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It’s an increasingly “techie” world, and dental practices aren’t immune to new developments. Here are three trends you’ll want to adopt this year to ensure that your patients’ experiences with your practice are as positive as possible.
Let’s start with your online marketing and communications.
1. Security is no longer an option.
With more and more communication and transactions moving online, keeping your patients’ data safe is crucial. That’s not only true from a patient relations standpoint; the HIPAA penalties for a data breach can range from as little as $100 to as much as $1.5 million. The penalty determination is made on several factors, including the number of patients affected, whether you reasonably could and/or should have known that a breach occurred, and whether it’s a first-time breach or a recurring problem that you could have fixed.
Typically, people think of data breaches occurring due to online hacking. It’s also quite common for data to be lost due to theft of a device, such as a laptop that stores patient information. Let’s not forget mis-addressed email, nonsecure (unencrypted) data transmission (even cell phone communications aren’t always secure), and breaches committed by a business partner such as a vendor.
Or even worse, word-of-mouth violations by your staff, such as discussing a patient by name in front of other patients.
When was the last time you had a security audit conducted for your practice? This is one area where it can pay to hire an outside expert to examine your data storage, transmission, and security practices.
2. Payments have to be easier.
While adoption rates aren’t high yet, there’s a growing trend toward ending the credit card swipe. It’s called mobile payment solutions.
You’ve seen it demonstrated on TV or in stores; the customer simply presses a smartphone button. There’s a rapidly-increasing number of mobile payment apps flooding the market. We’ve gone beyond PayPal to Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and even Facebook Messenger, to name just a few. As of May 2015, there were at least 11 competitors in the field. Even wearable tech such as smartwatches are getting mobile pay apps.
We’ll be seeing more comfort with using these payment options and greater adoption in the coming year.
Offering mobile payment options for such things as co-pays, payments on account, and purchases may not sound like something dentists need to worry about. But customer expectations drive provider selection, and savvy dental practices will give patients the options they want.
3. Everything is connected, or should be.
Have you experienced browsing or shopping online, and a communications window opens up, asking whether a customer service rep can help?
Speaking of websites, does yours have the capability to securely accept payments?
Are there multiple ways that your patients can connect with your staff in real time, such as a chat program?
Customer expectations for connectedness and convenience will only increase as the ways we use the Internet continue to evolve.
On the surface, these trends may not seem to have much to do with marketing, but everything you do is marketing. The goal is to attract, convert, and keep patients who stay, pay, and refer. The more your practice does to meet patients’ evolving expectations, the more successful you’ll be.