Australasian Dental Practice

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30 Sep 2016 | Australasian Dental Practice

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Overcoming the challenge of new patient acquisition

Marketing Practice Management Software

For any business to succeed, it is imperative they look after their existing customers while at the same time striving to attract new ones. Although that may seem like a daunting task, there are a range of simple but effective tools that a business can use that will make a tangible difference and help is available to implement these changes.

Traditionally, the number of new patients required for a practice to stand still is quoted as 20 patients per month, so it follows that to grow, the figure needs to be much higher. Yet, the Whitepaper, "Facing the Challenge of New Patient Acquisition" published by Software of Excellence, has highlighted that knowledge of the details of data amongst the profession is poor, showing more than 60 per cent of dentists do not know their number of lapsed patients and 40 per cent do not keep track of the source of new patients. The survey in fact discovered that in order to grow, an average practice needs to attract 16 new patients per month, per practising dentist.

There is no doubt that a practice management software system can help practices in a number of ways, such as providing extensive reporting on all aspects of a business. Reports ranging from those which highlight where a practice may be under performing, or where spending is too high, to detailed analysis of chairtime utilisation are all critical to understanding how many patients a practice needs to grow.

It's understandable that 50 per cent of practice owners find the task of attracting new patients "challenging". But embracing new technology to help promote your practice is proving effective in an increasingly competitive market. In the past decade, we have seen a huge change in the way people communicate, with millions taking to the Internet to make their views known and sell products and services. From websites to social media, the Internet has created an influential and useful business tool and now it's time for dental practices to harness this power and use it to their advantage.

How can a dental practice grow?

Software of Excellence's Whitepaper identified a number of simple but effective tools that can be used to encourage more people through your practice's door. These days, electronic communication comes high on the list of priorities and a website and social media strategy is important to attract new patients and engage with patients you already have.

A website does not need to be complex or expensive, but it is a shop window; it's there to entice people in. Research shows that you have 10 seconds to impress a potential patient before they go elsewhere, so make that first impression count! Websites should offer an online booking facility to encourage visitors to book a first appointment and should provide details about your services. Social media is growing in popularity for dental practices and is a way of engaging with patients on a more informal platform.

But electronic communication is not the only way to encourage more patients and good old "word of mouth" is still a vital component in growing a practice. The Whitepaper found that 90% of dentists use patient-to-patient referrals as a source of new patients.

The numbers of so-called lapsed patients on a practice system are also an often under utilised source of new patients. Unfortunately, the Whitepaper research uncovered a dramatic underestimation of the numbers of lapsed patients and offers an insight into the true figures and advice on how to remedy the situation.

There are many simple and effective measures that can easily be implemented into your practice to help attract new patients. Developing a system that works for you and sticking with a detailed plan is the first step to tackling the challenge of new patient acquisition. All practices, regardless of their size, should have a website and social media strategy as the norm. Reaching out to patients both old and new is essential. Remember, you can communicate to patients in a number of different ways; but the key is to be able to communicate with them all in the way that suits them best.

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