Aren’t dental implants the most marvelous invention? They offer fully customized treatment based on the latest technology that gives your patients the smile they are looking for. For the patient, an implant represents a significant investment that pays off for decades to come.
Since dentists recognize that patients are investing in potentially costly treatment, doesn’t it make sense that they would in turn invest in their practices by taking advantage of the best technology? And yet many are still spending time that could be put toward patient care handling behind-the-scenes business details that can more efficiently be addressed by today’s dental-focused tech.
The financial case for technology
While the public perception of dentists is that they are flush with cash, those in the industry know well how hard it is to maintain healthy margins. Scheduling the right number of appointments, attracting new patients, and managing the finances of a business can be overwhelming, especially when there are dozens of competing practices within driving distance for most patients.
Anything a dental office can do that will reduce manual tasks and inefficiencies can help deliver a competitive advantage, and investing in the right technology can deliver a healthy return on such an investment. More importantly, the right technology can improve the patient journey for everyone who walks in the door. Delivering a better experience positively impacts the bottom line.
Focusing on the patient experience
Since your production depends on loyalty and repeat business, anything you can do that reduces pain points for your patients and your staff will benefit your practice. As you consider investing in technology, below are four questions to ask as you assess strategies.
Will the technology help patients get the right treatment?
With most dental concerns uncovered during routine hygiene exams, this is a prime opportunity for technology that can improve diagnoses. For example, artificial intelligence tools are becoming more capable every year and can help dentists identify issues and put together patterns in information humans might miss, as well as more clearly present that information to patients through easy-to-read visuals. The right technology gives you the power for a more personalized and effective treatment that improves patient outcomes.
Will it help patients get treatment more quickly?
When a patient needs a course of treatment and delays it, chances are it’s because of financial concerns. This is not only a poor patient outcome because they can be in pain or discomfort for a longer period, but it can actively serve to make the underlying issue worse.
If a patient delays a simple filling because they can’t afford it right now and it subsequently grows to the point at which a root canal is necessary, the problems are just compounding. Any solution you can employ that prevents this kind of situation significantly enhances the patient experience.
Will it save time and increase efficiency for our team?
These days, where time is precious and staffing shortages are prevalent, technology that can help office staff and dentists save time is more essential than ever. Juggling numerous responsibilities and back-to-back appointments is challenging, but adopting technology that streamlines and simplifies processes, allows for scalability, and gives you (and your patients) back valuable time improves satisfaction for everyone. When your team is less stressed, that positive energy permeates through the office and has a direct impact on how your patients feel around you.
Will it simplify the patient’s ability to say yes to the treatment?
For individuals with excellent insurance and enough money, letting them pay for treatment immediately and have it done is the fastest and best way to ensure they have a positive experience. But for the millions who find themselves struggling financially, one of the best things you can do for them is to provide a simple, user-friendly financing solution.
If a patient can apply for financing without filling out endless forms or experiencing an embarrassing denial, their overall perception of your practice is likely to be much better. And like your treatment plans, a customizable payment solution makes it even better.
Adopting the right technology
You already invest heavily in technology that reduces the physical pain a patient experiences while in your office, and most dentists couldn’t even fathom providing an old-fashioned drilling without proper anesthetic. Many people have that painful impression of dentists, and smart technology can help you provide more comprehensive care and give them the best treatment available.
Even after the treatment is complete, the emotional stress a patient experiences from financial difficulties can be just as debilitating as touching a live nerve, and it can have long-term consequences as well. One of the simplest ways you can invest in technology that benefits your business is to adopt a financial solution that enables a patient to get the right treatment at the right time, without incurring a huge financial headache. This action can have a direct impact on your patient loyalty, and it can free up your staff from performing tedious bookkeeping tasks that reduce their ability to focus on patient treatment.
What should that solution look like? I would suggest that any solution be carefully evaluated based on the following criteria:
- Instant decision-making: You’re much more likely to lose your opportunity to help a patient if the application process is long or cumbersome.
- Minimal information-gathering: The more personal data someone has to provide, the more hesitant they will be to take advantage of financing.
- High approval rates: As a healthcare provider, you want to be able to help as many people as possible. A solution that approves the majority of applicants helps everyone and reduces embarrassment.
- End-to-end support: If the technology provider handles the behind-the-scenes administration of the financial terms, it reduces the burden on your staff and keeps your costs lower.
- Flexibility in terms: Everyone’s financial situation is as unique as their dental health, and different payment terms will be the best way to individualize someone’s ability to pay without overburdening them.
- A reputation in the industry: You might be wary of purchasing an online product with no product reviews, and selecting a financial technology partner is a much larger commitment. The dental industry has unique needs, so it’s ideal to look at what other practices are using and to look for solutions tailored to the dental industry.
Dentists are committed to helping people maintain their health, but to do so they need to watch out for the health of their business. Adopting the right technology solutions can help oral health providers raise the level of service in their community and deliver the best possible patient outcomes.
Jay Letwat is vice president, dental at Sunbit, a patient financing company. He is a frequent speaker, podcast guest, and contributor, including to Becker's Healthcare and Inside Dentistry. Letwat has also been a panelist at the Dykema dental service organization conference and the Association of Dental Support Organizations’ annual summit.
The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.