A dental sleep medicine expert offers advice on how best to introduce yourself, why it’s important to understand medical insurance billing, and pointers on growing your web presence.
You have decided to expand your practice with dental sleep medicine, so now what? By incorporating dental sleep medicine into your practice, you have already taken the first big step in improving your dental office and the services you offer. Your next step should be putting together an active marketing plan. Whether you go through a large marketing company or a freelancer, creating an effective marketing strategy can make all the difference.
1. Introduce Yourself
First, reach out to your community. Introduce your dental sleep medicine practice to your local sleep specialist. By doing this, your local sleep physician will be aware of the services you provide, while building a relationship for proper diagnosis and treatment planning.
The key to developing referral relationships with the medical community is giving physicians and their staff confidence that your practice will provide exceptional care for their patients by:
- Speaking their language by developing a solid understanding of the treatment complexities of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and comorbid sleep disorders;
- Sending standard medical SOAP (subjective, objective, assessment, plan) format narrative reports documenting your patients’ treatment is another way to show you speak the medical language and to show efficacy of oral appliance therapy in your practice. Narrative reports also demonstrate to physicians that your practice has established comprehensive OSA treatment protocols and maintains the required documentation for medical insurance reimbursement.
Just as we need referrals to provide oral appliance therapy, we also need to get our patients diagnosed. Introducing yourself to a local sleep physician is a good way to establish a solid relationship because you’re informing them that you:
- Are screening your dental patients for sleep apnea;
- Will be referring to them for an evaluation and diagnosis.
When you have evaluated and placed an oral appliance in a patient, a follow-up sleep study is recommended to determine the success of your therapy. Once again, this opens up doors since you will utilize the sleep physicians in your community to retest your patients.
If you have a good working relationship with a local sleep laboratory, you may want to discuss the devices you use on your patients. Providing an in-service to the director of the laboratory and their staff on how to advance (titrate) the oral devices you use can significantly benefit your patients. When your patients are being retested to determine the effectiveness of therapy, the technologist can be instructed to adjust the device to improve the outcome if necessary. This will save your patients the trouble of having repeat sleep studies to determine effectiveness of your therapy.
2. Learn to Bill Medical Insurance
It is also important to gain an understanding on how to file a medical claim for oral appliance therapy since dental insurance offers no coverage.
Before referring patients to you, physicians will want to feel confident enough to tell patients that the dentist they refer to understands medical insurance reimbursement and will utilize their healthcare benefits to minimize out of pocket expenses. Accepting Medicare can also be important in growing your dental sleep medicine practice, as many referring physicians prefer not to have to think about referring Medicare patients to a different dentist and therefore choose to work with dentists who accept both Medicare and private medical insurance. In order to bill Medicare for oral appliances, you submit a durable medical equipment (DME) supplier application since oral appliances fall under DME rather than physician services. You should also consider being “in network” with medical insurance plans since your patients ask for it. This helps your office become more visible and easily accessible for patients.
There are companies and products one can invest in to better understand and streamline medical billing. An example is Nierman Practice Management. Like many companies, Nierman Practice Management provides a comprehensive suite of products, educational courses, and software solutions to help grow your sleep practice.
3. Grow Your Web Presence
Your patients utilize the Internet for everything from shopping to socializing, so why shouldn’t you, too? Creating and improving your web presence is essential in marketing your dental sleep medicine practice. From social media management to search engine optimization (SEO), it is important to establish a proper plan for the maintenance of your web presence.
As you know, the Internet is endless, which means your marketing efforts are as well. To begin, I personally utilize a freelance writer, Sara Berg, to manage my marketing and web presence. She provides me with:
- Custom blog posts
- Web content
- Press releases
- Social media management
Utilizing social media channels can expand your web presence. Create a Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ account so you can easily share information and reach out to your patients. Linked with your social network should be a custom blog. Try to blog at most two times a week and as little as once a month. An active presence through blogging shows that you are a trusted source—patients love that.
This is the same for press releases, but make sure the news you are sharing truly is “newsworthy.” A newsworthy press release can reach a large audience of readers, patients, and even journalists, so keep the content to the point and worth sharing.
Through these services, I am able to maintain a well-rounded web presence and marketing plan—you can, too. You’ve taken the biggest
step already—choosing to incorporate dental sleep medicine into your practice. Now it is time to take charge of marketing your dental sleep medicine office to reach new patients.
Mayoor Patel, DDS, MS, is the owner of Atlanta’s Craniofacial Pain and Dental Sleep Center of Georgia. Patel’s expertise in craniofacial pain, TMD, and dental sleep medicine, in addition to the opening of his dental laboratory—MAP-LAB—allows him to successfully help other dentists improve their dental offices. It is Patel’s goal to help dentists around the world to better understand their role in craniofacial pain and TMD treatment, as well as dental sleep medicine. Contact Patel via his website.