Happy Holidays

December 24, 2007

It’s been an interesting month for us as we approach end of year — we were featured on a nationally syndicated radio program, as well as on Fox news television affiliates across the country.  This in addition to ramping up our BringoDentist and related products has made it a very busy month to cap off a great year.

Happy holidays to all our users, customers, partners from the Bringo team — thanks for your continued support.  We’re looking forward to great things in 2008.

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Dentist Website ROI

April 6, 2007

By now, most people will acknowledge that the Internet is a great way to reach potential customers — for both large and small businesses. People are going online to search for everything from sports scores to potential dating partners, and yes, for healthcare providers like dentists.

The dentists we’ve talked to have varied in their sophistication from those who have no website whatsoever, to those who have a great website, and promote it heavily through Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns on the major search engines. The majority of those have some sort of web presence, but have not taken the next step of promoting their websites. And very few dentists could actually tell you what their return on their spending was on website and web promotion.

One of the main issues is that unlike an e-commerce business, where transactions take place directly on the site, most folks looking for a dentist will need to complete their transaction (i.e. setting up an appointment) offline. Thus, unless the office is very diligent about asking all new patients how they found the office, it is really hard to figure out how clicks from a PPC translate into real patients coming in the door.

Further compounding things, is that while most search engines do allow you to do a fair amount of targeting (based on searches consumers type in, time of day, or geographic location of the user doing the search, etc.), the level of targeting does not allow an office to target to the level that is really needed to guarantee that they are paying only for real potential patients. For example, a user who finds a dentist’s website from a search on dentists in the Chicago area, may actually be located 20-30 miles away from the practice, and therefore be extremely unlikely to become a patient no matter how nice the website is. Based on our experience the search traffic is incredibly fragmented by geography (as well as other factors like specialties desired, payment/insurance type, etc.), meaning that most dentists who advertise online are paying a lot of money for consumers who will never become patients.

With the early success of our “find a dentist” service, we’ve found that converting “clicks” to our website into phone calls that leverages the phone and receptionist that the dentist already has allows the offices we work with to have a pretty clear ROI on their investment with us. They know when a call comes in that is generated by BRINGO, and their success rate in converting our calls into patients has been quite good.

As we build out the site, we hope to continually offer better and better targeting options and education for the consumer to help them make informed choices, which will ultimately allow us to provide both the patient and dentist with better and better matches. Watch this space for more as the next few months will be fun.

BRINGOdentist has gone from a good idea, to a successful (but still young) match-making service. We have started driving more consumer traffic into our Chicago area dentists, and have already gotten great traction in several parts of the city. Several dental offices have had appointments made, even more have had attempted calls, and we are getting great feedback from our consumers as well.

Like anything new, somethings are harder than we expected and somethings easier. Getting licenses and the other stuff from our partner dentists is often slow. But, once the office gets committed to trying out BRINGO, we have had a great time training local dental offices and getting to know the people who make the offices run (the office managers and receptionists). Of course, we enjoy nothing more than following back up with an office that has had a “connect” to get feedback, and find out what happened. We appreciate our dentist partners and are committed to making ongoing improvements based on your feedback.

Over the coming 6 months we will continue to slowly increase the volume of traffic we are creating for our partner dentists to make sure it’s “the right kind of traffic,” but there’s nothing more exciting for us than watching the match-making in action. Of course, it’s still up to the dental office to turn a prospective patient into a new patient (we can connect you, but we can’t work that final magic like you can)….but practice breeds success.

I’m pleased to report, my very own Dr. Tedford has even signed up….so things better go well or I won’t be laughing the next time he gives me the laughing gas.

I’ll leave this is a standing question…but please dentists and dental offices continue to give us feedback about how the platform is working and can be improved…we are often calling you, but feel free to leave comments below on your own real-life experiences.

For those of you also in Chicago, spring is definitely (and finally) in the air…

Enjoy

-mg

If you’re like me, you have heard the words “consumer driven healthcare” associated with lowering our healthcare costs from President Bush’s State of the Union to the healthcare debate in Congress…to news articles…etc…but I keep scratching my head and wondering when I’m going to read about HOW!

In our healthcare system, most are insured via their employers so to evaluate true rising costs we can use the rising healthcare premiums as a good proxy (hey, those carriers have armies of actuaries tracking this stuff). The good news/bad news is that in 2006 premiums rose more slowly than any other year since 1999. The bad news is, that’s still twice as fast as inflation and almost three times faster than salary increases. It doesn’t take Lou Dobbs to do the math on that one. And the irony is….this is good news as this is a lower rise than we have had in 7 years. Since 2000, health insurance premiums have gone up 87% while wages have only gone up 20%. Ouch.

In the 90’s the cost-saving strategy was to push everyone into HMO’s, thereby limiting access to non-essential healthcare by creating “gatekeepers.” While it worked for a short time, the general public did not like the limitations on access and the insurance carriers (who are ultimately businesses) plummeted in popularity. I recently heard a great talk by one of the senior executives of Great West, and he said today the insurance carriers have a favorable rating only 1% higher than the tobacco industry. So I wouldn’t expect any revolutionary or controversial strategies coming out of the insurance carriers anytime soon but they know better than anyone else that 7% of the US insured population is driving 82% of the healthcare costs.

So where will good ideas come from? At this moment, it seems two places: State Governments and employers themselves. No one in the industry thinks the federal government will act before the 2008 elections, so it’s left to individual state’s to take action. Massachusetts and California are leading the way with mandatory health insurance requirements for their citizens (Mass has already passed, and CA is considering). Watch what CA does, as they will likely set the tone for the debate in Washington after the 2008 elections.

Employers, on the other hand, seem to be focusing on health and wellness initiatives to address that 7% of the population that is driving the majority of the costs. If you can’t limit access through HMO’s or national waiting lists, then you have to try and solve the problem another way…make people healthier. I applaud this route and will look for some great anecdotes to share on how employers are trying and succeeding to help their employees get healthier. Does anyone have some good ones to share?

So back to consumer driven healthcare. In simple words, the hope for consumer driven healthcare comes from the simple notion that putting responsibility for expenses and decisions back into the hands of the consumer will result in more rational utilization of resources. In other words, make employees pay a greater share of their costs, and they will become more informed about what they need. Create high deductible plans, let consumers put money into HSA’s, put consumers on the hook for the pain of over-spending. Great in theory, but the reality of this means consumers need HELP making more informed decisions. They need information about everything from costs, provider quality, options for expensive hospital visits, access to preventitive care, etc….and where will this great data come from?

Well, as far as I can tell, I’m not seeing it come from carriers, employers, or governments….but rather data-driven internet businesses like us. Take a look at www.mymedicalcontrol.com where you can actually get help negotiating better rates with providers (e.g. if you walk into a hospital from the street and pay in cash, you will pay an average of $3 for every $1 Medicaid would have spent on the exact same care). We at BRINGO can help consumers make good decisions about finding general dentists in their area rather than wait for a dental emergency to strike. Other sites are working (like we are) on developing some good cost comparison information. Of course, you’ve all heard about WebMD and their focus on content. www.realage.com does a great job of helping individuals better understand their own health IQ.

So while the healthcare debate heats up in Washington, across the state capitals, in corporate boardrooms, on the campaign trail and on TV, some of us folks are trying to make sense of “consumer driven healthcare” by providing our consumers with more information and the ability to make better decisions. Good old-fashioned American entrepreneurism may help lead the way to controlling healthcare costs.

Anyone else have good examples of health care ingenuity at work?

Signing off for now…

-Mark

It’s good to know we are not alone in our quest to make sense of technology for dentists….as a critical tool for improving everything in their operation (not just patient acquisition).

Today the Wall Street Journal ran a front page story about micropractices, which said “Some physicians and institutions are trying to harness technology to make family practices more manageable and profitable for doctors.” Amen to that, I say.

Well, I’ve got news for you: Dentists need to do this, too! In fact, in this competitive day and age, dentists have no choice. The bigger message dentists should take away from this article is that technology is not an add-on anymore, it’s a necessity if you want to improve your practice’s profitability, growth, and customer satisfaction.

Here’s why…tech can help you improve your patient experience from start to finish…from finding you, to the reminder platform for appointments, ongoing newsletters made easy, customized wellness mailings based on diagnosis, getting timely feedback from your patients, sharing with them positive anecdotes, creating two-way communication via ‘ask the dentist’ features on a web-site, etc…

It helps you with profitability as you can better plan your days and utilization of your time and your staff, you can process your claims faster (one of our board members Fred Horowitz has a great electronic claims management company named www.ansdirect.com – one of many players in the area but they help dentists get reimbursed much faster, lessen the hassle of dealing with the carriers, etc…), reduce appointment no-shows, and lower the costs of mailings, etc…Fred’s so passionate about it, he leads an industry association on the topic http://www.cooperativeexchange.org/

Personally, as a happy dental patient (thank you Dr. Tedford), I can tell you that I appreciate immediate access to tips from my dentist, emergency questions and answers, targeted content, etc…if you are not thinking about this, someone else will.

And it’s great to see more and more dentists—and reporters—finally coming around to this reality. Over on The Solo Practitioner blog, Dr. Vincent Pedre is spot-on in his passionate assessment of micropractices. I couldn’t agree more that modern technology makes it easier to achieve an ideal practice environment without extra staff or expenses.

Dental Practice Report had an article in the February issue by Keith Rossein that starts with….”Can a dental practice exist without a dot.com presence in 2007? Yes, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult.” Keith’s right.

Notice a trend here? We sure do and are happy to be a part of it. Just this week, I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Jackson of Planet DDS( http://www.planetdds.com/ ). They have built a web-based practice management platform that is much less expensive and easier to manage than the old software platforms dentists used to have to install (it’s the ASP model for those of you who know the jargon). If you are a dentist and you haven’t seen it, you should. Because it is hosted by them (think of your e-mail, which you can access securely from any computer with an internet connection), they can constantly upgrade it and improve it without the hassle of re-installing the software.

Be sure to watch this space to hear first-hand commentary from Chicago dentists who are using these technologies and more (including BRINGOdentist.com, of course!), and will discuss the benefits, challenges, and tips to using technology in your practice. There’s lots of good stuff just becoming available. The wave is building (so are the cliche’s).

Okay, that’s all for now. It’s Chicago and the midwinter meeting. I should be shmoozing, not posting.

Yours,

Mark

Proud to be our own breed…

February 11, 2007

We have been live with bringodentist for nearly one month (I’m not good at anniversaries so don’t ask me the date) and momentum is building. Each day we get dentists signing up with us, asking more questions, giving us great suggestions/tips, and we are also learning more about what our consumers are looking for. In conversations with dentists from all over the country, I have been struck by a few common themes:

1) Over the years, many dentists have had bad experiences with various referral services that guarantee them a certain number of patients each month in return for some steep up-front costs. Unfortunately many of these referral services have earned reputations for delivering low quality patients to dentists, or more frequently not even delivering the minimum volume they guaranteed (but still taking their rich fees). In short, many dentists have gotten burned by using fixed price referral services that over-promise and under-deliver.

2) Dentists have responded to the BRINGO model very positively, as we do not charge up-front fees, always give the dentist the ability to reject patients based on their criteria, and have a pay as you go model. the BRINGO model is simple, honest, straightforward and effective. From one dentist I just spoke with in North Chicago, the pay-as-you-go model is “a ray of light.” While I thought his description was a bit dramatic, I think he’s right.

3) The number of dentists who are actively on-line is pretty small. We can take electronic claims as a good indicator. In this day and age, less than 35% of claims are processed electronically (according to my friend at the ADA). Hard to fathom, but it means 65% of practices still choose to complete paper claims forms, snail mail them to insurance carriers, and wait weeks for processing payments. While I’m not hear to lobby for electronic claims (although one of our board members certainly does that through http://www.cooperativeexchange.org/), I am here to help our dentist partners figure out how to tap into large number of prospective patients searching on the web for providers.

4) Prospective patients are hungry for a good way to find new dentists, and the internet does not have many good options. Bringodentist is bridging an important digital divide between dentists who are not really online, and prospective patients who are very much internet savvy and start every search at their computer. I had a drink with a very accomplished dentist from the NY area this weekend and he said he started taking the internet seriously when he realized two of his three children searched the internet to find their dentists when they moved to new cities over the past few years.

5) There are always great surprises when starting something new. While there have been several wonderful letters of appreciation, perhaps my favorite came from a psychologist in the South who works with people who have disabilities. He said our service helped to take the hard work out of finding a dentist, and is very valuable for his patients. Nice, ehh? I think they started by using our nophonetrees site, appreciated the stress it could eliminate and then moved onto bringodentist. Great feedback.

Given that I am sitting in Chicago, these days I would also like to develop BRINGO warm weather. Unbelievable how many consecutive days we can be below freezing. I was at dinner last night with Marcin (who also posts here) and was amazed to find he considered yesterday’s 20 degree temperatures finally warm enough to go for a walk. Numbed by the cold I say.

Stay warm and stay in touch,

Mark

Introducing…

January 2, 2007

Happy New Year!

As regular readers of this blog know, we’ve been hinting at our the next big thing for BRINGO for the past couple of months. Well, that time is finally here… We are proud to announce the (soft) launch of Bringodentist.com — a new way for patients to find local dentist to match their needs via the web. Using our unique web to telephone technology, BringoDentist allows potential patients to find a high quality dentist in their area, and does the hard work of calling around to make sure there is a match with their criteria (location, preferred form of payment, appointment times, etc.).

We are currently available in only limited areas, but are aggressively building our network of high-quality providers. Check back at this space for more details on local availability and success stories.