Online Dental Appointment Scheduling – Interview with Keith English
In this episode of Dental Marketing Mastery, we interview the CEO of LocalMed®, Keith English. We discuss why real-time online dental appointment scheduling is becoming the “hot new marketing tool” in dentistry, and why you and the team should embrace it without fear.
Hello, and welcome once again to the Dental Marketing Mastery series. This podcast is brought to you by DentalWebContent.com 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.
Mark: Well, everybody we have, we have a special guest for this podcast. And first I want to thank everyone, it’s, it’s really amazing. We have thousands of people listening to our podcasts. And we just I don’t know, Josh, what was it back in May or June, Josh had said, hey, let’s start a podcast series, and of course, Howie and I said, “All right, you know, what do we got to do?” And so anyway, thank you very much to the to the people who are listening, taking their time to listen to these podcasts at work or at the gym, or wherever you listen to them.
Today, we have a special guest, his name is Keith English. Keith is the CEO of a company called LocalMed. And we have a product called NPI Concierge, which is powered by LocalMed, Keith’s company. And it’s a technology platform that I thought it would be really interesting for dentists. To hear the backstory of Keith and his company. You know how long it takes to build a technology product and test it out and who he’s tested it with. And basically, just give everyone an overview of what it’s like to be the leader in online scheduling, even though and Keith will tell you even though when you say online dental appointment scheduling to a group of dentists, they almost all of them try to run out of the room as fast as they can. Keith, say hello to everybody.
Keith: Hello, everybody. And thank you very much for taking a few minutes here with me to walk through some of this stuff and explain what we’re doing.
Mark: Good. Good deal. Um, alright, so Keith, you started this whole thing. And you were you are you are successful technology entrepreneur. Um this isn’t your first project, right?
Keith: No, it’s not. Unfortunately, it’s probably my fifth of which one of the previous ones actually working. But that’s kind of the life of a technology entrepreneur, is you what you think are great ideas don’t always turn into great ideas. And the first few that I attempted did not, shall we say gain any attraction?
Mark: Right. Right. well,
Mark: you know, I think I think it’s right in line with our business, too. I mean, we, I tell everybody, we get the largest library of crap that doesn’t work. Right.
Keith: Of course.
Mark: If you want access, we’ll share it. But I mean, yeah, lots of stuff that we’ve tried, hasn’t worked out. But the persistence, and perseverance is the there.
Keith: 100 percent.
Keith: Hundred percent. And it was, I’ve certainly learned a lot more from the things that did not go right.
Keith: And the things that that have gone, right. You know, the first few businesses that I started when I was first getting into, to the business world have certainly shaped the few that, uh, that I’ve started since then that have found traction and have been a little bit more successful. The lessons that we learned on not just the technology side, but also how to interact with people interact with customers, how to treat customers, when things don’t go right, and how to make sure that we are providing those services in a way that makes sense for everybody are certainly valuable lessons that we learned along the way.
Mark: Yeah, sure. I’m lessons. Yeah, everybody learns those along the way. It’s, it’s funny, what’s in your mind’s eye when you think of something? And how different reality is?
Keith: No question, you end up, you know, what you think will be important to people is many times not as important as it is, it seems to be your vice versa something that you believe is is, you know, tangential, or not, not as consequential turns out to be the core of what you do.
Keith: And that’s, you know, you have to be very diligent and listening to your clients and your customers and your folks you’re dealing with to make sure that you’re providing the things that they find are relevant to their business.
Keith: That’s been really important for us as we’ve developed this particular product out.
Mark: Yeah, which, which, now, what brought you what brought you well, let me back up one step, I’m going to tell everybody listening to this podcast. Because basically, it’s my podcast, I can do whatever the hell I want. That there really there’s really one entity doing real online dental patient scheduling, real time online scheduling, which doesn’t create the headaches that you hear from online scheduling outlets. So let me just say that, and then let me back up and say, Keith, how did you how were you So like, how did you begin why were you so hell bent on creating the first online real time dental appointment scheduling integration for dentistry? Like Where did that come from?
Keith: So, I was introduced after I sold my previous business, to a private equity firm, I was introduced to some a pair of twins and in one of their friends, and one of the twins had cancer at a young age, and was unable he was since in remission after I met him. But he was unable to kind of keep up with everything that entailed him kind of managing his medical life. And they had a very broad and general concept around something that they wanted to build. And I got to talking to them and realized that, in general, it had some merit to what they were thinking, but they needed to really refine their vision a little bit more to, to focus, and not have such a huge project on their plate to start with.
Keith: As we got to looking into it and looking around and my background is is transactional technology, it’s connecting two parties that otherwise would not have found each other or would have had difficulty in completing a transaction of some sort. And as I got to talking to them, and looking through the Marketplace, we realized that there was nothing in particularly the dental market, and ultimately, the larger medical market, that really allowed patients the ability to connect with their providers in any sort of interactive way. They the transactions between patients and providers and dental providers, was really the same thing they’ve been doing since, you know, since Alexander Graham Bell came out and said, and you hear me.
Keith: This is the exact same, it’s the exact same transaction that’s occurred for 7080, you know, as many years as the phone’s been around.
Keith: While the technology to have a much more interactive experience, much more rich experience exists. And pretty much every other type of business, whether it be travel, flights, banking, you name it.
Mark: Restaurant fine dining.
Keith: There’s very, absolutely some and, you know, dining is is an example that we use, and we’ve heard, related to our service. But it’s obviously much simpler from a dining transaction, because there’s not this set of rules. But when you start to think of the headway that’s made in that interaction, in, say, a banking environment or a travel environment, we’ve got 10s of thousands of variables that has to be accounted for.
Keith: You know, they’re, even though they’re different. Your different industries, they’re very relevant from the standpoint of the all of the things that have to be taken into account in order to provide an accurate transaction.
Keith: And as I got to looking around at that, and talking to various people, we saw path, it was certainly a windy and long path. But there was a path, to be able to provide that service to connect patients in a better way with their providers. And we started down that path about little over four years ago, four and a half years ago now. And that’s kind of how we started this process.
Mark: Yeah, and I’ll be I’ll admit, to being on the, you know, what, are you crazy, you know, side of the ledger, because I think one of your folks called me two or three years ago and said, Hey, what do you think about online dental patient scheduling? And my answer was, what are you crazy, right?
Keith: That person was me.
Mark: Oh was it. okay?
Keith: It was absolutely. There was no other nowhere no other people for call at that point. I think it was me and the developers. And
Keith: Jacob, our head of operations, there wasn’t it wasn’t anybody else to make phone calls at that time.
Mark: Right, you weren’t you weren’t there yet, right? So
Keith: No, no.
Mark: Right. But let me bring it, I’m going to bring this to the audience’s attention. I go back in dentistry 27 or so years. And I remember, you’re going to laugh at this probably. But I remember the I think it was Chicago midwinter trade show where we had a piece of software called SoftDent at the time.
And we were the first ones. To do a couple things. One of one of the cool things we did was print, ADA forms on plain white copy paper. And the next cool thing we did is we started electronic claim, you know, our, with our customers, we weren’t the first ones to do electronic claims, but we are the first ones to really roll it out. And there’s a parallel between the reaction I got 25 years ago, from the dentist at the trade show booth who would walk up and say, What do you got this new and I’d say we do electronic insurance claims, and a doctor would see the doctor would stand there. They wouldn’t really say anything. For the first like 10-15 seconds it would get like awkward, awkward. Just like silent
Keith: You saw a lot of backs.
Mark: Yeah, I know
Keith: And they turn on to
Mark: I know.
Mark: I know, and you’d hear but where do I put the copy? How do I know they got it? Right? Like, now they’re gonna band together and they’re going to price us out of the more I mean, just conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory, right? I said, Yeah, but Dr. You know, it’s, it’s 39 cents. You know, it’s 39 cents a claim. And a doctor would sit there a little bit longer and think and he goes, Yeah, but see with an envelope, I could put four claims in an envelope. I could put four claims in 40 cents.
Mark: And I’m like, Okay, alright, have a nice day. Right? So,
Mark: You know, 10, 12, 15 I mean, it’s like you say it’s, it’s creating, its connecting, its connecting through a transactional level, two parties. And in this case, it’s actually three parties. It’s our company. It’s the dental office and the insurance company, and in some cases for parties because the patients of law, so I totally get it, I totally get the adoption curve, you guys and we, as a provider of your product, we’re going through, like having to talk to dentist and say, No, wait, wait, wait, wait, turn back around. This thing adds patients to your schedule.
So I I’m teaching the people here at NPI, I said, Look, the first three things that come out of your mouth, just say it adds patients to your schedule, it adds patients to your schedule, it adds patients to your schedule, and it’ll get them to focus in on how it adds patients to your schedule, instead of the things that they think it’s going to break. It doesn’t break anything. It’s
Keith: No, it.
Mark: Go through, go through. I can tell
Mark: People, look, you have rules in your practice management software, that manage your schedule, you have treatment rooms, operatories, whatever you call them, you have providers, you have allocation on the appointments, you have open time, you have blocks, you have all these rules, you have hours of operation. The platform, pulls them all in and understands all that. And then you get to add your own rules on top. Would you this is installed in 600 offices already. You know what the most popular additional rules are to add on top? Why don’t you talk to the audience about certain common rules that people add.
Keith: What this all basically comes back to is whether it’s the doctor or the staff, they’re concerned about, quote, unquote, losing control on their schedule, or that we learn going to put patients in the wrong spot.
Keith: I mean, ultimately, all of the fear comes back to that
Keith: Aspect. And we’re catching a lot of the flak right now from some things that have been done in the last 10 years by other companies, who, frankly built things wrong, or just flat out, misrepresented what their product was going to do.
Mark: You’re talking about
Keith: For the offices,
Mark: You’re talking about practice management software?
Keith: Not necessarily
Mark: Or other online dental appointment scheduling you get
Keith: Our companies that say they’re doing scheduling, but in reality, it’s just a request that
Keith: Is sent back to the office.
Keith: And that starts a chain reaction of communications between the practice and the patient at the end of that the patients just exasperated and quits.
Keith: And it’s, you know, worst case scenario, because now they’ve literally lost the patient, as opposed to having a shot at getting that patient.
Keith: You know, we’re catching a lot of the flack for that, or if somebody builds something that that literally caused more work at the office level or incorrect bookings. So you know, it is, and when we started this project, our primary goal was to do it properly, And we didn’t have any, you know, we had zero customers for two and a half years, when we sat here and dark rooms and headphones and stayed to ourselves and built this and sat, you know, literally sat for, for days and hours and months at a time inside dental offices to understand how they use their systems, why they did things the way they did it. And fortunately, had some very patient offices with us during those first few years. While we didn’t technically do anything, you know, we had to learn about
Keith: Why they did things the way that they did it. So, you know, we do get a lot of the flack from people who have told thing things were going to go one way and then didn’t. So, that being said, you know, our system is built in such a way that we take in, as you mentioned, all of the rules that are stored within practice management system. There are things as benign as the office hours, that are, you know, pretty simple, down to the combination of which types of appointments go to which providers and then which provider is working in which chair during which times of which day.
Keith: Um you know, things is, is kind of, I won’t say complex, but just things as intricate as that is. And those are all the things that are stored within the system. But then there’s the second level of rules, which are the rules that are kind of we call them the native scheduling rules, because they’re native to that office. And they’re generally the things that are known within the scheduling coordinators heads as opposed to being stored at the office level. Things such as Dr. x does not like new patients after two o’clock on every Thursday, that follows a snowy Wednesday,
Keith: Or whatever it may be, and you know, but those types of things that are in the hands of this guy doing coordinators, we have the ability to get those setup during the process as well. So that we’re not only taking those kind of hard and fast rules that are controlled by the management system, we’re also taking those native those local rules, and putting, you know, meshing those two together so that what we show is a representation of what would what is in the practice management system to be viewed by a scheduling coordinator.
Keith: So, you know, our goal is accuracy, that’s our ultimate goal is to accurately display those openings, so that when a patient looks at it, they are seeing a representation of what is within the practice management system. And then when they make their selection, it is accurately transmitted back into the practice management system into the exact right spot. And it is a fully booked appointment at that point.
Keith: And once folks, give us the chance have to show them that and show them that we’ve taken those things into account for them. And that we’re not just putting, you know, 10-minute crowns in on Friday afternoon at 4:30.
Mark: You’re right.
Keith: You know, the once they see that there, then they start to get an understanding of the depth of the system.
Keith: It’s the people that tend to have the most problems, understanding that are the ones that never let us show them the way that the system actually functions, and they make assumptions up front based on their history, as opposed to giving themselves the opportunity to understand what’s happening.
Mark: Right. Right. Yeah, it’s, um, it’s, it’s, I’ve gone through the onboarding process several times. And the onboarding process is very simple. It’s 20 minute here, wait a couple days, 20 or 30 minutes on the back end, boom, you’re up. I have to believe that once you do the initial interviews, and you’re interviewing that scheduling coordinator, who has all those tips and tricks in her head, you guys have to go off and program the platforms accordingly.
Come back. legitimize what you’re programmed. In other words, just make sure what you did was exactly the way it’s supposed to be. Take them live. And once they’re live, do you see them making tweaks along the way? I mean, I do with our concierge customers, I see them. Most of the time, the tweaks they’re making is actually, like you said they get used to it, and then they start to open it up.
Mark: Is that what you mean?
Keith: Yeah, hundred percent. The general processes will do the initial install. And then we schedule a, what we call a training session, but it’s really more of a verification session
Keith: Usually the following, usually the following day, or within 48 hours. And if any changes are made kind of in that verification session, it’s usually because they forgot one rule that was in their head didn’t tell us about or something small like that. But the last step in that process, is literally to look at what we show is available right next to their schedule open.
Keith: And they look at our system and say, okay, we show that there is a new patient appointment available in chair to at 10pm on Tuesday, and then they go look in their schedule to make sure that that’s accurate.
Mark: Right. It’s
Keith: And they’ll go look into, it’s a verification process of what we have in our system matches what they have in their system. And that’s the final step before it goes live, is to make sure and then if there’s anything that is not matching up exactly the way they want it, we make those adjustments right there on the fly, so that they are accurate before we ever go live.
Mark: Go ahead.
Keith: No, I’m sorry.
Mark: Well, I was just gonna say we have some installs now that are a couple, two or three months. Um having gone live, and they’re starting to get the itch. Hey, Mark, you guys are doing Facebook, Facebook PPC campaigns for us, let’s you know, create a landing page with the dental appointment scheduling widget. And now let’s put it on my Facebook page. And I mean, it’s starting to spread, you know, like,
Mark: You know, just like electronic claims. You had one doctor who said, guys, you’re and gals you’re missing the boat. This is this is not scary. This is a good thing,
Mark: Right now, all of a sudden,
Mark: Not really all of a sudden, but you know, now, you know, an overnight success. After four years, you’re starting to get people
Mark: Who say, wait a second, this is a real deal. This works.
Mark: You know,
Keith: And, yeah
Mark: That’s, that’s the bottom line. It’s, you’re not I, from a marketing standpoint, my whole reason for reaching back out to you after I told you, you are crazy. My whole point for reaching back out to you was to solve my problem. My problem was dentists, who are our clients, were spending money on advertising and then not answering their phone 20% of the time. And I had no logical, reasonable, very affordable way to solve that problem.
When I was reaching out, when I was reaching back out, I should say, I was coming at it from my own – I guess my own selfish business desires. You don’t know what it’s like to get a report once a month on the first, I hate the first of every month because I get the reports from the call tracking and I see thousands of phone calls. And I sorted by call length, and I know damn, well, every one of them under 40 seconds is a voicemail.
I mean, I know it is. And I look and I see it’s almost 20% of the total call volume. That’s why I originally, that we had it installed, I know I can see them I’m getting the notifications the doctors are getting. And I know many of them. Most of them actually are new patients. Now. You said to me in a conversation a little while back that that your platform wide, 600 offices? What percent are new?
Keith: If you take an aggregate, you’re looking at just around a little over 70%.
Mark: Okay, so 70% I don’t think ours are 70 is probably more like 50-50. But still, who cares? Who cares if it’s one? I mean, really, it? One is better than none. Right? Two is better than one. It’s 70%? For my that’s additive to the schedule?
Keith: Well, there’s let me make a couple of quick points on that. And one of the reasons why it’s 70% is because we don’t tell the offices what and what they need to list online to be scheduled. They tell us one bit what they want to make available.
Keith: We have some of our offices, particularly one client that’s exceedingly high volume, that only does new patients.
Mark: Oh, so they don’t even let establish patients book online,
Keith: Correct, which I think is a mistake, because they miss a ton of calls. But it’s not. It’s their business, not mine. And it’s there, you know, they run their own business. So we are we set things up according to their wishes, which actually kind of goes back, you know, goes back to a point you made a minute ago, which is that as your clients have become more comfortable, they have added new things, and that’s very common is that our offices will come on if there is any sort of hesitation, even after saying yes, they want the service, you know, they’ll come on, and they’ll only put new patients in new patient emergencies and that sort of stuff. And then after they see it working in 60, 90 days, then they’ll come back and they’ll open up a few more
Mark: Free Invisalign
Keith: And a few more.
Mark: Consults. Right?
Keith: Exactly, right.
Mark: Complementary implant consult. Right, here they come. Right.
Keith: Right. And, you know, there, once they understand that the rules that we have in place, can control where the appointments are being shown, and then ultimately scheduled.
Keith: They can assign those same kinds of rules to anything. And
Keith: Once they become comfortable with that, then they really spread that out. It’s not uncommon common at all, for somebody to have, you know, only three to five appointment types that they have online to start with. And then you look back six months later, and they’ve got 20.
Keith: Um And so that’s, you know, from a comfort perspective, but again, we’re not here to tell people how to run their business, it’s our jobs to augment the ways for those patients to be able to schedule in their system. And you’ve mentioned a few times, and something to give some stats to hear is, you know, you’ve mentioned that more patients will be able, you know, will interact with the office and schedule. And we asked just over 10,000 patients over the course of about two months.
You know, would they have called the office? Or would they have scheduled at that office had online dental appointment scheduling not been available? Or would they have just not done anything? Would they have delayed? Would they what would they have done? and of those we got about 1200 responses total of the ones that were new patients 30.1% of those patients said they would not have scheduled if online dental appointment scheduling was not available for them.
Mark: Right. And that’s what we see from a marketing standpoint. That’s our job from a marketing company standpoint, we have a client a client, the client should absolutely 100% expect his marketing his or her marketing company to understand all these technologies, which ones actually work, which ones don’t work, What benefits do they provide at what cost? And what you know, how much is this going to cost against my marketing budget, their marketing company should be able to, to tell them because there’s a million things dentists can do with their money. This is where the ones where you go, that’s a no brainer, just like electronic insurance claim. That’s it. That’s why I keep bringing it backup. This is a total statistical no brainer for a dental office yet.
You know, you can sense probably my frustration and in where we’re getting the early adopters, there’s lots of early adopters who are coming out of the woodwork now going, I want to try it, I want to try it I’m going to do you know, that’s great. I can’t wait till it goes mainstream, you know, so if you’re, if you’re on the edge about this, and you’re listening to this podcast, imagine being the first dentist in your in your market with a website, or being the first dentist in your market to provide same day dentistry or the first dentist in your market to do 24/7/365 on the telephone even now, you’re going to be 24/7/365 online, there’s a million reasons to do this, the only one that I always come back to is it is absolutely positively additive to the schedule.
Keith: It is. And I will say this, when we first started reaching out to people, little over 18 months ago, I heard so many clicks and everything else just from people thinking we were nuts and everything. But in the last, you know, four to six months, we’re having a lot more substantial conversations.
Keith: The number of people that are reaching out to us, as opposed to us reaching out to them has tripled the number of large organizations that are exploring this, you know, we’ve had organizations representing more than 4000 offices reach out to us in the last 30 days.
Keith: And it’s starting to, as people are looking for ways to provide their patients with fewer speed bumps,
Keith: Too scheduling.
Keith: they’re starting to recognize that this is one of those places that for, you know, a very small investment of capital in time, they can have a significant impact on their business, you know, without changing their business philosophy in any way, shape or form. It’s not as if they’re going and going to a brand new practice management system that’s going to be 10s of thousands of dollars and retrain their whole staff and everything else to make a difference, or they’re not hiring a consultant firm, that’s going to be a five year plan and completely change the way that they do their business.
Keith: This is a very low impact from a cost and time standpoint, but something they can implement to really make changes at their provider level.
Mark: Totally. Totally agree. You know that you know, I agree. Other than I wanted, I wanted everybody to hear you know, what keeps will bring you back we’re going to call this interview with Keith English part one. And we’ll have it will have a part two in a month or two. We’ll bring it back and follow up with some more of the some more of the unique ways that we’re seeing our, our customers, your customers on the platform our customers on Concierge. How we see it and how we see the patients interacting, like I’m seeing patients making appointments at 4:30 in the afternoon on Sunday Super Bowl Sunday. That’s insane.
Mark: That is totally insane. Okay. But you can just picture it’s, you know, it all boils down to mom. You know, mom is probably the busiest human being on the planet. And if you can make her life that much easier, and she can just log in and schedule for her whole family, her two kids and her husband who’s he’s not makers on the appointment. Come on, let’s face it.
Keith: Unless he cracks a tooth
Keith: The first time he’s doing.
Mark: Yes, right.
Keith: Unless it is an emergency. Yep. And then yes, and he will. And I can say this because I would do the same thing. I will whine and moan until my appointment. I want the first thing that’s available and I want it now.
Mark: Yeah that’s right, exactly. So anyway, thank you very much for your time, Keith, it was it was great to chat with you again and introduce you to our concierge customers and even just dentistry in general, doctors if you’re out there and did a trade show or at the ADA show, maybe in October. I know Keith and I will both be there. Stop by shake our hands ask us questions.
Keith: Glad to spend a little time here and you know, whatever other questions people have, we’re happy to answer and we’ll keep making sure that what we’re doing, keeps refining everything. And you got new stuff coming out too. We’ll keep you in the loop on all that.