3 Tips to Grow Your Orthodontic Practice

The driving motivations that influence how practices operate tend to vary from owner to owner. Some may be dedicated to efficiency first and foremost including making sure patients finish on schedule, while others may be believers in fine tuning at the end to a perfect result even if it takes a bit longer. Others may prioritize balance and quality of life for their team over revenue or efficiency oriented objectives. Not every practice owner is focused primarily on growing their practice in size. But whether you are nominally "growing" your practice or not, you should still be growth-oriented. And there's a difference between growing and being growth-oriented.

All practices must experience some level of growth, in a sense, to correct for the natural patient attrition that is endemic to orthodontics. Patients receive treatment, leave, and then get replaced by new patients needing treatment. To ensure this cycle continues in a sustainable way, every orthodontic practice must act in a growth-minded manner to drive new patient flow. Further with a moving and changing market of elective treatment combined with the competitiveness that is simply a reality in today's market, owners must challenge themselves to grow and improve their services to meet patients' evolving needs.

Delinquencies and write offs are part of business. But reducing this number and working on ways to maximize collections, is also a growth-oriented effort. Whether these efforts result in financial growth and increased YoY net collections all depends on the efficacy of those growth activities. The point is that the activities necessary for sustaining a steady stream of new patients is necessary for sustaining the health of any practice - growing or otherwise. And being mindful of keeping all patients on their treatment path including both their finishing time and finishing their collections is essential to making sure the flow of new patients have a positive impact. Therefore, your practice must always be iterating on its methods and always striving to be growth-oriented.

Where do you start? There are several growth-oriented metrics that every practice owner should be paying close attention to, such as case acceptance, production, and treatment efficiency, which translate to specific activities that promote growth, enhance operational efficiency, and ultimately lead to profitability.

But how do you affect these metrics that "grow" your practice?


1. Try New Marketing Tactics To Increase New Patient Flow

In order to grow, you must find new patients. Your patient base is always depleting, and without taking action, your business risks financial loss. The clearest solution to invigorating your new patient flow is by reinvesting in marketing tactics. Marketing is a broad word that encapsulates many, many things for a practice, and not every marketing channel was created equal. Some of the most effective marketing channels to target are social media, online search and word-of-mouth (WOM).


Social Media

According to a recent study of orthodontic practices and patients, social media and the practice website were positively related to new patient starts.(1) Social media is already considered an effective marketing tool for practices, but not everyone is marketing themselves on social, and certainly not at the appropriate times, best methods or targets. The same study showed that orthodontists should post information or run social ads primarily in the evening, when patients and their parents mainly use social media.

Make sure you're utilizing social media to its fullest capabilities, and posting at appropriate times. Consider the old adage, content is king. Social media and all mediums are saturated with messages and images. Think about your community, your 'ideal' patients and what matters to them. Posts with authentic content that emotionally connect with your audience are going to yield the best results. Next would be information that provides value to your audience. Be careful of over posting or posting just for the sake of posting on a regular schedule. Also keep an eye on where new patients are coming from, as this can improve what and how you post to social media.


Online Search Presence (SEO)

It's estimated that up to 15% of a practice's website visits from search engines convert into new opportunities for the practice.(2) Therefore, it pays to spend the time and effort of continuously optimizing your practice's website for search engines. By ranking higher in related searches, you can drive substantial traffic to your website, and hopefully grow your patient base.

Understand the keywords that matter most to your patients. These can relate to orthodontic treatments that you offer as well as the locality of your practice. By augmenting your practice website with these keywords, you have a better chance at Google and other major search engines further promoting your website.


Word Of Mouth (WOM)

In addition to your community WOM from referring patients, online WOM tactics are a little more tenuous. However, one tactic you can leverage to get more WOM referrals is by pushing for more customer reviews. Asking satisfied patients to leave a review on Google or a social platform will not only bolster trust in your practice but also create more opportunities for new patients to learn about your practice.

You may elect to take the lead or delegate this to a team member. Happy patients are usually happy to give back to you in this way with a simple request. Another way you could garner more WOM referrals is by investing in an online reviews platform to aggregate positive patient reviews. These reviews could be featured prominently on your website, where many prospective patients are likely to visit before scheduling the initial appointment.


2. Empower Patients with Better Education to Improve Case Acceptance

Case acceptance is considered one of the most important metrics for a healthy practice.(3) One tip for improving case acceptance is by educating patients about the importance of their treatment. Oftentimes, patients don't understand the impact of the suggested treatment, which can lead to no-shows or cancellations. By including more educational, patient-specific information in your presentation, you can start having a more honest, value-added conversation about the treatment plan.

Another helpful tip is to reassess your presentation style. Are you presenting your treatment plans in a confident or authoritative manner? Patients want to feel like they're talking with an expert, so it's important to maintain a position of authority when presenting your treatment.


3. Leverage Online Scheduling Tools to Reduce No-Show and Cancellation Rates

Along with case acceptance, no-show and cancellation rates are extremely important as these three metrics together comprise the primary drivers for your collections.

Part of patient education is teaching patients to carefully keep track of appointments. In a 2013 study that assessed some of the factors that influence patient attendance for their orthodontic appointments, 27.8% of respondents said they relied on memory, and 40% of respondents said that forgetting was the reason for missed appointments in the past.(4)

This could be intrinsically tied to a patient's lack of understanding about the treatment they are receiving, or why that treatment and showing up to their appointment is important. So as part of your treatment plan delivery, your staff should ask patients about what scheduling reminders work well for them.

If you are experiencing sub-standard no-shows and cancellations, it might behoove you to reassess your scheduling tools. Do you use an online scheduler? How about a text reminding service? Figuring out where the hiccups are with scheduling can tremendously help your operational efficiency and treatment efficiency, both essential metrics for your bottom line.


Conclusion

It's often difficult to see the whole picture of your practice's health - let alone identify the key metrics that drive your practice growth. The concept of mitigating negative factors in your practice, like no-shows, while growing positive metrics, like net production and treatment starts, is hard to achieve without data on your side. Tracking metrics across the entirety of a practice and producing meaningful insights from that data, starts with the right tools.

Gaidge tracks more than 80 practice KPIs in customized, highly visual reports, so you can understand how your practice is performing quickly and easily. With Gaidge's robust industry comparisons and benchmark data, it's clearer than ever where and how to grow your practice. Contact Gaidge today to request a demo.




Sources:

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25738740

(2) https://www.televox.com/downloads/top_challenges_dental.pdf

(3) https://www.orthotown.com/magazine/articles/6970/key-performance-indicators

(4) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2210815713000139


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