5 Ways to Make Patient Education Pay Off
Misunderstandings about oral health and dental procedures, anxiety about the cost of dental treatment and fear of pain from procedures can be important reasons patients avoid seeing their dentist. All of these concerns can be addressed through effective patient education, which can help patients understand their options and ease their fears so they can focus on achieving excellent oral health.
In addition, educated and engaged patients will grow into loyal customers, leading to increased referrals.
We did some research and found five ways to provide patient education that can pay off for dental practices as well as patients.
1. Create an informative, easy-to-use website
A dental practice’s website is often the first point of contact for prospective patients. Including patient education information makes your site useful and presents your practice as one that’s expert in dental treatments, trustworthy and caring.
Another advantage to providing educational content: Regularly updating your website with original, current information on relevant topics is one of the best ways to improve search engine optimization (SEO). So, by educating patients you’ll be helping your practice place closer to the top of search-engine results.
A good dental practice website can include:
- Information about available services and procedures
- Answers to frequently asked questions
- Positive testimonials from real patients
- Easy online tools for visitors to ask questions and book appointments
- Friendly, accessible profiles of providers and staff
- A Blog for patient-education articles and practice news
Connecting with current and potential patients through website content and blog posts is a long-term effort. Results won’t happen overnight, but if new content is posted consistently, a good publishing strategy can have a powerful positive impact on a dental practice’s business.
The next tip can help you build this type of content over time.
2. Produce an e-mail newsletter for patients
A strong website is needed for the times when people are searching for dental care in your area or want to learn more about your practice specifically. But how can you keep your practice top of mind for patients and strengthen your relationships with them when they’re not actively seeking care? An email newsletter is a great, low-pressure tool for educating and engaging existing patients to improve patient care as well as loyalty and satisfaction.
An e-newsletter is a good way to share oral health tips, information about dental conditions and treatments, news about your practice and promotional offers. Sending these quarterly or monthly updates also can serve as helpful reminders for patients to schedule needed appointments.
Dentists and their staff can create and distribute e-newsletters on their own through services like Mailchimp or Constant Contact, or they can hire a freelance writer or agency partner with experience marketing dental practices to produce and manage the project on their behalf.
The content you create for your e-newsletter can be re-used in multiple ways, helping you get more for your investment. For example, it can be added to your website as blog posts or as updated content, and it can be used as the basis for social media posts. When you regularly publish original content online, your website is more likely to place higher in search results.
3. Use dental software as a teaching tool
For many patients, especially those with complex treatment needs, visual explanations are a helpful addition to a dentist’s verbal descriptions and take-home reading material. Modern visual aids, like videos and 3D graphics, can help patients understand their diagnoses and the procedures recommended to them, making them more likely to follow those recommendations.
There are a number of vendors, like Guru Dental, that provide comprehensive libraries of educational multimedia content for all ages. These learning aids can be shown in treatments rooms on TVs or tablets, or patients can watch materials at home while considering their treatment options.
4. Educate and entertain in the waiting room
The time patients spend in the waiting can be a great opportunity to communicate advice about good oral health through high quality waiting room videos, such as those offered through a service like Optio TV or Silent Partner TV. Waiting room videos can highlight key services and be branded for your practice. Custom videos can be incorporated as well. Good waiting room videos not only provide patients with useful information, they also help reduce the perception of long wait times, a proven boost to patient satisfaction.
5. Provide printed materials and brochures
Patients often won’t make decisions about major procedures on the spot in the dentist’s office, preferring to discuss their options at home with friends and family. Stocking printed materials and brochures on a wide range of topics and procedures—like these from the American Dental Association—allows dentists to easily send patients home with helpful information they can consult as they think over their choices.
When it comes to getting high quality patient education content created, you have several options:
- In-house staff can write articles and create social media posts, hiring a freelance consultant to edit and review content before publishing.
- You can hire a local freelancer with experience in dental or healthcare writing to create original content for you.
- Larger practices might want to consider signing on with a content marketing agency that specializes in dental practices to handle all aspects of content creation and publishing.
- Both print and digital patient education materials are available through the ADA and other vendors, and can be customized with your contact information. For some practices, this can be the best solution, but it’s important to note that generic content doesn’t help your practice place higher in search engine results (only original content does that).
We suggest designating one dentist in your practice as the point person on patient education. This person should have an interest in marketing as well, so they can take on primary responsibility for getting content created and maximizing its use across all of the practice’s patient-communication touchpoints.