How dental newsletters can boost case acceptance

Newsletters from your dental practice can be a powerful way to win over and keep patients. It shows that you're interested in helping them maintain their oral health.

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Case acceptance is a source of frustration for many dentists. Most dentists continuously seek to improve their case acceptance rates, and many are baffled as to why more patients do not follow their treatment recommendations. Add to this the fact that many dentists are not clear about what their case acceptance rates really are and how they compare with their colleagues’ rates.

Your case acceptance may be lower than you think

Many dentists’ case acceptance rates are lower than they believe them to be.Findings based on data from thousands of dental offices and shared in Dental Economics by Jim Philhower indicate that the average dental case acceptance is 50% to 60% for established patients, and 25% to 35% for new patients, which is far less than what most dentists believe. The exceptions are those dentists who diligently measure case acceptance, because they have an accurate and fact-based picture.

Whatever your case acceptance rate, because you are reading this article, you are likely trying to improve it.

There are many methods to improve case acceptance. But no matter what methods or tools you employ, the key to building a high rate of case acceptance is developing a relationship of trust with your patients. Above all, they must believe that you will always act in their best interests. They must have confidence in your expertise to treat them and minimize their discomfort.

Those dentists with high case acceptance rates also have corresponding high levels of patient trust. They accomplish this in large part by repeatedly demonstrating their expertise to their patients. Here, we’ll explore patient newsletters as a messaging tool to positively influence case acceptance by bolstering trust and communicating expertise.

A quality patient newsletter program has the potential to improve case acceptance by (1) maintaining regular contact with your patients, (2) reminding patients of your expertise, (3) educating patients about oral health, (4) explaining why failure to accept your treatment recommendations may lead to more serious dental issues over the long term, (5) demonstrating that you care about your patients, and (6) helping your patients feel good about you and your practice.

You may have read number six quickly and underestimated its power, believing that “feelings” go only so far in the real world. But as you’ll see, how a patient feels about you and your practice is critical to building and maintaining a trusting relationship.

Are your patients motivated by fact or emotion?

What motivates your patients’ dental decision-making? Would you say they’re influenced more by facts or emotions?[i] If you said facts, you would be surprised by what Michael Kesner, DDS, shared in Dental Economics.[ii] Dr. Kesner’s experience revealed that only 15% of patients’ decisions to proceed with treatment are based on facts. That means that 85% of treatment decisions are driven by emotion. Some of these emotional drivers are within your control, and some are not. These include how patients feel about you, your staff, and your office. Another important factor is how your patients feel about their dental condition.

While Dr. Kesner’s research is based on emotions, the findings are logical. If a patient in any way lacks confidence in you or your office staff, the person will be less likely to accept your treatment recommendation. Potential negative feelings can result from poor communication, a sense of a lack of compassion by your team, a perception that your office is poorly organized, or a perception that you are not up on current technology or treatment options. We often say in the marketing world that “perception is reality.” This concept applies equally to the way your patients view you and your team.

Unless a patient is encountering physical discomfort or a visible cosmetic issue, the person may wonder whether the treatment plan you recommend is really necessary. Unless you have established a strong and trusting relationship, your patients may very well wonder whether your recommendations are based on their best interests or whether you’re simply trying to generate a profit.

Counter the skeptics

Do not forget that your patients live in a world where they are constantly being sold something. Jaime Veiga Mateos from IE School of Human Sciences and Technology in Spain shows that the average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages a day.[iii]

Be mindful that your patients encounter these messages. They’re routinely confronted with exaggerated and outright false statements about products and services. It’s obvious to your patients that many of these sellers don’t have their best interests at heart. The millennial generation is particularly marked by this skepticism.

Even though your practice hopefully has far more credibility than this multitude of advertisers, the burden to demonstrate the importance of your treatment plan is on you.

Patient newsletters can influence emotional drivers

A patient newsletter should help shape how your patients perceive you. There are other dentists in town, and your patients have choices. A patient-focused newsletter that provides useful and practical content reminds them of your expertise and sets you apart from other dentists. A quality program should demonstrate that you care enough about your patients to educate them between visits and that their oral health is a priority for you. By including appropriate photos of you and your staff, you can project a warm and inviting tone that influences how patients feel about your practice.

Education shouldn’t end in your office

Of course, rational drivers also play a role in patient decision-making. Dental newsletters are an easy and systematic way to reach patients on an ongoing basis, even after they leave your office. Think of a periodontist whose patient newsletter contains an easy-to-read, patient-focused article about scaling and root planing, or the importance of treating gum disease before it gets worse. Content like this gets your patients thinking about their oral health even between visits.

A quality patient newsletter program will provide fact-based information about oral health and treatment options. By nurturing a favorable emotional feeling for you and your dental practice, it will help connect patients’ rational decision-making with emotional factors. Further, it will provide an ongoing message that demonstrates your experience and skill. Bottom line: a well-written patient newsletter will provide an ongoing reminder that you really care about your patients’ oral health, which is an essential element to attaining a high level of case acceptance.

For more information, see Ten Steps to Increase the Value of Your Dental Practice with Newsletter Marketing.

Steve KlinghofferSteve Klinghofferis thepresident and publisher of WPI Communications Inc. He founded WPI Communications with his wife, Lori, in 1984. WPI Communications is a renowned leader in newsletter marketing for dentists and other professional practices. He has helped hundreds of dentists build their practices with newsletters. To learn more, contact WPI Communications at (800) 323-4995, info@wpicommunications.com for a free, no-obligation consultation, or visit wpicommunications.com.

References

[i] Sheetz B. Are Your Patients Motivated by Fact or Emotion? WPI Communications Inc. website. https://wpicommunications.com/articles/are-your-patients-motivated-by-fact-or-emotion.Published October 27, 2016. Accessed December 15, 2017.
[ii] Kesner M. How to Help Patients Want What They Need. Dental Economics website. http://www.dentaleconomics.com/articles/print/volume-104/issue-8/personal-enrichment/how-to-help-patients-want-what-they-need.html. Published August 18, 2014. Accessed October 15, 2017.
[iii] Saxon J. Why Your Customers’ Attention is the Scarcest Resource in 2017. https://www.ama.org/partners/content/Pages/why-customers-attention-scarcest-resources-2017.aspx). Accessed October 15, 2017.


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