Building a reputation as a dental referral centre
Ruth Findlay talks to Yvonne Muir about the success of the Scottish Centre for Excellence in Dentistry.
The Scottish Centre for Excellence in Dentistry has built itself a reputation for quality. It has become a renowned dental referral centre. It is one of just 59 leading dental centres of the world, a list of centres that ‘provide excellence in the art of dentistry’. And its clinical director, Dr Arshad Ali, topped the poll of Dentistry Scotland’s most influential people in 2018.
To find out how the team developed the practice and built its profile, I spoke to marketing manager Yvonne Muir.
Growing a dental referral centre
Ruth Findlay: How did the Scottish Centre for Excellence in Dentistry grow into becoming a leading dental referral centre?
Yvonne Muir: It was an evolution that developed from the need for private dentistry in and around Glasgow. We outgrew our previous practice, where Arshad had taken on a big patient base from another dentist. We moved into our current premises and rebranded into the Scottish Centre for Excellence in Dentistry.
At the time, Arshad was a consultant at the Glasgow Dental Hospital as well. So he also had a lot of patients referred to him in that capacity.
From there, we decided that every clinician who worked here needed to have further postgraduate training and specialise in a particular area of dentistry. We’re fortunate to still have a lot of our team involved with the hospital’s postgraduate centre.
Early on, we wanted to create a practice based on the American model. There you see different clinicians who specialise in the particular treatment you need. Rather than just one dentist.
Ruth: What is your approach to building relationships with referring general dental practitioners?
Yvonne: If a dentist isn’t yet one of our referrers, we invite them to visit us and see the kind of treatments and support that we can offer their patients and themselves. We ask them what they want or need from us. That then leads us onto offering training to them and building that good working relationship, which is so important for building dental referrals.
We offer ‘lunch and learns’ and continuing professional development training at their practice, both in terms of treatments we offer here and also different ways they can develop the private side of their practice.
We also have events, such as golf days. These include an educational seminar in the morning, then a social activity in the afternoon.
There is also a shared care gateway. If a dentist refers a patient to us for an implant, they can attend the procedure and learn how to do it. Then that patient goes back to their regular dentist who will place the crown on top.
That allows the referrer to be part of their patient’s journey, to learn. Often not everyone wants involvement in the surgery, but they do want to do the restoration; so this way of delivering treatment suits them.
Managing the journey
Ruth: How do you manage the journey of referred patients?
Yvonne: We have a patient journey chart, which applies to our own private patients as well as those referred to us, which starts from the first contact they make with the centre.
We understand that patients have hectic lifestyles. We work around their needs in terms of when we can offer appointments. Our aim is to always provide the highest level of patient care and service, as well as making it as stress-free and relaxing as possible.
We want patients to see the value in the money they’re spending. Some of the ways we do this is by having a treatment coordinator (TCO) and giving every patient a written treatment plan. This includes an estimate of treatment costs and schedule of payment.
Communication is so important and having a written plan really makes it clear what to expect. The TCO is always on hand should the patients have any questions. Throughout the treatment, we make sure we keep patients updated on progress and any changes that need to be made.
We ask patients at the end of their treatment to complete a short survey on a Clinipad. Within 24 hours, they will receive an email asking for a Google or Facebook review. We respond individually to each one.
Ruth: You also treat private patients alongside referrals and have a membership plan in place for that. Why did you decide to implement a plan?
Yvonne: As the types of treatments we offer often require patients to make a big investment in their teeth, we thought it would be good to offer them an extra benefit to help them maintain their dental health.
The analogy we use is, you wouldn’t go out and buy a £50,000 BMW and not take a service package on it, so if you’re going to spend £10,000 on your teeth, a plan will give you that same level of assurance and security.
We also wanted to offer a plan aligned to our brand in terms of offering the best care and excellence, which is why we chose Practice Plan. The company has that same quality reputation.
We have the flexibility to create different plans as we need to and set costs that suit both the practice and the patient, which was really important for developing the business as we grow.
Ruth: That’s great, thanks for sharing your insight into how you run the practice and for your expert advice.
Published first in Dentistry magazine. If interested in signing up to receive Dentistry magazine, visit www.fmc.co.uk.