Increase Case Acceptance with a Dental Patient Newsletter
A patient needs a treatment. You advise him of his options and explain why care is essential. You tell him that if he delays, the problem will get worse, and it may even become more expensive. You explain very clearly the details of the plan, and why you recommend such a course, compared with other options.
You recommend that he schedule an appointment to begin treatment, with a timeline based on the urgency of the problem and the patient’s level of discomfort. If he doesn’t schedule at that time, a member of your staff will probably call to follow up and encourage the patient to get started.
There are myriad reasons why patients choose not to take the action necessary to improve their dental health. This article explores some of those reasons and looks at the influence of patient newsletters to boost case acceptance. If increasing case acceptance is important to you, keep reading for useful and actionable tips.
Patient newsletters contribute to case acceptance in a number of very important ways. For your dental patients, newsletters
- provide valuable education
- help you keep in touch
- remind them of your expertise
- reinforce a sense of urgency in seeking treatment
- give a positive impression of your practice
- illustrate that your practice cares about their well-being
- help them feel good about you
Don’t skim over that last point too quickly, because as you’ll soon see, how your patients “feel” about your practice is a very big deal indeed.
Understand your patients’ motivators
When they consider their dental health and treatment options, would you say your patients are motivated more by facts or feelings? We explored this topic in the WPI Communications blog article “Are Your Patients Motivated by Fact or Emotion?” As we shared in that article, the average dental case acceptance rate is only 23%.
We’re sure you would like a much higher number for your practice.
That article shares some data from Michael Kesner, DDS, which revealed that only 15% of a patient’s decision to pursue treatment is based upon facts. That means, Dr. Kesner concludes, that 85% of treatment decisions are driven by emotion. These emotional drivers include how patients feel about the dentist, the staff, the office and their dental problem. Of course, this also includes their feelings about why they need the treatment and what will happen if they don’t follow through with it—at least not now. Let’s explore some of these emotional drivers in greater detail.
Emotional driver #1: How they feel about you, your staff and your office.
If your patient has any trust or comfort issues with your office or staff, he or she will be less inclined to pursue treatment. Factors range from poor communication to the perceived compassion of your staff and how organized and professional the patient considers your office to be. Taken together, these add up to how a patient “feels” about your practice. And they certainly add up to impact your bottom line, because each factor can have a big effect on case acceptance.
Emotional driver #2: How they feel about their dental problem.
Unless he’s in extreme pain or has an obvious cosmetic or structural issue, your patient will probably wonder if he really needs the treatment. And even if he knows he needs treatment, he may wonder if he really needs the potentially extensive and invasive plan you suggest.
We live in a world where we are constantly being “sold” something. This includes things we really don’t need. Daily, we seem to wade through exaggerated and false statements about products and services in search of what is true. While dentists have far more credibility than the many “opportunities” people have to be separated from their money, consider that your patients may be more skeptical than you’d like. Don’t take it personally, but consider the importance of demonstrating that treatment is a real need.
A simple truth
Let’s face it, no one wants to have dental work done. Even for those who very much need surgery or treatment, no one wants to deal with the inconvenience, time away from work and discomfort. That may seem like a fairly obvious fact, but it’s critical when we consider factors that drive patients to make decisions.
Influence these emotional drivers with a dental patient newsletter
You can influence these emotional drivers—how patients feel about you, your staff and your office, as well as how they feel about their dental problems—with a patient newsletter. A monthly newsletter sent to your current and lapsed patients keeps them thinking favorably about you. This is true whether it’s been two months or two years since you’ve seen them.
By including photographs of the dentists and staff, you project a warm and inviting tone that will shape how patients feel about your practice and your team. A regular newsletter also reinforces to your patients that you care about them and that their oral health is a priority for you and your team. All of these impressions influence how your patients feel about your practice.
Additionally, for those patients who have allowed treatment to lapse, whether it’s a significant case or routine maintenance, newsletters provide valuable reminders to get them back on track with their dental health.
Emotional driver #3: What will happen if they don’t follow through with it—at least not now?
Many dentists underestimate the importance of telling their patients how they will be negatively impacted if they choose not to have certain treatments. For the sake of your patients, as part of their education, you should present a full picture of the consequences of delaying or forgoing treatment. However, consider the low rate of case acceptance in dentistry at large, and we think you’ll agree: Education should not end in the dental office.
Dental newsletters are an easy and systematic way to reach patients regularly. This includes after they leave your office and are deciding what to do about treatment. Consider a periodontist who uses Perio Health eNewsletter. An easy-to-read, patient-focused article about scaling and root planing, or an article on the importance of treating gum disease before it gets worse will educate your patient when she’s out of your office and remind her that it’s in her best interest to follow your recommendations.
The same is true for articles in Dental Bites eNewsletter about the benefits of dental bridges, treating bruxism, and cracked tooth syndrome, to share a few examples.
Articles like these educate your patients on an ongoing basis about the benefits of following your treatment recommendations and illustrate why follow-through on your counsel is important. Dental newsletters educate patients, but they also influence the emotional motivators that play a critical role in patients’ treatment decisions.
As a dentist, you are a rational and pragmatic professional. The high degree of influence over patients’ emotional motivators may be surprising and even difficult to accept. This is particularly true because many dentists spend significant time and effort giving patients information to help them make a rational, informed decisions about their treatment. Patient education is essential, but also consider the influence of how the patient feels about you, your office and their dental condition.
How will they pay for it?
Cost is certainly a major factor to many patients. Depending on your patient base, it may be a top concern to most or even all of your patients. But the issue is greater than the total price of treatment. The patient is thinking, “How am I going to pay for this?” If the patient really believes they need the treatment and that it will improve their health and quality of life, he or she will be more inclined to take the action you recommend.
Cost is a rational driver, but don’t discount the importance of emotion. Take into account both emotional and rational factors when it comes to cost. Consider that we live in a culture where people frequently buy things they can’t afford and don’t really need, but unlike the too-big house or the designer clothes, they actually need the treatment you recommend.
Offer flexible financing
The National Association of Dental Plans reports that approximately 40% of Americans don’t have dental insurance. That large number may not be reflected in your practice, because those who don’t have insurance are far less likely to see a dentist for regular preventative examinations and other issues. Regardless of your ratio of insured versus uninsured, make it easier for all your patients to overcome cost objectives, and help them get the care they need by offering flexible payment options.
By offering such plans and interest-free financing to those who qualify, you make it easier for patients to answer the question of how they will pay for treatment. This benefits your patients and your practice.
Newsletters can educate on payment options
Does your practice offer payment options? If so, are your patients aware that you do? Maybe you’ve updated or made changes to your flexible options. Be sure you are educating your patients on the availability of payment options. This shows them that you and your team want to work with them and put their needs first, which goes a long way in shaping how they think and feel about your practice. That, in turn, will influence your case acceptance.
Your newsletter is a terrific forum to educate patients on financing options. You don’t have to go into great detail, but you can simply include a few lines reminding them that you offer financing. Never assume they know about these options—or that they are aware that they qualify.
Education extends beyond a specific dental condition
It’s no coincidence that your best-educated patients are often your best patients. Education improves case acceptance and keeps patients on track with appointments and treatments. Education helps you retain your client base and benefit from the referrals of satisfied, well-informed patients. We don’t have to tell you that such education is critical.
How effectively are you informing your patients about all the ways you can help them? Don’t assume they are knowledgeable about all the treatments you provide, especially those that you have recently introduced. This is true even of patients who have been with you for decades.
Imagine that one of your longtime patients chooses to undergo extensive cosmetic dentistry. She doesn’t even think to ask you because she doesn’t realize your practice can help her. Scenarios like this happen all the time, but if you’re proactive about patient education, they don’t have to happen to you. Also, by staying top-of-mind, your patients will be more likely to think of your practice when their friends need a dentist or have an oral health concern. Here are some ways to keep patients educated so they keep turning to you for treatment.
1. Educate in your newsletter. Outside your office, your newsletter is the best place to educate patients about your practice and their oral health. When your dental marketing newsletter is educational and easy to understand, your patients will read it. It should not be overly promotional, but patient-focused. You can and should use your newsletters to include practice announcements, such as changes in hours, insurance policies or new team members. To keep your patients well informed, consider a regular feature that highlights a specific treatment.
2. Give them a “check-up.” Dentists are focused professionals, and your time is limited. When treating patients, ask them about any dental or oral health concerns. Also ask if they have any dentistry-related goals. Is there anything they would like to achieve with their smile, comfort or confidence? You don’t need to push or imply that anything is wrong, but gentle questioning will give you important information.
Perhaps your patient has been considering an implant or dentures, or would like whiter teeth. If you don’t ask, there is a good chance you won’t know.
3. Ask hard questions, gently. Let’s get back to the patient who went elsewhere for cosmetic dentistry. Find out why she went outside your office for this. But make it light and conversational, not accusatory. The purpose is not to find out what the patient did wrong but what your practice didn’t get right. Perhaps she didn’t know you performed that kind of dentistry, or she didn’t fully understand what constitutes cosmetic surgery. Maybe she received a mailer from a cosmetic surgery specialist, and the timing was right. Or perhaps she asked a staff member if you offered those services, and the explanation she received was not clear.
4. Keep your website fresh. Highlight all the treatments you perform, including information about each one. Don’t simply list a treatment, such as “root canal therapy.” Tell visitors why they should come to you. Existing patients may go to your website to see if you offer a certain treatment, and if they don’t see what they are looking for, they may assume you do not.
Newsletters connect fact and emotion
Dental patient newsletters are powerful tools to connect patients’ rational decision-making with emotional factors. They nurture a favorable emotional “feeling” for the practice that sends them out. Sending Dental eNewsletters reminds patients that you and your staff value their dental health, and keeps your practice top-of-mind—factors important to case acceptance.
Always be mindful not only of what your patients think about your practice but also how they “feel” about you. If you have never used dental marketing newsletters, contact us today to find out more about the many ways they can influence and boost your case acceptance.
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