<a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/patcassidy" rel="author">Dr. Patrick Cassidy</a> is a dental graduate of the University of British Columbia, and holds a Masters of Public Health from the University of North Carolina.  He is the founder of <a href="http://www.rtdental.com/">Research Triangle Dental and Implant Center</a> in North Carolina where he contributes his 30+ years of dental knowledge.  Dr. Cassidy’s innovation and creativity co-founded Net32, Inc., a dental industry leading comparison shopping marketplace for dentists at <a href="http://www.net32.com/">www.net32.com</a>.

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How 3D Printing Is Revolutionizing the Dental Industry

Additive manufacturing is here to stay – is your practice on board?

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is that rare once-in-a-generation technological innovation that has the ability to transform global manufacturing industries and commerce in general as we know it.

To be honest, it kind of already is. In fact, according to the most recent Worldwide Semiannual 3D Printing Spending Guide from International Data Corporation (IDC), revenue in this amazing industry is projected to reach $28.9 billion by 2020.

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Data Driven Patient Satisfaction for your Practice


Yes, I admit it – I LOVE DATA! In this article I will detail some real life examples from my group dental practice of how objective data can support best possible customer satisfaction. Customer service is more than a smile and the warm and fuzzies.Let’s start with asking what are the primary goals of your practice? I think it would be safe to say that every practice seeks to achieve success in the following areas:

1. Satisfied patients.
2. Integrated, effective, happy team.
3. Financial health and growth.

In this article I would like to share some thoughts about #1. Satisfied Patients, without which the other goals are unlikely to be achieved. I will assume that you already have a degree of financial success and a great team of Linchpins ready to seek out new ways to advance your practice.

I hope you also agree that the best way to achieve satisfied patients is through outstanding customer service. OK, now let’s take a look at how great customer service can be cultivated and the results measured objectively in a dental practice.

So, what measurements best reflect whether or not your practice is perceived by patients as being a great place to receive dental care?

Growing or dying: One high level indicator of overall satisfaction certainly would be continued patronage as reflected in your monthly active patient totals. Be realistic folks. This is not the total number of patients in your database (except for those who have been in practice less than 2 years). Consider active patients to be patients who have been PHYSICALLY in the building for treatment in the past 2 years. Consider utilizing an even more powerful metric for this data set – a Trailing 12 Report. This report simply compares the current 12 month total with previous 12 month chunks, going back one month at a time so that you are comparing year over year retrospectively. A good report to show whether you are growing or dying year over year, and a hint that customer service may be slipping over time if growth is slowing.

Post appointment surveys: Additional insights into quality of customer service can be derived from post appointment survey return results. We send out a survey same day to every patient seen during the day. Lighthouse 360 has fully automated this program for us. Fix what the customer complains about, augment what they rave about.

Testimonial acquisition: Next let’s look at another trackable activity, testimonial acquisition. We have customized the Lighthouse post appointment survey to include a request for a testimonial, including patient consent to use in electronic media. Post testimonials on your website. Start your weekly/monthly team meetings by reading all the testimonials good and bad.

Hopefully you are acquiring additional insights on how well your practice is taking care of patients by means of such things as “Ask for Testimonials” programs which encourage and enable patients to post testimonials on Google+, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc.

The more good data (Testimonials) that your patients post on the web, the more you learn, and more evidence exists to encourage new patient growth and overall growth of your practice.

There are, of course, many other ways to improve customer satisfaction in your practice. However, in my practice I have found that the above data points and programs are key to creating virtuous cycles that drive patient satisfaction and growth predictively over time regardless of economic conditions.

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Technology Acquisition, Finance, and Training

Dentists are acquiring technology at unprecedented rates for a number of very good reasons.  Primary drivers are the rate advancement of technology itself, coupled with meaningful value that can be delivered relative to legacy technology. Larry Emmott makes the value of training crystal clear in his Ten Most Common Mistakes Dentists Make Using Technology.

I would like to add a few comments about how my practice chooses and finances new technology. Every year we establish a budget of somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000+.  Our 4 doctors research the possibilities throughout the first 6 months of the year, paying close attention to which technologies will give us the biggest bang (= sales) for the buck, coupled with value to patient care.  With connected technologies we favor open source, to avoid the high cost of proprietary closed systems. For example we reviewed and had demos of digital scanning systems and milling units last year and chose 3M’s scanner coupled with Glidewell’s milling unit. For a huge discount off the cost of the “industry leader” we have been able to integrate wonderful same day crown technology.

In order to maintain strong financial control we always finance technology over 3 years – no matter what the cost. For instance Carestream offered an amazing deal to upgrade our CS9000 CT scanner to the CS9300 near year’s end. We chose to do that deal with financing at 2.49% payable over 3 years.

Considering how fast technology changes (especially computers and servers) having loans pay out every year in a 3 year cycle keeps us agile and allows us to change out or acquire new technology in a timely and affordable manner. If we can’t pay off technology in 3 years we don’t buy it.

And of course we do extensive training to avoid the mistakes on Larry’s list.

What are your thoughts on technology acquisition, training, and finance?

The Ten Most Common Mistakes Dentists Make Using Technology 

by Dr. Larry Emmott

  1. No training
  2. No follow up training
  3. Dentist doesn’t get training
  4. No training on updates
  5. Not enough training
  6. Lack of training
  7. Little training
  8. Self training
  9. Poor training
  10. Won’t pay for training

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Does Yelp work?

Does Yelp work?

In today’s competitive environment all dental offices must have a good understanding of how social media can work for their practices.  It is very important to gain the social media business intelligence that will drive new patient flow in the most effective manner – and that is not always easy. Net32’s annual surveys of Social Media Habits for Dentists show a strong and growing interest in dentists trying to leverage social media sites for new patient acquisition. In fact, in 2014 almost 34% of dentists were seeking to use social media sites for new patient acquisition as opposed to only 18% in 2010.  So, what is working for you?  Let’s take Yelp as a real life example. Is Yelp driving new patients for your dental practice? Here’s my story.

Like any well managed office my team asks all new patients “Whom may we thank for referring you to our practice?”  Although we have tremendous new patient acquisition, despite trying for the last 4 years or so, next to no one refers to Yelp as the referral source. Make no mistake, we have been quite successful in acquiring terrific reviews by means of internal marketing, links on post-appointment surveys and monthly specials emails, QR codes on appointment cards, website links, slides in the lobby, laptops, and iPads, etc. etc. Currently we have ten 5 star reviews showing and 59 reviews (the vast majority being 5 star) that yelp’s algorithm declines to display. Relative to other sources Yelp is yielding a big fat goose egg. How are you determining if Yelp is of any value to your practice, and what do you consider best practices?

Perhaps patients’ use of Yelp is different in other parts of the country. Perhaps my experience is not the norm. However, it appears that Yelp in North Carolina is not working for me.

Maybe further education is in order to expand our Yelp business intelligence? So far our study of best practices has not disclosed any new gems nor led to any new tactics to try.

5 Stars is the best rating possible on Yelp and that is not driving patients to my door. What’s your story?

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Clinical Excellence = Business Success? My story.

I worry about dental students, new graduates, and those in their early years of practice. Are they as naïve nowadays as was I a few decades ago?  I hope not, but chances are that many will have difficulty finding their way in the first few years (perhaps much longer) for lack of business knowhow.  I wonder how other dentists with extensive practice experience, looking back, would rate their preparedness for the real world of dentistry upon graduation.

When I was going to dental school, academic and clinical demands precluded even the slightest thought about the business of dentistry. It was only when graduation was approaching that I started to think about my future, but in kind of an indirect fashion, in the context of what clinical situation was I going to place myself in – associateship, partnership, or solo practice?  My perspective was 100% clinical, which is no big surprise when you consider that no family member, relative, or personal acquaintance owned a business, dental or otherwise.  The business blind spot had in no way been addressed in dental school. In four years of training not a single course, instructor or guest speaker had dealt with how to set up the business structure or run a dental practice as a business entity. I had filled the void by becoming a passionate clinical perfectionist, but I was unprepared for the world of business challenges that I was about to enter.

The only business advice I got in my first four years of practice was from an accountant. No offense to accountants. They do have an important role to play. However, for someone who had a complete void of business knowledge, an accountant could never fill that void adequately. There were matters of leadership, management, acquiring and training staff, personal development, etc., all of which were critically important in building a successful practice.  I simply didn’t know to look for help, and my only hope defaulted to doing perfect dentistry and praying that alone would lead to success. Didn’t happen. I learned the hard way that clinical excellence did not equal business success, except of course for the very few dental savants out there who were so good that movie stars, the wealthy, and dentists themselves, flocked to them for care and clinical training.

Looking back it seems to me that any one of the following could have provided a healthier, more certain, and shorter path to practice success.

  1. Having business in my family tree.
  2. Taking business, management, and leadership courses pre-dental.
  3. Dental school bringing in practicing dentists (preferably non-faculty) to discuss the business of dentistry.
  4. Seeking out a dentist business mentor while in dental school.
  5. Seeking out a dentist business mentor in the early years after dental school and beyond.
  6. Undertaking personal development training early in my career, learning more about human nature, and becoming a more powerful person so I could be a more powerful dentist leader.
  7. Getting in front of world class leaders.
  8. Reading many books throughout the early years about leadership, management, marketing, advertising, innovation, personal development, etc.

Recently, I met a newly graduated dentist who related that she learned nothing about the business of dentistry during dental school. The guest speakers were all non-dentists with a personal agenda to sell the graduating students a service or a product, and she felt completely confused about how to weigh the practice options in front of her. Guess the same problems do persist today.

What was your experience in the years following graduation? Smooth sailing or rough waters? How prepared were you for the business of dentistry? What were your biggest setbacks and how could they have been avoided. What would you recommend to dentists to help them navigate their early years? What can we do as a profession to help those new to our profession?

I am particularly interested in pursuing the idea of approaching dental schools with a view to pair up experienced dentists as mentors for those students that are interested in having a coach as they begin their careers.

Dentistry has been very kind to me and many others. However today, according to a recent ADA article, dental students graduate with student loans averaging over $200,000, the same individuals who will step out into a business world that many are ill prepared for.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to support these young colleagues as they start their careers in our chosen profession?

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