The Environmental Scan

Guidelines for Practice Success | Managing Marketing | The Patient Survey

Once you’ve completed the patient survey and you know what your patients value most about you and your practice, it’s time to take a look at the community in which you practice. This is sometimes called conducting an environmental scan since it allows you an in-depth look at what’s going on in the area around you.

It’s important for you to objectively assess what your colleagues are offering to their current patients. Since it’s likely that you’re all drawing from a similar pool of prospective patients, you should know what it is about those other practices that appeals to patients.

Once you know that, you can decide whether you want to emulate anything they do or expand your scope of services. Finally, that information will help you identify the marketable points of difference between your practice and theirs.

A complete environment scan should include two components – internal and external. For the internal component, collect basic demographic information, including ZIP codes for all current patients. This information will help you determine what types of marketing are most effective for each patient segment. A member of the team should be able to generate a report with this information via your practice management software program or by reviewing individual files of active patients.

Assign responsibility for the external component of your environmental scan to your office manager or someone else on the team. Work with them to identify five local practices that would be interested in treating the types of patients you want to treat. Once you’ve identified them, have the person working on this project do some online research to collect the following information about each one:

  • Where are they located?
  • What kind of location do they have (free-standing, mall, high-rise, other)?
  • What are their hours?
  • How many dentists are on staff?
  • What specialties, if any, are represented?
  • How many hygienists are on staff?
  • What services do they offer?
  • Do they emphasize certain procedures or treatment? If so, what are they?
  • Does their website indicate fees or costs for certain services?
  • Do they accept dental benefit plans? Which ones?
  • What benefits/message, colors, and types of images do they use on the website?

Having this information will allow you to pinpoint what sets you apart from other practices in your area and any significant point of difference has the potential to be an advantage in your marketing campaign.

This information could also make you aware of other changes to consider such as offering evening or weekend hours, incorporating new treatments or services, or accepting certain dental benefit plans, etc.

Don’t Forget! Make sure you have the necessary financial plans, systems and staff training in place before you develop and launch a marketing plan. Even a strong, well-executed campaign can fail if your staff isn’t trained on the proper way to “wow” every patient that walks in the practice doors. Each member of the team should be aware of the campaign and understand and acknowledge how their commitment will contribute to its success. Review the articles on Internal Marketing and Inquiries from Prospective Patients in this module for more information.