When I first began working in dentistry in 1989, the marketplace was nowhere near as competitive as it is today. Not only are there more private practices and corporates around, but patients are also savvier. All of which means today’s practice needs to work that little bit harder to attract and retain patients.
One of the biggest changes that has happened in the 29 years since I began working as a Dental Nurse, is the rise of the internet and explosion of social media. Having a good website that creates the right first impression is absolutely vital as this will be the first contact that the majority of potential patients have with you.
Social media is also increasingly being used to search for businesses and services, such as dentistry, so making sure you have an attractive, up-to-date Facebook, Instagram or Twitter page is more important than ever.
There is so much competition in the market that patients can now afford to shop around and be choosy about which practice they attend – and they know it. Therefore, if an online search yields no results for your practice, or an unengaging website/social media account, you could be missing out on a key opportunity to grow your patient list.
Another area that’s seen a lot of change is that patients are now more aware of their options, they are also more focused on ensuring they receive value for their money. This means that providing an elevated patient experience is critical and something that will ensure you are the practice that patients choose to come to.
This investment doesn’t always need to be costly either. For example, providing review cards or short reports at the end of appointments that summarise what was discussed, can help patients to feel they are receiving more than they expected. You can also consider ways to present treatment plans that make you stand out from other practices in your area.
Providing a personalised service is also worth exploring as a way of helping patients feel their experience at your practice is a cut above. This can be as simple as ensuring you have a team meeting every morning where you discuss the day’s appointments and share any details about each patient that will enable the team to have well-informed conversations with them and be able to address them by name straight away.
Delivering this level of service has become easier over the years as the role of the practice manager has become more common, meaning there is now someone who’s main focus is on the business side of things. However, from my five years’ experience as a Practice Manager I know that the role can be fairly isolated and it is vital to have as much support as possible in order to effectively ensure the smooth running of the business and to stay compliant with regulatory requirements, such as CQC, GDC and GDPR.
Therefore, it is important to select the right suppliers to work with and ensure they are people who can not only provide you with a quality service, but also that you feel able to build a trusting relationship with them. Regular contact and consistent support from a partner that you are confident has the knowledge to advise you well, can be invaluable.
Dentistry has changed dramatically over the past three decades, and the increasing competitiveness of the market means it can be a challenge to ensure you stay one step ahead. However, I feel that this constant evolution is what many – including me – love about working in the profession, and feeds the desire to always improve, which can’t be a bad thing.