Maintaining a steady stream of new patients has always been important to the success of a dental practice, but COVID-19 has given this need new urgency. Chances are your practice is suffering from patient attrition in the aftermath of coronavirus pandemic-related closures. According to ADA data, just 34% of practices are back to pre-COVID levels of business.
No wonder the ADA Health Policy Institute projected U.S. dental care spending to decline between 31% and 38% this year. How can you prevent your practice from becoming a statistic? Try these strategies to attract new patients.
Step 1: Push patients to contact you
Getting patients to call your office is all about your online presence. When patients look for a new dentist, they go online—so make sure your practice’s website is optimized for search. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to find keywords that are popular in searches, and sprinkle them throughout your website tags and content. Be sure to use geographic keywords tied in to your location, since most patients want dentists near their homes.
In addition to being search engine optimized, your website should also be easy to navigate on both desktop and phone. One simple step that can make a big difference: Put the office’s contact information, including phone number, address and email, at the top of the site, where it can easily be seen. Consider adding self-scheduling functionality to your website for patients who prefer not to deal with making a phone call.
The last ingredient in your online presence is online patient reviews. Before new patients decide to visit your office, they want to know what other patients are saying about you. Your goal: Get plenty of good reviews and keep them coming. If your reviews are all from 2017, people will wonder why no one’s had anything good to say about you since then! Lighthouse 360 can help automate the practice of encouraging reviews. Use it to text or email patients and ask for reviews on Google, one of the most important review sites. Keep your reviews relevant to the times—for example, you can ask reviewers to mention your infection control procedures or other aspects that made them feel comfortable in your office.
Step 2. Get patients in the door
What do successful dental practices have in common? They capture more of the patients who contact their offices, according to ongoing research by the Levin Group Data Center. At less-successful practices, Levin Group found, as many as 20% of new patients who call don’t make an appointment, and as many as 20% of new patients who make appointments don’t show up for them.
The difference is that successful practices convey their value in the first call, convincing patients to make—and keep—appointments. How can you do that? In today’s times, promoting your commitment to safety can make a big impression. Lighthouse 360 makes it easy to create a “virtual waiting room” that protects both patients and staff. For example, paperless patient registration with Patient FastTrack allows new patients to register before they arrive at the office, reducing exposure and wait time.
You can use Lighthouse 360’s patient communication features, including texting, calling and emails, to educate new patients about your COVID-19 infection control policies and what to expect at their first appointment. Automated appointment reminders and confirmations help to minimize no-shows.
Step 3. Turn new patients into return patients
A new patient’s first appointment is only the beginning. In order to build a lasting relationship, you’ve got to create a memorable patient experience that keeps new patients coming back. Make a follow-up appointment before they leave the office. Follow up with a new patient the day after their appointment to see how they’re doing—with Lighthouse 360, you can use phone, text, email or whatever communication method they prefer to thank them for their business. Be sure to add the new patient to Lighthouse 360’s automated recall, appointment reminder and treatment plan messaging, too.
Dentists are facing challenging times, but by following a few simple principles, you can keep new patients coming to your practice and turn them into long-time patients.
This article is paid for by Lighthouse 360, Inc. You should not rely upon the material or information provided by Lighthouse as a basis of making any decisions without the proper legal or other professional advice specific to your situation as needed. Certain components of the products or services described above are provided by third parties. Lighthouse 360, Inc and its affiliates are not responsible for, and expressly disclaim, all liability for damages of any kind arising out of the use of those third-party products or services.