Giving your patients the convenience of online dental appointment scheduling? MADNESS!

Or is it?

In this episode of Dental Marketing Mastery, we explore the pros and cons of online dental appointment scheduling and debunk the myths surrounding this controversial subject.


Podcast highlights:

  • The two crowds in this argument
  • Parallels between other uses of this technology
  • The proper implementation
  • Argument #1: “I don’t want to lose the connection I have with my patients”
  • Argument #2: “We need time to talk to the patient beforehand”
  • And, argument #3: “I don’t want to lose control of my schedule”
  • Closing statements

Podcast Transcription:

Hello, and welcome once again to the Dental Marketing Mastery series. This podcast is brought to you by and New Patients Incorporated. I’m Howie Horrocks, the Founder of New Patients Incorporated, along with me once again, as my friend and partner and the President of New Patients Incorporated, Mark Dilatush.

Howie: Well, hello, everybody. Welcome again to our podcast. My name is Howie Horrocks. And I’ve got on the other end of the line, my good buddy Mark Diltatush. How you doing Mark?

Mark: Hey, Howie? How are you?

Howie: I’m good,

Mark: like three days before Christmas?

Howie: Oh, my gosh, Christmas.

Mark: Yeah.

Howie: Nobody told me nobody.

Mark: I know. It’s amazing. It’s absolutely amazing.

Howie: Well, today, we have a rather interesting title for our topic. It’s the boogie man of dentistry

Mark: The boogie man of dentistry?

Howie: Yeah, I’ve got kind of an idea of what that means. Once you fill us in.

Mark: Alright, so. So when we look for podcast material, we look inward at our, our clients, they ask us questions. We have online chat on our various dental office websites, and we engage dentists and their team members there. And obviously, we’re part of multiple dental forums, Facebook groups, and we asked questions there, or we watch the questions that are being asked there. So that’s how we come up with what do dentists care about most? What do they care about least? On the topic of dental marketing, anything to do with dental marketing, right? So it was cold and icy here in New Jersey last Saturday.

Howie: No

Mark: yeah, no, it was it was really I know, it’s hot. It’s hard to imagine in December. But so I sat down on the sofa, and the fire was going and everything was taken care of. And I just started basically two conversations, one on dental town and one, you know, Facebook forum about the subject of dental appointment scheduling, online, allowing your patients to book appointments. And that’s the boogeyman. The man is Oh my God, I would never, it’s sort of like, I know, there’s a Boogeyman in my closet, and I’m not going to open the door. I’m not gonna look at, okay, I’m never going in my closet ever again. Right?

Howie: Right.

Mark: So that’s so when you say, Doctor, how would you like your patients new and existing, to be able to make appointments? While you’re not even in your office, while you’re not Manning your phones, when it’s convenient for them to book their appointments. And what here’s what you get normally, when you and this is what this is what I got, and I expected this on both of these forums, but this is what I got. Is the Oh, my god crowd came out immediately. Like, are you crazy Mark? That’s totally insane. I would never give control of my scheduler to a patient. I would rather give control of my hand piece to a patient. And that’s actually literally one of the answers we got. Right. Okay.

Howie: Yeah, I was gonna point out something, you know, you and I used to be in that crowd?

Mark: Oh, yeah.

Howie: Okay, once upon a time, we have clients would ask us, what do you think about online dental appointment scheduling? When we would say, “Are you nuts, you want to turn your practice over to strangers?”

Mark: Right

Howie: But things have changed since then?

Mark: Exactly. Things change. It’s sort of like the old days, when you and I would make a phone call to book an airline ticket, or train ticket? Or we would call a taxi service. Right?

Howie: Yeah,

Mark: Instead of clicking the Uber icon on our phone, see how things change. And they change quickly. And here’s why they change. They change because someone was committed to doing it, right? Someone at the airline, and someone at Uber, maybe some of you make your haircut appointments online. Those people decided to be committed to doing it. Right.

This conversation about the boogie man is really a conversation about doing online dental appointment scheduling. Right. Here are some of the emotional, immediate emotional responses that we got. The first one was very popular emotional response was, I don’t want to lose connection with my patients. That emotional, you know, phone connection, conversation is vital to the success of my practice. Okay, that’s true. We agree. There’s, there’s absolutely no disagreement whatsoever. Which segues into what you’re missing what the audience is missing as to how this platform works.

Okay, let’s go through what happens when a patient dials seven numbers on a phone, they go to their phone, they dial seven numbers, and electrical connection goes from their phone to your office, and rings the handset on your phone system, and your staff picks it up. Now, let me go through the scenario that happens when a patient books their appointment on your website.

A patient visits your website, they get interested in whatever you’re promoting on your website. They click the online dental appointment scheduling button. It qualifies them and they click the appointment type. And an electronic pulses generating and a notification much like a phone ringing is sent to whoever you want to receive it at your dental office. It says close to exactly the same thing as a telephone notification as a ring as just your phone and you use your phone all day every day. It’s exactly the same.

Now how, why is this important? Because nobody is telling you to answer your phone and hang it up. Nobody’s telling you not to have a conversation with those new patients. Nobody’s telling you not to engage emergency patients, whether they’re new or existing, to triage their condition and maybe get them in earlier. nobody’s asking you to not talk to these people.

Howie: That’s not possible.

Mark: That’s right. Yeah, no. Here’s what we are saying. When your phone is busy, maybe a second line is busy, there might be a third, there might be a person calling on a third line that gets a voicemail. If it’s Saturday evening at 930. And one of your patients or new patients has a toothache. And they’d like they visit your website and they’d like to book their appointment, you’re going to get notified any way it’s exactly the same thing as a phone call only it’s not going to voicemail, you actually have actionable information to do something with which is going to be and here’s the key word additive to your schedule. This is not this is not deleted from your schedule. This is added to your schedule.

Okay, these are additional new patient appointments, additional existing patient appointments, which you will have plenty of time to follow up with should you choose to. Which brings me to the next most popular comment, which was, well, if it’s a new patient, or even an existing patient who’s kind of a pain in the ass, we need time to discuss various things with them, maybe they’re balanced, or maybe their missed appointment history, or maybe their insurance plan change. So it’s no good, it’s no good to have patients making their dental appointment scheduling online.

Well, that’s not true. Okay. Because you, you get to control the rules. The system uses the rules that are already inherent inside your practice management software scheduler, so that’s automatic, they’re already going to use your columns, providers, your blocks, the openings, the appointments, your assignments of those providers, it uses all of those rules automatically. So that’s one set of rules, but you get to create your own set of additional rules. So maybe one rule that you create is don’t show anyone openings. Less than 36 hours from now. These appointment types, new patient exam, adult child, established patient exam, adult child emergencies, maybe will change the rule a little bit, because you want those emergencies to be able to book those appointments, maybe within six hours, eight hours, 12 hours, whatever rule. The important point is, it’s your rules.

Mark: It’s your control, you aren’t giving control of your schedule book to anyone. You’re controlling actually more of it with this additional set of rules for people who book online. Okay, so then we explained all that to these people who were commenting, and those concerns kind of went away. Right? So we have, I’m worried about the time it’s going to you know, it’s going to eliminate conversation. Okay, so let me let me address that a little bit deeper. When a new patient physically calls your dental office, your front desk, no matter what’s going on in your front desk area, you’re reading reception area, your front desk person has to be on point.

There could be three phones ringing. Two people at the front desk looking to get checked out an angry lady that you waited 20 minutes to see before her appointment, tapping her toe asking you why her insurance didn’t pay the 15 bucks for x, right?

Anybody listening to this podcast knows, you do not control when you talk to new patients. The only thing that controls when you talk to them is that phone ringing. Okay, the environment you’re in. It could be nice and quiet. But it might not be with online dental appointment scheduling. 70% of the people who are scheduling online appointments are new. With online dental appointment scheduling, you get a notification just like the phone rings. Only you can accumulate those new patients.

Let’s say you get three in a day. And you can sequester yourself off into a room that’s quiet. Where you can get frosty, and you can have a wonderful conversation, a more meaningful conversation, a more service-oriented conversation with all of your new patients who booked their appointments online. Isn’t that a better scenario than answering the phone in a hurried manner in a middle of a chaotic front desk? The answer is obviously

Yes, it is. Okay. So, online dental appointment scheduling doesn’t diminish your communication with your new patients. it accentuates it by organizing it in such a manner that you now control the environment into which you’re talking. Okay. So there’s all kinds of fear out there. Oh my god. Okay. Now some of the fear is justified. And let me explain why. Because nobody did it. Right. Okay, the platform, the NPI concierge, it’s powered by local med. This is done right? This is loaded directly next to your scheduler sucks in all your schedule rules, you add in your rules on top of it for online, you can control whether you want new patients only established patients exams and cleanings what time it takes which providers which columns, you can control everything.

A standard installation would be I want my new patients to be able to book their appointments. I want my established patients for sure to be able to book my appointments. And you know what, I have a page about sedation dentistry, short term ortho dental implants, and sleep apnea. I have pages specifically for those items on my website. And wouldn’t it be cool? And I offer a free initial console? Come on in let’s see if you’re a candidate for x, whatever x is, right? Wouldn’t it be cool if you had those appointment types on those pages? patients could get your offline promotion or go to your website through a search and see those promotion pages and book their appointment right there.

Women are online on Facebook from between 6:30pm and 9:30pm. Each night they spend more time on Facebook than they do watching TV. You’re not open then? How many of you have hang ups on your voicemails? How many of you have more hang ups on your voicemails? The day after the weekend? When you come in? All of you are raising your hands right now. Okay. These are the people

Howie: I’m driving right

Mark: here. Oh, yeah, we hope you’re not driving. These are the people who are trying to connect with you. But there’s a barrier. And the barrier is your availability.

Howie: Right? I mean, you know mark you and I know from endless reams of data over the years, because we track phone calls. And it’s what we end up with 19.8

Mark: right

Howie: percent of the calls that come into a practice go unanswered.

Mark: right

Howie: And that could be due to the fact that you’re closed. It’s a Saturday, it’s a Sunday. Okay, they’re still going on answered. And you’re missing out on that revenue and missing out on those new patients.

Mark: Right.

Howie: It could also be happening during business hours,

Mark: Absolutely,

Howie: which really should raise red flags that because that should not be happening. And so that just might signal that you’ve got an overloaded front desk. But at any event, the online dental appointment scheduling will help you they won’t help you get all of these. But you’ll get your that 19.8% will go down,

Mark: Yes, the 19.8 will go down. And here’s what will happen here, here’s what ends up happening. You’re going to spend more time, in a good environment engaged with new patients on the telephone, you’re going to spend less time on the phone with established patients consistent, wonderful bread and butter and existing patients who have been in your practice for 10 years, right? Because here’s what happens. They love the convenience, you’re going to send an email out to them that says, hey, we’ve been overdue for your recall. If you’d like to schedule you, you can now Schedule your appointment online.

For a good number of those established patients are going to do that they’re going to go out and they’re going to select their time. It’s going to help fill in your hygiene schedule. But what’s going to happen is you’re going to get that notification Howie Horrocks scheduled his appointment, and you’re going to look at that and go Oh, I remember Howie he’s a nice guy. He’s about three months late for his reshare Oh, that’s okay. We don’t really need to talk to him. He’s been working at Boeing for his whole career. I’m sure he has the same insurance. I’m looking forward to seeing him right.

Howie: Yeah,

Mark: You don’t have to call Howie. You, you may not have to call 30% of your existing patient recare appointments. I think I just got the attention of almost everyone that works in a front desk.

Howie: Yeah. And particularly loving the fact that we’re talking about automated.

Mark: Exactly. So when we have conversations about this platform with staff, right? See, there’s an enormous difference between the staff reaction to this and a doctor reaction. Doctors reaction is, you know, death, sickles, fire horns, angry, right? That’s what a dentist, but the staff, they go, they sit there and they go way, well, hold on a second. Okay, hang on a second. Do I really need to talk to Mrs. Jones, who’s very compliant to where recur comes in every six months is always on time and has the same insurance for the last 15? Do I really need to talk to her? I mean, really? The answer is no.

You know, you don’t need to talk to her because she’s going to get like if you have a demand force or smile, reminder, whatever. She’s going to get her confirmation. So you’re going to have plenty of opportunity online to put in, in any insurance plan change. It’s all right there. You don’t have to, you may end up with about 33% less conversation with existing patients and moving that effort over more toward your new patient or directly communicating with the patients who are standing right in front of you. And how we and I would say isn’t all that good? I mean, really?

Howie: Yeah.

Mark: Right. isn’t all that good? Here’s, there’s other research to support this. Pew Research 81% of customers prefer to make dental appointment scheduling online. Well, it’s new to dentistry. Okay, so it’s the answer is not 81% of every dental patient prefers to schedule online. It’s just 81% of human beings prefer to schedule online. And before you think that this is all millennials, you’re wrong. Test. The next question.

That’s a great segue actually into the next most common response was, it’s only young people who are going to schedule online. It’s hogwash. That’s any. Let me tell you who’s scheduling online. First of all, it’s women in family rearing age, let’s say 30 to 55. Any woman who has a job a career, family, kids, husband, a whole household, maybe friends and a family? That’s who’s scheduling it’s not 26 year old’s,

Howie: okay.

Mark: It’s women, okay, you’re what you’re doing is you’re allowing them to engage with your practice in a much more convenient way than you were before. And they really, really appreciate it. It’s, it’s amazing to see some of the comments from existing patients, new patients don’t know any better new patients don’t know that.

You know, you didn’t, you weren’t able to have patients book online yesterday, but you are today, they won’t know any better. But your existing patients, Oh, my goodness. How many people on this podcast have an overdue recall list? How many patients off of that recall list do you think would go online right now and book your appointment? If they got an email? Let’s say Friday night around 8:30? Or maybe 7:30? primetime Facebook viewing time, right? How many of those moms would log on and make how many is overdue moms with their overdue family members and their overdue husband’s would go online, if it was easy and make their appointments for their family? It’s not zero.

Howie: yeah

Mark: Your cost is an email. Okay. So I mean, you know, when it comes to marketing, Howie you see here’s where Howie, and I came at this, we came at this from a very different direction, Howie and I stare at 19.8%

Howie: Drives us crazy,

Mark: It drives us nuts. Okay, because dentists trust us with their marketing dollar. We put their marketing dollar on the street, promoting the benefits of dentistry they provide and their conveniences and technologies and so on and so forth. But for the most part, the benefits of the dentistry they provide, we get the phone to ring. Okay, it’s right there on the report, then the number of calls the time of call the phone number, I mean, it’s all right there, right. And then we search it, and we see Oh my god, 19% of all 19.8% of all phone calls, go to voicemail in all of our dental offices, in five countries, all of them 19.8.

I talked to the dentist the other day engaged one of our advisors, he was pretty unhappy about his first year results. And I said, Okay, I went to work with the advisor doing a little bit of a, an investigation in the data. He was missing 34% of the total phone call volume, not just a unique phone, total phone call volume. Okay. And if you look at when they were missing them, it’s Tuesday at 230. In the afternoon, you know what, Monday at 9:30am? Thursday at 2:22pm.

These are times is offices open? How are you missing phone calls while your office is open? Right. So Howie and I came at this and we said we have got to come up with a solution to free up the convenience for people to book online. So we looked at nine different pieces of software. Okay, because we don’t want to provide anything less than best in class solutions for our customers. We never have 27 years. We’re not going to mess with our reputation now. Okay, so we looked and if we couldn’t find one that worked really well, we wouldn’t even offer it.

Howie: Right. And we couldn’t for a while.

Mark: Well, I know we were like almost three years, right?

Howie: Yeah.

Mark: So we finally and actually, honestly, local med guys will say the same thing. You know, three years ago, their product wasn’t nearly as good as it is now. Right? So as they were evolving their product we were watching and watching and watching and then and then it got to the point where man this is it. You guys got it. Right. So anyway, that’s the boogie man, the boogie man is online dental appointment scheduling. Don’t let the boogeyman scare you. Okay, be the be the 11 year old that walks over to your closet door pops out its chest and open the door. Okay, because there’s no Boogeyman in your closet. Actually, you control the boogeyman? I it’s this control fear that that Dentist think that it’s going to it doesn’t go you actually have more control. Right?

Howie: yeah

Mark: I just had, we have clients on it now. Right and, and I just on a few of our test clients, I still have the announcements, the notifications copy to my desk to my email. And I got a notification about 20 minutes ago before this podcast that one of the patients who booked their appointment online had gone in and updated their insurance information to be to be current. Okay. Can’t do that on the telephone before the hand. There’s another thing you can’t do with a telephone. Right? So I’m just going to ask everyone to go back. I don’t know how old everyone is. But I’m 55 and Howie’s like, I don’t know. I’m sure 45. He’s older than 55. So we’ll go back to the days where, you know, you called a travel agent. Remember those? Howie

Howie:  Oh Yeah,

Mark: Number travel agents, right and you talk to them about your day and your time and where you want it to fly to. And they sat there and it seemed like they typed in, you know, war and peace into a computer and up came the 97,000 different variables. And this much of a layover at this. Oh my god, it was total nightmare. Total nightmare, right. It actually inhibited the airline business until they took it online and when they took it online, only the travel agents could use it.

And then when they perfected it, they let all of us use their online registration, their online reservation portals. And my God, right? Like, if you go going to United, you can’t go, you can’t log on to United and say no, I don’t want to, I don’t want to leave at 1030 I want to leave at 930. So you have to create a whole new flight just for me. You can’t control united schedule, United schedule is sitting there for you to look for an opening. And then when you go pick your See, you can’t log in and say no, take this guy out of 8A, I want that. See. You can’t do that. Okay, so united. And, and, and US Air and delta, they’ve got it wired. They’re showing you only what’s available, they’re not showing you what’s not available, right.

So this is exactly the same way. You go to your website, a new patient, they click Make appointment 36 hours from now the system goes out and says okay, well, what kind of appointment type is this, they click new patient, they click examine cleaning. And the system goes out into your rules and finds the providers who provide those services during 30, anywhere from 36 hours and beyond from now, and it comes up and says well, the we have some availability at 10:30, next Wednesday, 1:30, next Thursday, and 430 next Friday, and the online patient selects one of those you have an appointment.

This platform is real time. Two people are not going to double book. This is not a synchronization with your software. And in your practice management software. This is real time integration. Okay. It’s just an extension of what you’re already doing and the rules you’re already using. And now you’re opening it up to a whole new world of new and existing patients, both of whom will love you. So that’s the boogeyman. There’s nothing to fear. Really. We’ve got it set up now to where it’s $99 to set it up. It’s $99 a month, you do that for two months, 60 days. And you’re out of pocket $297 if you don’t like it, don’t do it anymore.

Howie: Yeah,

Mark: right. Yeah. If what I’m saying isn’t true, then don’t do it anymore. You’re out $297, you can say you tried it, you go to your study club and be the one person in your study club who actually tried it. That’s fine. Okay. But here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to do that and it’s going to work and you’re going to get added patients into your schedule, and you’re going to get busier. And you’re going to notice that your front desk isn’t answering as many phone calls anymore. And you’re going to notice that your front desk is actually spending a lot more time with your newest patients, which is exactly what you want.

Howie: Yeah,

Mark: You know, all for 99 bucks, right,

Howie: Yeah and opportunity increase. And what else could they be doing now to promote the practice and service patients need to hang on the phone all day?

Mark: Exactly. Maybe talk to some treatment plan, people who haven’t scheduled nowhere to walk out of your office? Maybe that’s just an idea. Right?

Howie: Yeah.

Mark: So anyway, there is no Boogeyman in this, it’s done, it’s ready to go on. It has our Good Housekeeping Seal. It actually has a name NPI concierge, you can log on to our websites under products and look at it. Um, it takes about 15 minutes to show someone it’s really simple to use. And we would encourage everyone, um, who tends to be like not the office that waits until 50% of dentistry does everything, maybe, maybe the part of dentistry where historically through your career, maybe you were one of the first 50% of that, like maybe you were, maybe you were one of the first 50% of dentists to try electronic insurance claims. Right?

Or maybe you were one of the first 50% of dentists to get off the pegboard and got a computer system way back when? Right? Those are the dentists that we’re looking for the ones who are willing to open up and go Yeah, wait a second. My life is all kinds of convenient, because I can do online dental appointment scheduling, why wouldn’t I want to do that for my patients? As long as it worked well, right?

Howie: Right.

Mark: Those are the patients for those are the doctors we’re looking for. Anyway, um, that’s the boogeyman. It doesn’t exist, open your closet. There’s nothing and wish everybody a wonderful, Happy Holiday as a wonderful new year. 2017 definitely looks like a big rebound year for a lot of folks. So we hope to be a small or large part of that in your life. And we’re going to keep making these podcasts and we’re going to keep telling it like it is throughout 2017.

Howie: Yes, that’s a fact. Thank you all for joining us again, and we’ll see you soon.

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