The Wooden Nickel Goes High Tech

Posted on October 29th, 2010

In­­centive or reward programs are be­ing uti­lized today in almost ev­ery indus­try. From air­­lines to coffee houses, busi­nesses ev­erywhere are see­ing the many advantages of loyalty programs.  These programs offer signif­icant ben­­efits when used with­­in or­thodon­tic practices as well. When prop­erly executed they help increase capacity, sched­ule ef­­ficiency, and re­inforce pa­­tient compli­an­ce all the while driv­ing a greater treat­­ment expe­ri­ence for the pa­­tient. This is achieved by attach­ing a pre­scribed val­ue to certain practice standards.

  • Award­ing pa­tients for wearing their removable appli­ances strengthens pa­tient compli­ance which results in treat­ment be­ing fin­ished on-time.

  • Award­ing pa­tients for arriv­ing on time to their ap­point­ment increases schedul­ing compli­ance cre­ating a more pre­dictable measure­ment of planning doctor and staff time.

  • Award­ing pa­tients for “noth­ing loose or bro­ken” decreases breakage, which means fewer emergency ap­point­ments and less non-productive chair time.

  • Award­ing pa­tients for good oral hygiene results in on-time treat­ment.

Reward­ing pos­itive behav­ior, though simple in concept, can produce out­standing results. An in­centive program ben­efits your clin­ical ef­ficiency while lev­eraging your mar­keting dollars by increas­ing new pa­tients and greater practice loyalty. Take for example reward­ing pa­tients for inviting friends to vis­it your office.  Not only does this increases pa­tient re­ferrals but builds on the relation­ship with your exis­t­ing pa­tient. Be­ing a member of your practice fosters a sense of be­long­ing, loyalty and pride.  The fol­lowing are essential el­e­ments that should be tak­en into consid­eration when eval­uating any in­centive program.

Ease of use

In or­der to en­sure a successful program launch, as well as team member and pa­tient adoption, your program must be fast, easy and ef­ficient. Team members enjoy partic­ipating in the program because it makes their job eas­i­er. Pa­tients enjoy partic­ipating because they reap the ben­efits of sharing in your practice initiatives. Consid­er lev­eraging a web-based platform. Our member offices award, account, and re­deem points seam­lessly with a click of a button. Simply swiping a pa­tient’s member­ship card (or typing their name) takes you di­rectly to that pa­tient’s pro­file where points can be added or re­deemed. By link­ing your website with our re­demption platform, pa­tients can shop on­line trading their points for prizes. Upon making their se­lection from a va­ri­ety of national branded retail­ers, items are shipped di­rectly to the pa­tient with a con­grat­ulatory note from your office. It’s essential that a program is turn-key and comprehensive. Elim­inating the lo­gis­tical has­sle of count­ing “wood­en nickels” or replen­ish­ing costly “to­kens” is a di­rect ben­efit of a web-based program. They also as­sist with cash flow and reduce la­bor by elim­inating excess office inventory and the time as­sociated with running a man­ual based system.

Clear communication

Support­ing mar­keting ma­te­rial coupled with your program is paramount to success. You must clearly communicate how pa­tients earn points and how and what they can use those points for. Your program should prom­inently fea­ture the unique way in which you incorporate practice compli­ance with your pa­tient’s clin­ical treat­ment plan. Each compo­nent of your program should be eas­ily under­stood by your pa­tients, par­ents and team members. Make sure your office uti­lizes this as a “selling” fea­ture in the new pa­tient process and that it is high­lighted on your website.

Referring Offices

Share your program! Reward­ing pa­tients for see­ing their dentists or hygien­ist for reg­ular cleanings and exams fur­ther strengthens the relation­ship you have with that dental office. Pa­tients ap­preciate the shared approach tak­en to their overall dental health and the ben­efits accrued at their vis­its. Giving your member­ship card to dental team members is a unique way to differ­entiate your practice from your com­petitors. It’s also a great way of encour­aging dental team members to vis­it your website where they can read about your clin­ical phi­los­ophy, or­thodon­tic concerns, and current office events.

Kids Club

Our Kids Club program caters to younger, pre-treat­ment or observation pa­tients. We have found when they are able to partic­ipate in office events, con­tests, and share their person­al mile­stones with you it helps cul­tivate loyalty even prior treat­ment be­ginning. If these “fu­ture” pa­tients are accumu­lating points in pre-treat­ment, it’s safe to say that when it comes time to get their treat­ment under­way, they will be inc­lined to se­lect your office. A side ben­efit is that you will have already set clear expectations on the behav­ior that is endorsed and rewarded in your practice.


Your reward program is a mon­etary exchange; do you have the measure­ment tools and an­alyt­ic processes in place to mon­itor it? It is essential to have var­ious checks and bal­ance systems in your program. Alert functionality of ir­reg­ular activ­ity with­in the program en­sures it cannot be abused by users.  Make sure you have an accurate account­ing of team member activ­ities and au­dit this reg­ularly. Be­yond this, the lat­est encryption soft­ware and best practice virus and host­ing capa­bilities should also be tak­en into consid­eration.


Make your program stand out! Your mar­keting collat­eral should be pro­fes­sion­al with clear and concise messaging. Of course it should be high­ly branded with your practice im­age. Award­ing points for activ­ities out­side your office such as; good grades, person­al success and community ser­vice also increases par­ent satisfaction because you share in your pa­tient’s lives and the communities you serve. Don’t lim­it your program to just pa­tients, reward par­ents for sharing their expe­ri­ence with your office as well. It’s your program… the options are lim­it­less.

Reward programs, when mar­keted and imple­mented prop­erly, are a great invest­ment to your overall practice mar­keting plan. Signif­icant results can be seen practice wide and pa­tients will enthu­sias­tically share their reward and or­thodon­tic expe­ri­ence with oth­ers.