As she begins her 30th year working in dentistry, Jo Phillpot, Business Development Consultant at DPAS, reflects on the changes that have occurred and how the profession has adapted to meet them…
In 1989 Margaret Thatcher was still the Prime Minister, the EastEnders character Dirty Den seemingly died, and the Berlin Wall fell after 28 years. It was also the year I first began working in dentistry as a dental nurse – and yes, I am aware that this fact is not quite at the same level of cultural significance of the previous ones.
However, they are a reminder of just how much has changed in the past 30 years – since then we’ve had five more Prime Ministers and Dirty Den was resurrected from the dead. There have been some huge shifts within dentistry as well – such as the introduction of the CQC, the advancement of the corporate groups and NHS dental contract reform in England.
Some of these changes have meant that the way that dentists, and their teams, deliver dentistry and the way it is consumed by patients has changed dramatically. When I first began my career, people simply didn’t shop around for a dental practice – they went to the local NHS practice.
This is no longer the case. Now, patients are savvier about what they expect from their dental practice, and the NHS is no longer the default option as many patients choose to go private, perhaps in part as affordability has increased with the introduction of dental membership plans.
These changes mean dental practices have had to adapt the way they operate in order to continue thriving. Patients shopping around more and generally having higher expectations means that dental practices need to be more focused than ever on providing excellent customer service that goes above and beyond. Especially in private practice, patients want to feel they are getting value for money so not only does the clinical dentistry need to be of a high standard, so does every other aspect of their visit.
If you want your patients to feel that they are visiting a high-quality dental practice, every element of the practice needs to be on par with that standard, from the external signage, to the décor inside and the service they receive from each member of the team.
It’s also worth considering what you could do to ensure you stand out from the competition, which means it can be a good idea to know what it is that the other practices in your area are doing. You might want to do some ‘mystery shopping’, i.e. call them to see how they answer the phone or look at their website and social media to see what kind of services or offers they are running.
Websites and social media are another huge change to the profession over the past three decades. Back in 1989, the internet was in its infancy and social media hadn’t yet been launched. Now they are both used by billions across the world, and dental practices not only need to embrace them as an additional marketing tool but, as they are often a patient’s first interaction with your practice, they also need to be of a high quality that reflects the kind of service they can expect from you.
We may not be able to predict exactly what the future will hold in terms of changes in regulation or contractual reform – or, indeed, soap-star resurrections. But the emphasis on providing added value wherever possible to deliver a service that meets or exceeds your patients high expectations, is unlikely to disappear any time soon and can go a long way to attracting and retaining patients, and ensuring another 30 years of success.