But let's face it, a smartphone is a computer. My iPhone 4 has a bigger hard drive, runs more applications, and has better Internet access than my laptop did 8 years ago.
More than half the cell phones out there are smartphones, and that percentage keeps increasing. And now that Google has bought Motorola, this will only increase that ratio. Android phones already outsell iPhones, and do you not imagine that Google is going to put cheap smartphones out by the millions? All they care about is getting people to search the Internet. They're going to make it as easy as possible.
What does that mean to your dental practice? A lot. This impacts how your website is viewed, how it appears in map applications, and how you will communicate with your patients. So here's what you do.
First of all, your website should look good on a smartphone's Internet browser. That's easy to check. Just use your phone and search for your website. Does it fit in the screen, or do you have to move around to see everything? Most web designers can now make a version of your website that displays better on phones and tablet computers. With half the Internet searches happening on phones, you need to look the part.
Next, you will need to make sure that when your practice appears on a Google map, that you've put as much information as possible in Google Places. If you haven't claimed your business there, do it immediately after you read this article. Go to www.google.com/places and find your practice (it's already there), claim it as the business owner, and then add as much practice detail as possible. You can put your hours, your services, your website, photos, video, and even special offers. This is free advertising that also increases your SEO.
This shift in search behavior means that the steady migration away from the Yellow Pages will continue. Why would someone use that book when their phone can give them so much more? The integration of the mobile phone into virtually every aspect of life is upon us. People are texting, sharing videos, playing games, and reviewing their favorite places all day long. This isn't a game you want to show up late to.
Finally, the biggest advantage to you is smartphones make it easier for you to contact patients, either by text or email, and to even send them photo or video messages. Which also means you should use a digital communications application like our product, Patient Activator, which sends appointment reminders and confirmations by text and email automatically. In addition, patients can use their phones while they are in your office to check in on Facebook and post a comment, and also do a Google or Yelp review of your practice. (Remember, they need to do Google reviews from their own devices, not your own computers or iPads. Google ignores multiple reviews that come from the same device.)
You can also do your evening check-ins with patients by text. Think of what a timesaver that is. It gets right to them wherever they are, and then if they need a conversation, they'll call your right back. If not, you've reached out to them in a very personal way that is not typically done in health care, put them at ease, and it took you 15 seconds.
And someday soon, patients are going expect to be able to make and change their appointments right there on their phones without even calling you. It's coming, and some group practices already do this, so start preparing yourself mentally for this.
The explosion of smartphone usage will make your life easier, your practice run better, and your patients happier. So dive in!
Fred Joyal is the Co-Founder of 1-800-DENTIST, and author of the book Everything Is Marketing: the Ultimate Strategy for Dental Practice Growth. He has worked in the dental industry for 26 years, and has helped thousands of practices grow with new patients and with marketing guidance. He speaks all over the country on dental marketing, social media, and practice management.