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The Ultimate Guide to Patient Communication

Business Development

If your dental practice is having trouble retaining patients, you’re not alone. Hundreds or possibly even thousands of other practitioners feel the same way. And, we totally get it.

With your attention pulled in so many directions, acquiring new patients and nurturing existing ones to ensure they remain loyal may not be at the top of your priority list. Or perhaps, you’ve been making an effort to cater to them as best as you can, only for it to fall flat. Frustrating, isn’t it?

What if we told you that we have the solution you’ve been looking for this entire time? While improving health outcomes isn't our forte and we definitely have no background in medical practice, one thing's for sure: we can be your go-to when it comes to dental marketing.    

That’s right, we can help you get your current patients to book more appointments with you. Introducing internal practice marketing (IPM).

Having worked with countless dental businesses across the country, we can definitely say that this dental marketing strategy, which focuses on patient satisfaction, has been doing a fantastic job at maintaining a solid patient base. Don’t take our word for it, though. We’ll be more than happy to let our clients’ testimonials speak for us.

Oh, and wait ‘til you hear about the incredible benefits you’ll be reaping when you use our IPM services! We’ll be going over each of them in this comprehensive guide of ours. What else will this post cover? Here’s our TOC to give you a sneak peek:

Table of Content

  1. Key Dental Marketing Terms to Remember
  2. What Is Patient Communication?
  3. Why Does Patient Retention Matter?
  4. What Is Internal Practice Marketing?
  5. How Does the IPM Software Work?
  6. Top Dental Software Solutions
  7. Frequently Asked Questions

Key Dental Marketing Terms to Remember

Before anything else, let’s go ahead and review some of the most significant terms used in the world of dental marketing.

Active Patient: A patient that has been marked “active” within the practice management software or a patient that has had a completed appointment in the past 18 months

Archive Patient: A patient that has been archived within the practice management software because they have either moved away, are deceased, or no longer want to be contacted by the practice

Annual Patient Value: The annual value of your patients, which is calculated by taking the last rolling 12 months of collections divided by the prior month’s end active patients

Cancellations: A dental patient who has cancelled their appointment within at least 24 to 48 hours of the appointment date and time

Case Acceptance %: The total number of patients who have accepted treatment divided by the total number of patients who have been presented treatment

Collection: The amount of money collected on the agreed fees charged

Dental Support Organizations (DSO): Independent business support centers that contract with dental businesses in the United States that provide business management and support to dental practices, including non-clinical operations

Inactive Patient: A dental patient who has been marked “inactive” within the practice management software or one who hasn’t had a completed appointment in the past 18 months

No-show: A patient who does not show up to their appointment without letting the dental practice know

Pre-appointment: The percentage of active patients (patients seen within the last 18 months) that currently have a scheduled appointment

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO): A managed care organization of medical doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers who have agreed with an insurer or a third-party administrator to provide health care at reduced rates to the top insurer's or administrator's clients

Production: The dollar amount how much a practice produces

Profit: The amount of money earned in the practice

Reactivation: A campaign that tries to bring back patients that haven’t been in the practice for 9 months after the date of their last appointment

Re-appointment: The percentage of hygiene visits that on the same day of their appointment have scheduled a subsequent hygiene appointment before leaving the dental office

Recall: A campaign that reaches out to patients that are due for an appointment, but have not scheduled an appointment yet

What Is Patient Communication?

In its simplest definition, patient communication is a process whereby a health care provider and patient exchange vital information.

It’s what helps physicians and dental professionals such as yourself identify the needs of the people you serve. As for patients, it’s what arms them with useful information so they’ll be able to gain a better understanding of their oral health, their treatment options, and what they can do to take good care of their teeth and gums.

Beyond that, patient communication also involves staying in touch with your existing patients as a way of retaining them. Reaching out to them every now and then is crucial if your goal is to keep them coming back to your dental clinic. Making the most of your communication skills is key here.

Think about it, how can you form and further your relationship with your current patients if you don't connect with them on a regular basis? There’s a huge chance that you’ll make them feel like they’re being overlooked, eventually leading them to search for another dentist.   

Why Does Patient Retention Matter?

dentist and patient smiling at the camera

If you’re only spending all of your time and effort in coming up with patient acquisition tactics and not paying attention to retention at all, then you’re certainly doing it wrong. While we can’t deny that patient acquisition plays an essential role in the growth of your practice, meeting the needs of your current patients is just as critical.

Increasing your retention rate by 5% can actually help you increase your profits by 25% to 95%, according to the Harvard Business Review. Another study revealed that nearly 68% of appointments come from returning patients, with 12% to 15% of loyal patients making up 55% to 70% of appointments. What’s more, you’re 14x more likely to get a returning patient than to drive a new one to your office door.

Oh, and Harvard says it’ll cost you anywhere around five to 25x more to attract new dental patients than to keep the ones you have now. Imagine how much money you could save!

Although we’re pretty sure that these stats have already convinced you, you deserve to know the rest of the benefits your dental business will be getting when you make patient retention a priority. Take a look at them below!

More Revenue

Long-term patients tend to spend more on each visit than someone who just walked into your practice for the first time. That’s because trust is established through each visit, which means that you’re getting them to be more comfortable in having you as their dentist. The better you serve them, the more likely they’ll consider your recommendations.

In turn, this increased trust will enable you to upsell and cross-sell your dental services successfully. You’ll be seeing a boost in your revenue without having to exert too much effort in acquiring patients.

Repeat Business

Satisfied patients are more likely to book their next appointment with you rather than to find another practice. They’ll always come back for your services, especially if you’re treating them with utmost care. That’s why they’re one of your most valuable business assets.

Enhanced Brand Image

Your brand image represents your patients’ perceptions about your dental practice, services, and products. Obviously, a positive image is what everyone aspires to achieve, as it helps acquire patients, increase profitability, reduce costs, and attract partnerships.

And, guess what? You can very much count on your loyal patients to spread nothing but good words about your business. Talk about free advertising! This brings us to the final benefit…..


Word-of-mouth marketing from your loyal patients is one of the most significant benefits of patient retention. Not only is it the fastest and most effective tool in increasing brand awareness and engaging patients, but it’s also the cheapest one.

When they say wonderful things about your dental services, they’re encouraging others to consider your practice too. The fact that they’re actual patients of yours gives prospects all the more reason to schedule an appointment with you. You don’t have to worry about shelling out a large chunk of cash for ads or other marketing strategies anymore.

What Is Internal Practice Marketing?

Now that you’re well-aware of the importance of patient communication and patient retention, you’re ready to learn everything there is to learn about internal practice marketing.

Internal practice marketing is a dental marketing strategy we’ve developed (in the form of a software) to help businesses accomplish three primary goals:

  • Patient retention: recalling, reactivating, or getting patients back on the schedule
  • Case acceptance: bringing in a lot of cases but patients aren’t accepting
  • Communication updates: keeping patients posted with the latest news about your practice (ex. hiring a new dentist, moving to a new office, having new technology, etc.)

With our IPM solution, you’ll be able to uncover a number of opportunities, including an increase in visits, collections, phone calls, patient value, patient referrals, and production. Plus, you’ll be reducing cancellations, no-shows, and unscheduled active patients. Yep, that’s how powerful it is!

How Does the IPM Software Work?

Basically, the program is designed to send messages to everyone in your email list. These messages are classified into three groups:

  • Educational content to provide detailed information to combat common barriers such as payment, time, authority, fear, and confusion
  • Automated messages like appointment reminders, recall, post op, and birthday greetings
  • Targeted messages which allow you to direct your messages to a specific audience to drive better results

We use our digital reports to find holes like this…..

To create and send out eye-catching campaigns like this…..

In case you’re wondering about ROI, our clients average 15x their investment and generate $250k additional revenue annual with IPM. Covering the costs of IPM and your communication software only takes three appointments per month, and mind you, we see anywhere between 10 and 100 appointments PER email. Totally worth the investment!

Top Dental Software Solutions

As much as we’d want you to choose our IPM software, we think it’s only fair that you’re also familiar with the other options available so you can make a sound decision. Below are 10 of the biggest patient communication software programs in the market:


A powerful platform used by thousands of dental and medical professionals to grow their practices, NexHealth is a full suite of patient engagement and management features. It’s all about delivering an end-to-end patient experience that integrates in real-time with your practice management system.

Among its key features that manage the patient experience seamlessly include email and SMS campaigns, appointment scheduling, online forms, recalls, online reviews, online booking, and analytics reporting.


RevenueWell’s all-in-one patient care communication and marketing platform is a major player in the dental software market. Thousands of dentists use it to reactivate inactive patients, reduce no-shows, solicit reviews, automate routine tasks, and not to mention, attract new dental patients.

What sets RevenueWell apart from the competition is its ability to automatically message patients with unscheduled procedures based on their treatment plans. Its messaging features are highly customizable, making it easier to improve patient loyalty by adding more personal touches.


Next up is SolutionReach, an easy-to-use communication dental software system with a long-standing reputation as a leader in the dental patient communication software space. It comes with robust capabilities designed to build personalized patient relationships, improve care outcomes, optimize staff time and morale, and save money.

Its automatic features are among the biggest reasons why dental practices continue to use it. None of your staff has to be on the phone confirming appointments or sending reminders from the computer – SolutionReach can get the job done for you.


A popular dental software platform built to help dental businesses like you grow, Adit is the only vendor that offers both patient engagement software and marketing services at the same time. This means you can work with one partner to control patient acquisition and retention.

Other than that, you can rely on Adit to help you improve your digital patient experience without breaking the bank. From online scheduling and two-way texting to telemedicine, appointment reminders and reporting, it has all the tools you need in one platform.

Lighthouse 360

Lighthouse 360 is another award-winning dental software that can help you increase existing patient recall and engagement. With it, you can send automatic appointment reminders via email or text to reduce no-shows by an average of 40%. It also encourages dental patients to write reviews of your practice to boost your online reputation.

What makes Lighthouse 360 a top choice for dentists is the fact that it continues to develop new features to improve its product. In late 2017, for instance, it launched a new feature known as “Fill-In” which intends to fill in unexpected schedule openings and last-minute cancellations. And, its paperless forms features, called “Patient FastTrack” was introduced in early 2018.


A patient communication system built for orthodontic practices, OrthoInTouch can get you to cut down missed appointments and time spent on phone calls like never before. Whether it’s to send automated reminders, follow-ups, notifications, birthday greetings, newsletters, or email blasts, you can bet on this program to improve patient communications in no time.


Don’t let Flex’s simple looks fool you. This dental solution actually has sophisticated technology which integrates and powers cutting-edge features you won’t find anywhere else.

Its patient communication is so effortless that you can email or text confirmations, notifications, and whatnot without having to lift a finger. And, it’s completely up to you to control the content of your forms, messages, and treatment plans.


Weave is another dental software many dental businesses trust to streamline their day-to-day routine. It brings together a suite of communication tools and a state-of-the-art phone system to automate a range of tasks, fill schedules, collect reviews, get paid faster, and more.


Modento’s user-friendly patient engagement platform is an all-in-one solution to the everyday needs of dental businesses of all sizes. It offers high-quality digital forms and consents, automated appointment reminders, online scheduling, a customized app-based loyalty program for patients, intraoffice communication, and much more.

Curve Dental

As the first company to specialize in cloud-based dental practice management software, Curve Dental is one of the most modern solutions on the market. Not only can you use it anywhere with Internet access, but its intuitive, modern design also makes it easier and more enjoyable for you to use.

Curve boasts a variety of features such as appointment scheduling, integrated imaging and charting, and reporting. It also has many features to help you move towards a paperless practice, including a patient portal that allows your patients to fill out forms and pay bills online.

Frequently Asked Questions

blue question marks

You might be having a few questions in mind regarding our IPM services, and we’ve rounded up the most common ones we often get from our clients. See if you can find any of them below:

How many campaigns do you typically send out?

All adds up to the same total, just depends on how our clients want the breakdown.

  • MONTH: 1.5 per month (1 educational, and 1-2 targeted messages)
  • ANNUALLY: 16 annually - 9 Targeted, 7 Educational  
  • QUARTER: 4 campaigns per quarter

It seems like emails are no longer relevant. Why should I use emails?

We’ll let these stats do the talking:

  • On average, email drives an ROI of $36 for every dollar spent, higher than any other channel.
  • Average open rate for dental/healthcare emails is 21%, our clients average 40% open rate.
  • Compared to Facebook and Twitter, email is 40% better at converting.
  • 50.7% of customers are influenced by marketing and email ads to make a purchase decision.

You’re sending out too many emails. Why’s that?

The answer is simple. It takes nine touches before people know your business exists, and most would lose hope and give up at five. The messages we send out are a blend of educational and targeted to make recipients feel more in control of making confident decisions to move forward with your dental services.

Why should I pick Digital Resources for IPM support when I can just turn on my software?

Less than 10% of patient communication solutions are being used. Typically, we find appointment reminders, recall (one out of three attempts), and birthday reminders are only turned on. Communications like treatment plan follow-up, reactivation, post-op instructions, and educational/targeted emails are not being sent out.

Why aren’t patient communication software programs being fully utilized?

There are three main reasons for that:

A patient complains and the reaction is to turn it off

However, 1-5 patients may address their concerns, OUT OF 2,000.

Lack of understanding of how it benefits their team

Without a background in marketing, many dental practices don't understand the purpose of having these communications, or how much it's costing the practice to have it turned off.

What they don’t realize is that it’s a tool for the team to become more efficient by turning on automation to eliminate the recurring, mundane tasks that take up their time. They can use that time to spend with their patients on the phone, or in the office to create an unmatched experience.

The dentist decides on purchasing software and the responsibility is given to the office manager or front team

Not having a marketing background nor knowing the benefits of the product can cause frustration, eventually leading them to stop using the software until they feel more in control. Unfortunately, they never have enough time, thus ending up discontinuing the service altogether.

In the event of getting too many no-shows and cancellations, how can you help?

We’ll ensure that appointment reminders are being set up properly, and you can adjust and monitor results. Same-day reminder is normally set at two hours before the patient’s appointment. Feel free to change it to 24 hours prior to give them enough time to adjust.

Take Your Patient Retention Game Up a Notch!

smiling dentist

That concludes our ultimate guide to patient communication! By incorporating IPM into your dental marketing strategy, you’ll be on your way to success. Your competitors will have a hard time overtaking you!

And, what better way to see faster and optimal results than by enlisting the assistance of a leading digital marketing agency like Digital Resource? Aside from our IPM services, we can also help you optimize your dental website, create a PPC ad campaign, strengthen your online presence, and more!

Get in touch with us today to learn how we can turn your dental practice into one of the best ones out there!

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