The Dentist Magazine.

Hide and seek

Published: 05/02/2013

Eddie MacKenzie warns change is coming whether you are ‘ready or not’.

Food, presents and games with the family – that pretty much sums up Christmas day for me. Despite the technological revolution that has transformed computer games from little more than different coloured dots to living out entire lives on screen I don’t think you can beat the old favourites – Charades, and Hide and Seek. It’s true Hide and Seek is more of an outdoor game and the amount of hiding spaces available decrease the older (bigger and less flexible) you become, but it is one of the games that has stood the test of time – and the voice calling out “coming ready or not” still brings a hint of excitement as you risk injury and embarrassment to tuck yourself away in a forgotten nook and try not to be found.

You might be asking what relevance this has to dentistry, well the answer is in practice websites. There have been numerous articles explaining the benefits of having a practice website, and the importance of making it look modern and reflect your values and so on and so forth. There are many people who will tell you how to make your website look and function well and rank high in the Google listings, but sometimes it seems they forget the reason for the websites to exist in the first place - business.

An existing patient may check your website to confirm the address or opening hours, but this will not bring in any new appointments. If your website is a marketing tool you need to maximise its return. The internet is a fantastic way for your practice to showcase itself to a wide range of potential patients, the reason for doing this is to try and convince viewers to become patients. The modern look of the site and the intuitive page navigation are all well and good but if the end result is that the viewer doesn’t book an appointment then the website is ineffective and your money and effort has been wasted.

This is one of the reasons why an online appointment booking system is so effective. It means potential patients can immediately become actual patients. Software of Excellence released a user friendly online appointment book system last year. A customer can instantly find the right appointment and book themselves in. Internet sales experts say, after a decision has been made to purchase something, every further click before confirmation loses potential customers. If this is true then think how ineffective some websites are, when a patient who wants to book an appointment isn’t just one click away but has to wait for opening hours to try and call reception.

The Dentist has covered the online appointment booking system previously and highlighted its benefits, but now Software of Excellence has progressed the tool. Online appointment booking is only going to be effective if the website is attracting viewers in the first place – this is where Toothpick comes in.

 

Comparison sites

Comparison websites are a fact of modern day life. From those associated with large opera singers with silly moustaches to talking meerkats everybody has their favourite, and from insurance to hotels and holidays it seems there is a comparison website for everything. These exist to help people through the mountain of information available on the web. (Web users are impatient – Think to your own Google searches, when was the last time you actually viewed the second page of results?)

By using a comparison site, users can review multiple websites relevant to their needs and make an informed decision without having to waste time trawling through a thousand different web pages. The website comparison model is one we are very comfortable with now, and one which Sandeep Senghera believes will emerge in dentistry.

Sandeep is the CEO and co-founder of Toothpick.com, a find-a-dentist website he hopes will become the first point of call for patients searching for a dental practice. Each practice listed will give patients the opportunity to view and directly compare practices in a region. They can be filtered on a variety of factors, from distance from a patient’s house or work, opening hours, or even special requirements such as a dentist who speaks a certain language. After attending, a practice a patient can rate and post a review of their experience for others to read, making the site truly interactive.

The more information the patient has about the practice the earlier the patient experience begins. Toothpick can be personalised with pictures to show what a practice and its staff look like, helping to alleviate all the little fears and doubts patients can have.

Toothpick was launched at the BDTA Showcase last year and I had the opportunity to speak to Sandeep about the reaction it was receiving. The feedback had been almost universally positive and Sandeep explained; “People are already comfortable with the idea. The vast majority of dentists have used similar sites to book holidays and hotels and they understand how easy it will be for patients to find them.”

Obviously to be placed on Toothpick there is a cost involved, but certainly at Showcase most of the dentists considered it a worthwhile investment in the practice as after just a couple of new appointments the system would pay for itself.

I did wonder if a dentist principal would be happy allowing their practice to be ranked alongside potential rivals but when I put the question to Sandeep he immediately turned the question on its head - Will a practice be happy not being on a site which can (and will) be generating new patients for its rivals?

In today’s world patients are looking on the internet for dental services, and Toothpick could well become the first and only site visited. With the ability to search through a number of practices which are in their area and filter results based on their own personal preferences this recently launched tool is giving customers an easy route to dental care. Practices listed will be easily viewed, and those not risk playing hide and seek. If you aren't on the list be careful, change is coming whether you are ready or not.