We live in a technological world, one that swirls and advances constantly at an ever-accelerating pace. And you may say that it is mostly people under 35 who are in love with new technology, and indeed they are. They will wait in line to get a new cell phone not because theirs is broken, but because the iPhone 5 is out and they can’t stand to use that iPhone 4S for one more day.
But all of us engage new technology all the time, and we’ve come to expect it. 4G in our phones that is faster than our broadband internet at home. GPS in a car that costs $15,000. Video on Demand. Arthroscopic surgery. Open Table. Google Maps. Mobile banking. Smart thermostats. And we love it.
And with this expectation comes a subconscious assessment of those things that haven’t advanced, or those businesses that haven’t incorporated new technology:
- “How can this restaurant not have their menu on a website?”
- “This hotel doesn’t have any reviews on Yelp–can you believe it?”
- “Why can’t you just text me the appointment time?”
- “What do you mean you can’t email me the receipt?”
People are choosing businesses, including dental practices, because of the level of technology that they see, and also because of the technological cachet that comes with digital services. For example, we know for a fact that people are making judgments about the quality of dentistry that you provide based on the appearance of your website. Is it modern-looking? Does is it have videos and patient reviews? Can I request an appointment? If they don’t see these things, they often decide that the quality of your dentistry is not up to par. It’s an erroneous assumption, I grant you, but they make it anyway, because they see hundreds of well-designed websites every month.
If they can’t fill out patient intake forms ahead of time through email, they are making a judgment about you.
If they see that lightbox on the wall with the tiny film x-rays glowing on it, they are wondering why you don’t have digital radiography.
If they have heard of CEREC, they want to know why you’re placing a temporary so that they’ll have to come back in two weeks for you to cut it off and put the crown on.
If the office has free WiFi, they see you as a modern, convenient practice.
If you have iPads with movies and games, you are high-tech.
If you have an active Facebook page, you are a cutting-edge practice.
Notice how little of this, short of the CAD/CAM, is about the quality of your dentistry.
Why? Because they could look at every patient record in the office and still not know if you’re a great clinician or not. So they make assumptions based on other criteria, relevant or not.
We recently did a survey of consumer attitudes toward dentistry, and one of the questions was about why they have difficulty choosing a dentist. Almost 60% stated one of the reasons was they had no way of gauging the quality of the dentistry in the practice. It’s a daunting mystery to most people. And it makes them procrastinators and avoiders.
I will add one more observation to this: when that patient who sees you as technologically backward leaves your practice, they will not tell you why. They will just go somewhere else. And your practice will very gradually shrink. Need I point out that the segment of the population that is growing is the one with this expectation of new technology? The late adapters and Luddites will be fewer and fewer, because technology is finally making our lives easier, faster and more convenient. And more fun.
So be a great clinician, of course. That is baseline. But bring new technology and this high-tech, modern-world cachet to your office, and it will expand your patient base and create patients more open to comprehensive care and more likely to recommend your practice. And who knows, you might really start to enjoy dentistry all over again.
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