National Dental Care has a radical new approach to the dental profession encompassing everything from the reception desk to patient communications. And it’s all about giving patients what they want.
According to National Dental Care (NDC) CEO, Gordon Towell, there is one simple philosophy guiding the group’s digital strategy. “We’ve started with a clean sheet of paper and said, ‘Let’s talk to patients. Let’s find out what they like about how they’re communicated to and what they don’t like about it.’”
The patient-first philosophy has been realised in the digital realm as a tool that benefits patients, dentists and practices alike. That’s because, Towell explains, “the online experience has to be embedded as part of the practice experience. There’s no point having a wonderful online presence and experience if it’s not reflected in the practice, and vice versa.”
The National Dental Care strategy encompasses everything from websites, to online appointment booking (including the ability for a patient to change their appointments online), through to email and email newsletters, through to Facebook and to LinkedIn.
“About 110,000 people in Australia move to new homes and suburbs each month,” Towell explains. “Every one of those people will need a new dentist, typically. And a significant proportion of that population go straight to Google.
“So you’ve got to be up there in terms of Google search. But as important as that, you’ve got to then have a very compelling website that does more than just talk about who’s in the practice and the services. You actually also need to have some worthwhile content and the ability to facilitate communication from and to the practice. Whether that’s finding a phone number, sending an email, or booking an appointment.”
The other advantage of a well-thought out digital platform is it enables the dentist to stay more closely in contact with patients on a more regular basis. “Traditionally dentists would send out a Christmas card once a year, or a reminder that their appointment was due once every six months, or not at all,” says Towell. “Or very intermittently, when they think, ‘Oh, the books are looking a little bit thin, let’s get a message out to the patients reminding them to come back to the practice.’ With digital marketing, it’s a phenomenally good, low-cost way of vastly improving regular communication with your patients.”
Towell says it all comes back to the benefits of working with a group like NDC. “Apart from the fact you get fantastic equipment to work with, whether you’re talking about CERECs, or DIAGNOcams, or good digital x-rays, or OPGs, you’re also going to have the ability to communicate better with your patients. I think it’s important that patients have the opportunity to critique the experience they’ve had at the practice. To be honest, they’re spending a lot of money and if we’re not doing a good job from the moment they walk in through the door to the moment they walk back out through the door, then we’ve got a problem.”
According to Towell, it’s simply a reflection of every member of the team playing their part in ensuring a great patient experience. “That means you have to have receptionists that are welcoming and positive, and a practice manager who knows what he or she is doing,” he adds. “You have to have dentists who understand about communicating with patients, and who have a good chair-side manner.”
“In general, the premises and everyone in it have to actually reflect the fact that we’re a professional healthcare facility. And patients will respond to that.”