During a conversation recently, we were concerned to hear of the considerable worry some practices are facing during the process of NHS tendering and contracting. To lose a contract that may have been held for many years would be devastating to the practice owners, and faced with an uncertain future, this additional worry would be detrimental to the future viability of the practice, not to mention the wellbeing of all staff concerned.

We are, however, in a fortunate time when demand for private orthodontic treatment is high along with improved patient awareness of the availability of a wide range of treatment options. Patients are more actively seeking orthodontic treatment as they seek to improve their appearance and overall oral health whilst treatment is becoming more affordable with options to suit many different budgets and timescales.

Increased consumer-focused marketing through both traditional and digital media channels is helping to support this increased demand for treatment. The increase in patients writing about the successful outcomes of their treatment on social media is also helping to encourage others to follow them into treatment.

Overall, it is a good time to be thinking about increasing your portfolio of private patients and it is now easier than ever to promote the benefits of undertaking treatment at your practice to a wide range of prospective patients at very little cost.

It would be amiss to not consider some of the challenges ahead and these include the wider availability of orthodontic treatment options from GDPs and competition from other specialist practices within the area. Patients are still confused by the options available and in a crowded marketplace, seek to differentiate competing offers using criteria they understand and can most easily relate to. This will, as you might expect, include cost but also increasingly service levels and how well they were looked after and had their needs met during their initial research and contact with the practice.

This is where established practices with an excellent reputation will find themselves at a competitive advantage. But only so if prospective patients are aware the practice and their services exist and, once discovered, have their requirements fully met by a process that is aligned to the subtly different needs of a private patient.

Patients are only really looking for two things, reasons to stay or reasons to walk away and this is something that should help inform every decision you make as you seek to realign your practice offering.

High-quality orthodontic treatment comes at a premium both in cost to, and commitment from, the patient. In our experience, patients are not generally seeking the lowest cost and shortest treatment options but the one that is most closely aligned with their needs and aspirations. By understanding the provision of orthodontic treatment from a patient’s perspective, you will be able to better align your marketing and service offerings and in doing so, will be making it easier for a patient to contact you to enquire about treatment. From then on, the support you and your team provides to the patient as they seek to weigh up the merits of undertaking treatment at your practice will often be the deciding factor on whether they proceed or continue looking elsewhere.

We have previously written that patients are only really looking for two things, reasons to stay or reasons to walk away and this is something that should help inform every decision you make as you seek to realign your practice offering. Whilst appreciating the loss of a contract is incredibly worrying to many practices, it can also serve to bring innovation and renewed motivation to the whole team, the successful outcome of which will be to rejuvenate the services you provide and the long-term sustainability and viability of your business.

How we can help you

If you are concerned about the impact of losing an NHS contract and would like to look at ways of attracting more private patients to your practice, we can help you to explore different options to differentiate your practice from your competitors. We will work with you to explore what already works well and to seek your thoughts about how your practice might evolve in the future. We will work with you and your team to help you attract more patients through targeted marketing and will help you to realign your patient processes to achieve a higher conversion rate.