice Trend That’s Here To Stay

February 2022 ISSUE February 1, 2022
Practice Management Industry Trends
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At our recent McGill & Hill Group Summit, Roger K. Hill* discussed how the growing trend of consumerism will affect the future of dentistry. Consumerism is defined as meeting your patients at their point of need or desire. In today’s economy, it’s characterized by companies like Uber, Amazon, Netflix, and DoorDash that offer convenience, access, and decentralization by providing customers with what they want, when they want it.

Consumerism is a relatively new, but rapidly growing trend in healthcare, especially in dentistry. It’s being quickly adopted by DSOs and larger groups and is here to stay. Hill says to be successful, you must not only understand your competition, but also adapt to it without lowering your quality of care. He recommends listening to the reasons your new patients gave you for why they left corporate practices for your practice (usually lack of personalized service, high-pressure sales, lack of continuity in care from rotating doctors and employees, and lack of team cohesiveness) and then review these reasons with your team to make sure your practice operates differently to maintain a competitive advantage.

Quality of Care

Your practice can maintain or improve its competitive advantage by offering the highest quality of care. Since it’s extremely difficult for patients to judge the quality of clinical care they receive, they base their assessment of your care primarily on how they are treated personally, by both the doctor and all team members. Accordingly, you need to focus on the quality of the patient experience and treat them like family.

Hill offers several suggestions to improve patients’ perception of your quality of care, and thereby build patient trust:

  • Make sure you spend adequate time with each patient to build a personal relationship and educate them about their dental needs.
  • Provide customized treatment options for patients using digital smile design software.
  • Add video educational content in your reception area and on your website.
  • Have the hygienist provide intra-oral camera photos to patients to confirm treatment recommendations.
  • Provide video testimonials from satisfied patients in your reception area and on your website.

The Growing Importance of Convenience

While providing the highest quality care is paramount, it’s also critical to provide added convenience for patients, just as your competitors do. Hill offers the following suggestions:

  • Offer expanded hours and days to allow patients to come in at times that work best for them, including early mornings and evenings. Offer customized hours for established patients who have large treatment plans or cases.
  • Provide cell numbers for the doctor and staff to established patients for easier access.
  • Implement text messaging to send appointment confirmations and reminders through services such as Switchbird. Make sure to collect mobile numbers from patients, adding a field on your intake form allowing patients to opt-in for text messages.
  • Join the 25% of doctors currently offering teledentistry services via Zoom or FaceTime. Progressive doctors are using this virtual technology and communication for triaging emergencies, post-op and follow-up care, consultations, and patient education. A number of orthodontists are routinely scheduling retention visits using this technology to provide greater convenience and efficiency.
  • Offer an online portal for patients to schedule appointments, ask questions, and complete their medical history information at their leisure.
  • Allow patients to pay and check their account balance online or from their mobile device. Allow online access to their patient file and treatment information.
  • Expand your services to provide patients with a one-stop solution for all of their dental care needs. This can be accomplished by taking additional CE to competently provide these procedures yourself or by bringing specialists in-house to provide them. Hill notes that 60% of patients referred out of the practice never begin care with an off-site specialty provider, which can cost you dearly in restorative treatment that’s never completed. Also, consider offering specialty services such as Botox, dermal fillers, and tooth whitening.
  • Offer 3-D printing and CEREC options to make custom crowns, orthodontic, and sleep apnea devices in-house, eliminating additional patient visits.
  • Become insurance friendly through accepting insurance assignment of benefits as a courtesy to patients.
  • Increase affordability of treatment by offering a low down payment (less than $500) and low monthly payments ($200 or less), provided payments are automatically charged to the patient’s credit card or by bank draft. This will improve affordability for patients, thereby eliminating financial objections and increasing case acceptance.
  • Consider offering chatbots on your website to provide oral health guidance, medication assistance, symptom reporting and early diagnostics, and even appointment scheduling and cancellations.
  • Incorporate mobile apps into your digital marketing to streamline the process of booking appointments or rescheduling, informing your patients about new technology, providing information about oral health and dental procedures, and offering loyalty programs to incentivize patients to try new services.

*For more information on practice transition services offered through Roger K. Hill & Company, a member of The McGill & Hill Group LLC, call 704.424.5626 or connect online.

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