Over the past decade or so, we’ve watched the many facets of digital transformation shape various businesses, including our own. Things happen fast thanks to new technology and sociopolitical changes across the world. According to a recent report from McKinsey the COVID-19 crisis alone has “accelerated the digitization of customer interactions by several years.”
Tell me about it.
Specifically, within the dental industry, digital transformation manifests in the renewed emphasis on digital customer experiences, tech-forward treatment options, and tele-everything. In Becker’s Dental + DSO Review, for example, we read about the use of chairside monitors to show patients the nature, cause, and proper fix for poorly aligned teeth—in real-time.
At its very best, digital transformation can dazzle us with brilliant use cases for the world’s most cutting-edge technology. It can extend access to care and improve patient outcomes for things like oral cancer detection and surgery. But what good is digital transformation if your parents don’t know about it?
Here’s where your marketing strategy comes into play.
Stay Up to Date On the Latest Digital Dental Technologies
Remember when Invisalign came along and disrupted everything with their no-braces teeth-straightening? Invisalign gave people a new way to overcome barriers to straightening their teeth. Similarly, new digitally-enabled technologies and treatment modalities are expanding patient choice and excess, but at an exponentially larger scale.
Here are a few particularly notable dental technologies fueling digital transformation across the industry:
Teledentistry, Virtual Care, and Online Collaboration
COVID-19 laid bare the need for remote care options in dentistry. Even as the pandemic subsides, the same barriers to access still exist. Some people live in remote areas, suffer from mobility issues, or simply cannot risk exposure to infectious disease. As such, teledentistry and other virtual care options allow these patients to forgo in-person dental visits unless absolutely necessary—while still receiving regular dental care.
What’s more, dental practices can update patient records, analyze courses of treatment, and collaborate with both patients and specialists to improve care.
More and more dental practices, organizations, and institutions are incorporating robot-assisted dental surgeries. Yomi by Neocis, for example, can help with augmented anatomical visualization and haptic-guided surgery. And NYU Dentistry recently became one of the first dental schools to use robot-assisted implant surgery.
While you’ll still recognize many of the most common dental appliances, it’s how those appliances are modeled and produced that’s changing. Should you ever need dentures, for example, your particular set might be made in a 3D denture printer. Today, advances in materials and processes make the 3D printing of permanent appliances, such as crowns, materially and commercially viable.
Finally, dentists are relying on AI to make better clinical decisions for their patients. In one example, AI is used to scan and analyze dental imaging in less than a second, an otherwise time-consuming task for dentists. Moreover, the analysis capabilities of various AI platforms is getting better and better every day. In turn, patients are getting better treatment for their dental conditions.
Make Digital Part of Your Practice’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
The fact that you’re making these considerable investments into digital technologies and equipment is a USP in and of itself. In truth, many of your competitors aren’t, as indicated by lagging technological investments across the dental industry. These days, dental support organizations (DSOs) are changing that trend, bringing new equipment, technology, training, and ideas to their affiliate practices.
In How to Differentiate Your DSO with the Right USP, we explore some differentiators that help dental practices stand apart. Technology and digital experiences certainly qualify as differentiators (when you use them right). Your task is to bring the quality of your digital experiences and in-office technology to the forefront of your digital channels, messaging, and campaigns. Let people know that you’ve invested in technology that improves the quality of their treatment by making it part of your USP.
Tell Your Patients About It!
Don’t expect prospective and existing patients to know about the innovations happening in the dental industry. Even if they’ve heard of the technology, they’re unlikely to dig deep enough to find out how it can help them. That’s your job! Show them by developing two types of targeted marketing campaigns:
Identify common issues and challenges dental patients have and share how technology helps them. Incorporate blog articles and educational social ad campaigns into this part of your strategy. That your practice happens to offer these technologies will be icing on the cake as those prospective patients move through the funnel.
This is where your services and conditions pages have a chance to shine. Use those pages to showcase the value of your tech investments, including pictures, videos, and testimonials. These pages can serve as the landers for your bottom-of-funnel ad campaigns, which should be differentiator- and value-focused (embodying your USP as a digital-forward practice).
Word of Mouth
When patients are in the office for a visit, you’ve got a captive audience. Perhaps there’s a new technology or treatment option for an upcoming dental need of theirs? Maybe you just rolled out an updated telehealth offering that might make sense for certain patient demographics or for post-surgical follow-up. In many cases, the easiest way to explain these options is face to face.
Focus On Value
This last part is very important because as great as technology is, patients only care if it means something to them. Don’t just show me snazzy photos of your robotic assistant—tell me how dental robotics is going to make my life better. Don’t just mention your patient portal—build content around how it works and how patients can use the portal.
After all, you or your DSO didn’t spend all that money to implement tech just for the sake of implementing tech, right?
In the end, your patients need to be at the heart of our digital transformation strategy. The technology you invest in needs to map back to the value it provides your patients. If it’s not delivering sufficient value, it might not be worth the time and effort. Ask yourself, too, how your tech impacts the patient experience. For instance:
- Is it easy to use for your staff?
- Can you train them?
- Does it enhance your office staff’s work life? Make their job easier? Help them provide faster service?
The answers to all of these questions track back to the patient experience. This is why it’s so important to focus on the value that digital technology brings to patients, especially across your digital marketing campaigns.
Underestimate Patient Interest In Digital and Risk Losing Them
I came across a report from Carestream Dental, which found that 2 out of 3 patients would consider changing to a dentist who uses more advanced technology. What’s more, “patients are nearly twice as likely to report a positive experience when advanced dental technology is used.”
Both of these data points serve as compelling reminders that, no matter where you’re at in your own digital transformation, it always has to be about what’s best for your patient experience. It’s a real differentiator, as is your ability to let the market know about it.