Dental practices are dealing with two challenges this summer: making a comeback after COVID-19 shutdowns and dealing with the traditional “summer dip” in production and revenues. As of April 2021, 94% of consumers have either been back to the dentist or feel confident about returning, according to the ADA’s Health Policy Institute. But for many patients, other plans for their summer, such as a long-delayed family vacation, take precedence over seeing the dentist. Others are dealing with financial worries or job loss, and may not have dental insurance.
How can your practice avoid the summer dip and make this summer a productive one? Try these tips.
1. Focus on scheduling
During the COVID-19 crisis, many patients became unscheduled. Reactivating them is key to skipping the dip. Lighthouse 360’s automated messaging tools help with recall and reactivation by contacting dormant patients or those who are due for a hygiene appointment with automated texts, emails, phone calls and postcards that you can customize for your practice. Don’t be shy about increasing the frequency of messaging; patients may need some extra nudging to get back into their normal cadence of dentist visits.
2. Increase treatment acceptance
Every time a patient fails to complete treatment, your practice loses out on potential revenue. Ongoing research by the Levin Group Data Center shows that the top 10% of most successful practices have higher treatment acceptance rates compared to the average practice. Get the staff together to discuss what works and what doesn’t when presenting patients with treatment plans.
Sharing successful strategies can help improve your treatment plan presentations. For example, you may want to develop approaches tailored for different objections. Figure out the best tactics to convince patients who are concerned about cost, those who don’t have time for treatment, and those who need a lot of information before they make decisions. If, despite your best efforts, patients don’t schedule treatment at the time you present your recommendations, Lighthouse 360 can automate reminder messaging to help keep the treatment top of mind.
3. Offer more payment options
Many patients are still suffering from financial problems due to job loss or pandemic-related expenses. Expanded federal unemployment benefits will soon be coming to an end in many states. Unemployed patients may not have dental insurance. Providing a variety of ways to pay for dental care can help increase treatment acceptance among patients with financial struggles. For example, you may want to offer payment plans or accept third-party financing solutions such as CareCredit. Be sure to let your patients know about these choices when you explain treatment plans.
4. Consider expanded hours
If you don’t already offer evening, early morning or Saturday appointments, adding them to your schedule can help attract patients who find it difficult to come in during the 9-to-5 workday. Flexibility can help you capture more patients and keep your chairs full. Before making this decision, see if your staff is amenable to the change. You’d be surprised; some may appreciate the option to work different hours.
5. Solve the cancellation crisis
The no-show rate at the average dental practice is between 4% and 6%, Levin Group data reports. At the top 10% of practices, however, the no-show rate is less than 1%. No-shows typically worsen in summer. With children out of school and vacations on the calendar, patients’ schedules may be more chaotic than normal. Appointments may fall through the cracks, or patients may skip the dentist’s chair in favor of an impromptu day at the beach. Lighthouse 360’s Fill-in feature automatically detects and fills last-minute cancellations, keeping your chairs full without frantic calls to your wait list. In fact, Fill-in helps Lighthouse’s 11,000+ clients fill 1,250 broken hygiene appointments each week.
6. Use downtime to market your practice
When you do you have downtime during the summer, use it productively to tackle marketing tasks you put off during the busy season. Summer is the perfect time to:
- Improve your email marketing. Clean up your email list to remove outdated addresses and update it with current email addresses for all your patients. Review your library of email messages; if you need new ones, check out Lighthouse 360’s library of customizable templates. They’re designed specifically for dental offices, so you know they’ll get patients’ attention.
- Give your website a summer refresh. Make sure all the information on your website is correct and current. Highlight exciting new information, such as extended hours or new payment options. Consider adding online appointment scheduling—it’s convenient for you and your patients.
- Gather more patient reviews. Patient reviews are key to attracting new patients. Lighthouse 360 can automatically collect reviews from patients and post them to Google, Facebook and healthcare-specific directories such as Healthgrades, ZocDoc and WebMD. Use Lighthouse 360’s centralized dashboard to respond to any patient reviews you may not have commented on.
Summer downtime is the perfect time to implement new systems that can help make your practice more efficient and productive. Lighthouse 360 is one to consider. Put it to work for you, and you’ll soon find the summer dip is a thing of the past.