Keep them coming! – Nina CartwrightPromotional Features
Posted by: The Probe 3rd January 2018
Keep them coming!
In the 24-month period up to the end of June 2017, 22.2 million adults were seen by a NHS dentist in England; that’s just over half of the adult population. But what about the rest of them? Well, in a separate survey where respondents were asked their views on NHS dentistry, 38 per cent gave ‘private dentistry’ as the main reason for not trying to obtain an appointment.
Private or NHS, that’s still quite a lot of adults missing from the statistics. As for children, although the under 18s get free dental care, the 2016-17 figures for England revealed that only 58 per cent saw an NHS dentist during this period.
Rather than endless number crunching, we really need to ask why people still don’t get to the dentist as often as they should. The question is relevant whether your schedules are full to capacity, or if you have been seeing your numbers dwindle every year. New patients are only part of the answer too, as loyal ones aren’t immune to cancelling and/or vanishing altogether.
Cost is of course a factor if they pay for treatment. Perceived need ties in with this – a patient may bring their children for a check up every six months because it is free, but only book an appointment for themselves when they have a problem that needs fixing. Paying for a dentist to regularly check that all is well is often far down the list of financial priorities.
Anxiety will is another reason why people avoid going to the dentist. In the last Adult Dental Health Survey, 36 per cent reported ‘moderate’ anxiety at the thought of going to the dentist; 12 per cent said their fear was ‘extreme’. Travel issues/access can also be a cause of poor or lapsed attendance. As can being unable to get an appointment at a time that suits, with a preferred clinician.
Taken together, these factors create a mountain to climb, but small changes can make a big difference. Are your charges clear and do patients know exactly what they are entitled to? Do you have protocols in place to deal with dental anxiety and do you advertise these well enough? How well do you spread the message that prevention and regular appointments are paramount to general well being, alongside a good daily cleaning routine?
Is your booking system convenient and fully patient-focused? The answer for many practices has been to implement online booking. Online booking that can be done anywhere, on a computer, smartphone or tablet, speaks loudly to the busy commuter, or the on-the-go mother who does not have any desire to be held in a telephone queue while tending to her young children. Online booking also allows patients to switch an appointment easily, without having to cancel and possibly go elsewhere.
Online booking will also give your practice numerous benefits. You need only upload slots you wish to fill, thus retaining full control of what and how many appointments are booked. The reception team will get more time to deal with people actually in the practice and those who prefer to call. This is an important point; online booking should run alongside an informed, professional and efficient front desk to give patients a choice about how they engage with you. Depending on their specific needs, patients can either book quickly and easily online or know that if they call they will be able to discuss their matter with someone who is knowledgeable and polite. One size does not fit all and a successful, forward-thinking practice must consider the different kinds of patients they treat and how to support and engage successfully with all of them.
Investing in online booking means looking for a system that can improve both attendance and patient satisfaction. The CS R4+ Engage from Carestream Dental is a brand-new tool designed to do just that and more. Combining the power of cloud-based online booking with SMS text messaging and encouraging satisfied customers to provide testimonials, it utilises the latest technology and marries it with good, ‘old-fashioned’ values like convenience and high standards of customer service.
We want more people to go to the dentist more often, not just when they are in pain. Making it easier to access and book your services is an important step in the right direction. Having a choice of booking online will make more patients come to you and then return. If you can offer convenience, support and efficiency, alongside excellent care, your patients will become your biggest promoters.
For more information, contact Carestream Dental on 0800 169 9692 or
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NHS Dental Statistics for England – 2016-17. NHS Digital, 31 August 2017. Link: https://digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB30069 (accessed November 2017).
GP Patient Survey Dental Statistics; January to March 2017, England. NHS England, 6 July 2017. Link: https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/2017/07/06/gpps_dent_y111864861/ (accessed November 2017).
NHS Dental Statistics for England – 2016-17.
Adult Dental Health Survey, 2009. Heath & Social Care Information Centre, 24 March 2011. Link: http://content.digital.nhs.uk/pubs/dentalsurveyfullreport09 (accessed November 2017).
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