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Managing Dental Patients with an E-Commerce Approach
Patient communication that can also benefit your bottom line
Imagine your patients receiving customized, timely email messages regarding your recommendations in managing their respective dental conditions. Now imagine your patients ordering the recommended products through your online store, with delivery at their doorstep in 72 hours.
Welcome to the world of e-commerce, where this year we will buy more than $300 billion in online retail products in the Unites States, a figure that has been growing approximately 15% annually.1 We enjoy this mode of purchase power because it is quick, convenient, educational, and now "personalized." When it comes to health information, 80% of us search for it online; the Internet is the primary resource for health and wellness information and searching for it ranks #3 in online activities.2
Dentists are familiar with e-commerce with the increased effectiveness of ordering dental supplies, which many experts say accounts for 7% of our overhead. But this kind of e-commerce is directed towards spending. What about using e-commerce to assist with the revenue side of the practice? When asked in a recent survey about selling specialty oral health care products in their practice, more than 93% of dentists suggested that it is happening already or will happen (personal communication; data on file, Periosciences, Inc). The same rationale for supply maintenance translates to our patients: decreased inventory and speed of access. How we manage patient conditions can be readily reinforced via email messages that result in more effective delivery of care with increased compliance.
While some physicians, veterinarians, and dentists have developed website "shopping carts," these venues are generally generic in their structure and simply take the place of shopping in person for health care–related products. It also requires a patient to access your website. Why not consider a two-way communication with timely educational emails to your patient database suggesting product offers/specials related to patient conditions? We have now reinforced our initial product recommendations with an electronic memory jog.
As an example, say your periodontal patient is introduced and educated on sophisticated oral hygiene products such as power toothbrushes, interdental brushes, and daily use of antioxidant products. Sending the patient a quarterly email would continue to educate and reinforce compliance. In addition, the patient could be made aware of the products you recommend and have ready access to acquire those products through a link to "your" online store. The email process and order/supply is managed by a third-party entity. Thus the proverbial win–win: our patients get the necessary oral hygiene products in a timely manner, and the dentist provides the respective products with increased profit yet decreased inventory. Eventually, these emails can be personalized to take into account frequency as well as the patient's condition and risk assessment. The e-system does not stop at emails. Imagine empowering your blogs, Facebook posts, and other social media outlets with the option to monetize them with a direct buy/ship e-commerce system.
By riding the current information transfer wave, today's dental professional can become more effective utilizing technology to maximize patient outcomes.
About the Author
Samuel B. Low, DDS, MS, MEd, is professor emeritus at the University of Florida College of Dentistry, as well as an associate faculty member of The Pankey Institute with 30 years of private practice experience in periodontics and implant placement. He is also a diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology and past president of the American Academy of Periodontology. Dr. Low was named Dentist of the Year by the Florida Dental Association and Distinguished Alumnus by the University of Texas Dental School, and he is also the recipient of the Gordon Christensen Lecturer Recognition Award. In addition, he is a past president of the Florida Dental Association and past 17th district Trustee of the American Dental Association.
1. Enright A. www.internetretailer.com/2015/02/17/us-annual-e-retail-sales-surpass-300-billion-first-ti. Internet Retailer website. February 17, 2015. Accessed April 2, 2015.
2. Fox S, Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. Health topics. Pew Internet website. www.pewinternet.org/files/old-media/Files/Reports/2011/PIP_Health_Topics.pdf. February 1, 2011. Accessed April 2, 2015.