Table of Contents

Cover Story
Practice Building
Roundtable
View Point
Continuing Education
Implants
Periodontics
Restorative

Inside Dentistry

February 2014, Volume 10, Issue 2
Published by AEGIS Communications

Why Leading Dentists Choose Mobile Technology

Apps can help dentists stay on top of business and in touch with patients

Tanya Stein, RDH

As of May 2013, the Apple App Store and Google Play each boasted more than 800,000 apps.1 Nielsen’s Q1 2013 report maintains that smartphone users spend 87% of their “app/web” time using mobile apps.2 Every day, more and more apps are providing business solutions for everything from restaurants and banks to cosmetic companies and dental offices. It stands to reason that apps wouldn’t be so widely accepted from one business to another if the benefits weren’t significant. Leading dentists who have already incorporated this technology into their practices are seeing a change for the better, with faster growth and a more efficient and streamlined dental office experience.

Why Invest in a Mobile App?

Most dentists are spread too thin. When they decided to go to dental school, they expected to be doing dentistry. They probably didn’t realize when they started their practices that they would be getting a crash course in business law and management, IT, marketing, accounting, and human resources. With so much to do, it’s inevitable that every practice has shortcomings. This is where mobile apps can help.

With a variety of dental mobile apps on the market, it’s important to find or build one that is solution-based. While benefiting the dental office, it must also provide value to patients worthy of occupying choice real estate on their smartphones. Dentists who use them to successfully create a more predictable and efficient dental office environment stand to increase their bottom line—a good reason to make the investment.

It is important to find or build a mobile app designed to address the issues most dental offices experience on a daily basis. This includes collections, scheduling, emergencies, patient information, and appropriation of resources/staff time. The author recommends that the office first identify its own office system defects so the app can be most effective. Although the idea of having an app may seem cool, to receive a return on the investment, it is essential to choose one that actually addresses the dental practice needs. Below are some mobile app features or suggestions that can get your office results.

24/7 Payment Collection

Today’s consumers are using the easiest, most convenient ways to pay bills. They are using PayPal, online banking, and other “stamp-free” methods to send in payments whenever they want, without the delays or paper of snail mail. It is possible for practices to take advantage of this trend and incorporate a payment option through their app. By giving patients an option to pay their bill on their smartphone, bills are paid faster and accounts stay more current. Research shows that simplifying the payment process is more likely to lead to paid bills rather than delinquent accounts.

Increased Patient Retention

Although postcards and “last call for dental insurance benefit” letters may be effective ways to keep in touch with some people, especially older patients, dentists need to change the way they communicate to stay connected with the growing number of patients who are using technology. Once connected to the office with an app, patients can receive a wide range of information and notices pertaining to their treatment without searching for it. The dental app icon alone is a subtle reminder that it may be time to make an appointment.

Optimum Scheduling for Monetization

Patient scheduling must accommodate both patients’ time and doctors’ daily financial goals. Apps can offer many capabilities when it comes to helping fill those chairs. This can be something simple, like an appointment request module where patients can simply request an appointment with their schedule specifications, or it can be more interactive—eg, using “push notifications” to alert patients when a last-minute appointment time opens up. With a system like this in place, time is saved, communication is direct and clear, and chairs are kept full. It’s a win-win situation for both patient and office.

Increased Visibility and Growth

Word of mouth is still one of the best and most economical ways to get new business. Wildly popular social media outlets such as Angie’s List and Yelp are like word of mouth, but through a megaphone. Anyone can share his or her opinion about a service or business and everyone looking for that service or business will know about it. If the opinions are good and plentiful, it attracts new business. Using social media outlets is much more cost effective for getting new business than coupons, Groupons, and email blasts, because it costs nothing. Having an app with a direct connection to an office’s social media outlet makes it easy for patients to post about their positive experiences with a practice and its office staff. It puts an end to lost requests for testimonials from patients who can’t get to a computer or don’t feel like “searching the web” for the dental office listing.

Fostering Trust and Comfort

People trust businesses that make the effort to “keep up with the times.” Being a leader in the community and offering patients a mobile app demonstrates a desire to offer patient the best service via the technology of their choice. Just giving patients convenient access to services via a solution-based mobile app can help practices reap significant benefits in terms of encouraging patient comfort and trust.

Getting Started

The next step for dentists wanting to implement this technology and get a great return on investment is to critically evaluate their practiced and look for deficiencies.

• Is your new patient count low?

• Are your account receivables too high?

• Are you spending too much money on mailers or other marketing programs?

• Is your daily production goal being met?

• Are emergency patients being handled appropriately?

• Is your office wasting paper on treatment information?

Once the problem or problems have been identified, a solution can be put in place. This starts with making a list of desired improvements/services and contacting an app developer. The development of most mobile apps created in the United States start around at about $1,500 and can go as high as more than $30,000.00, but it depends on the complexity of the development and sophistication of the software. There is typically a monthly hosting fee, which varies based on app size, updates, service, and how much data it is hosting. Every developer is different; it’s a good idea to look around. The author recommends working with a US-based app developer because working with an app developer outside the country may lead to some unforeseen communication problems down the road.

Worth the Investment

Although this may seem like a lot of money initially, a solution-based app is a safe investment. The dentists who have already embraced this technology and are leading the “mobile movement” are saving money, saving resources, and gaining benefits. More and more, mobile apps are becoming “the way it’s done” by contemporary services and businesses, and the best part is that anyone can have one.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tanya Stein, RDH, is the communication specialist for Dental Anywhere Mobile Apps™. Ms. Stein is a recent past hygiene representative for the California Dental Association (CDA) Allied Health Professional Task Force and was one of the first allied health professionals to join CDA as a member.

References

1. Top iOS and Android apps largely absent on Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10. Canalys website. www.canalys.com/newsroom/top-ios-and-android-apps-largely-absent-windows-phone-and-blackberry-10. May 23, 2013. Accessed December 10, 2013.

2. The fast and the curious: on-the-go-consumers drive content and connectivity. Nielsen website. www.nielsen.com/us/en/newswire/2013/the-fast-and-the-curious--on-the-go-consumers-drive-content-and-.html. June 10, 2013. Accessed December 10, 2013.