MSD Insider 0:00
Welcome to med shark insider with Bill Fukui, your expert host on all things medical marketing and SEO.
Bill Fukui 0:08
Well welcome everybody to another edition of med shark Digital’s Insider. And today I have a special guest, who is both a clinician, as well as an entrepreneurial spirit that is combined, both understanding patience, understanding treatment, but also understanding the business of dentistry. And really an aspect that one of my consultant friends, Joanne Tanner, said, You got to talk to Dr. Rouhani. Because he really has some really cool thing. So today, my guest is Dr. Sam Mahoney, and he is the co founder of short. Shore view dental right? Is it for new dental? Yeah. And you are located out in Pacifica, my grandma’s used to live out there. So I’m very familiar, beautiful part of the country. So welcome, Dr. Rouhani.
Dr. Sam Ahani 1:06
Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here, Bill, thanks for having
Bill Fukui 1:09
no not a problem. And really, I’m gonna kind of get right to it. You know, Joanne had mentioned referrals and referral marketing and a little bit of my background, I’ve been in dental, you know, advertising and marketing for the better part of 25 years, I, I actually started doing orthodontic television ads back in the, you know, early 90s. So, any case, what I found, even in practices that spent a lot of money on marketing, and I had clients spending, and you even see today, some clients will spend 510, I’ve got some clients that were spending as much as 15 $20,000 a month to generate new leads and get more patients, which is great. I mean, it certainly pays for my paycheck. But But really, what I found was that the healthiest practices, were ones that didn’t rely on just what we, you know, brought to the table in terms of advertising and marketing, it’s stuff that they were doing internally, and referrals and stuff like that. So give me an idea, you know, kind of where you’re coming from, give the audience a little bit of background on you, and kind of where you’re this idea of of referral marketing and how that all came about to be with, with what you’re doing now.
Dr. Sam Ahani 2:39
Okay. So, you know, I don’t know how far back you want me to go. But I’ve been a dentist for about 20 years, I graduated in 1995 from University of Pacific shout out ice. And, you know, since then I’ve been a clinician and I’ve always also been involved in like the business side of dentistry, we’ve had, you know, an ortho office, we’ve had other dental offices. And, you know, I’ve done implants, I’ve done Invisalign. So I’m one of those guys who just can’t, you know, kind of sit still and sort of do the same thing day in and, you know, kind of day in and day out. You know, some of my other things that I’ve done is, you know, my parents had a, you know, motel when I was in high school, and I used to, you know, to help them run it, and then gas company, and I had my own glass company, and then, you know, had a Martial Arts Academy, you know, so, I’m one of those guys who does, you know, who tries different things. And, and I can’t, I don’t really sit, you know, I don’t really sit still. Okay. And, you know, throughout the years, I’ve seen a lot of, you know, different kinds of dental offices, you know, I talked to a lot of my friends. And so this idea came about because, you know, I have it’s not it’s not exactly referral marketing. This is a my, my software is about specialist referrals. Okay, so. So, you know, over the years, my, you know, I come from a family of dentists, my brother’s an endodontist, my cousin is an oral surgeon, my wife’s a pediatric dentist, like other cousins of dentists, the other cousins are dentists, we’ve got a whole bunch of dentists in the family. So kind of the idea,
Bill Fukui 4:14
I wonder what’s gonna be, you know, when, when this COVID thing is over, and you guys are actually going to sit down to Thanksgiving. I wonder what the topics gonna be about, but
Dr. Sam Ahani 4:22
a lot of a lot of Donald’s with a lot of dental questions. I try to prevent it. But the idea came about because, you know, when we’re sitting around the table talking about patients actually, like, did you see Dr. Mr. So and so my brother be like, I don’t think you know, I don’t think we’ve seen him, you know, it was me, it was something important. And I was like, Oh, let me go check. And then I would check in next day. And I was like, oh, no, he hasn’t come to see you yet. And he hasn’t. So then we’d have to, like reach out to the patient and see, you know, what happened and whatnot. So I realized there’s really no good way of tracking it. And what really triggered it for me was that one time I was, I was talking to my orthodontic As and I asked him, Peter, how many referrals do you get from us a month? And he said, you said, I think eight. And then when we looked at our, in our books, it’s more like 11 or 12. Okay. And I said, No, how many are we sending you a month? He goes eight. So he didn’t realize that there’s like a big gap between what we’re sending him and what he’s actually you know, getting because of the paper referral system, basically, you’re leaving it up to the patient is to call so a lot of them drop off through the process. Not a lot of studies in dentistry on this, but medical as much as 50% of specialist referrals don’t go feel like they never they never show up.
Bill Fukui 5:39
I mean, you think about that, if you’re talking three patients a month. That’s 36 patients a year. Yeah. patients a year.
Dr. Sam Ahani 5:48
But But think about it. That’s from one referral source.
Bill Fukui 5:51
Yeah. Absolutely. So that’s just one source.
Dr. Sam Ahani 5:55
Yeah, it’s a really, it’s a really big deal. I mean, I kind of our system basically does what, you know, Kaiser and Sutter Health. And all these guys do, if they give you a referral, they don’t just hand you a paper slip and go see you later. By the time you’re, you know, getting in the car, somebody’s calling you to try to schedule that schedule that appointment, right. So and that’s kind of what we’re trying to recreate. So we’re trying to create a way of creating networks for dentists and specialists and patients to kind of connect with each other. And that’s what the software is all about. Okay.
Bill Fukui 6:26
So give me an idea, you obviously have spent a fair amount of time researching. In terms of because at the end of the day, it all boils down to is it worth our time and resources to invest in stuff in a practice, because we’ve got so many, you know, staff is busy doing stuff, dentists are busy doing stuff, there is a, what I would call a declining return on investment, when it requires a lot of time and resources and changes in protocols, you know, that kind of stuff, it just diminishes on the execution, but also on the profitability of it. So how do you address that when it comes to managing referrals from you know, from specialists, the GP?
Dr. Sam Ahani 7:20
Yeah, I’ll let me start by saying this, it seems like there’s like two kinds of practices. One kind of practice is that is the kind of practice that you were talking about where they spent 15 $20,000 on marketing a month, all they look at is the number of new patients that come in, that come in the door, new patients aren’t really as good as your existing patients, but they can keep it they can keep a practice going. So I’ve have friends who spent 15 $20,000 on marketing a month. And then we have practices like mine, where we do stuff like this, or just keep the keep the clients in our loop, like we don’t let them you know, escape our sphere as much as we can. So both of our practices do about the same amount as like as far as production and things like that. But they spend a lot more money on marketing, and they depend on new patients, whereas we try to keep our own patients in the loop. As far as level of difficulty of implementing, like my software is basically is saves time, but it’s just a different way of doing it. You know, implementing my software is super, super easy. It’s one of those things where you just make a small shift, for example, you just put all the referral slips in, you know, in your drawer, and then you just teach a few staff members how to use it and they’ll kind of teach everybody else had to use it. It takes about literally a minute to create a referral this way, but what you have at the end of the day is a list of all your referrals in one place. And also you get some feedback from the specialists and the patients on what’s going on with that referral as an example like the patients get a text after a week say have you scheduled this appointment and and then if they say yes or no that shows up on your on your on your dashboard. And then if the specialists scheduled the appointment on our software that shows up on the dashboard and when it’s completed and then you can upload all your you can upload everything into the referral and so everything is in this everything is in the same place and it’s organized and our system pushes people to make those appointments like sends reminders Have you made your appointment yet? It’s kind of like exactly like what we do for recall systems. We don’t just say come back in six months and when paper you know piece of paper and go, you send reminders it gets it kind of gets the patients to sort of go I should say that you know about half of half of lawsuits in dentistry have some element of this like miscommunication between the patient specialists and dentists in it. So our software actually helps with that also.
Bill Fukui 9:52
Oh that you bring up a really good point. It is more than just managing the Um, the actual tracking of the referrals, but also facilitates the communication.
Dr. Sam Ahani 10:08
That’s right. And then, like I said, a huge portion of the lawsuits are around basically like wrong tooth numbers. So we like make them verify the tooth numbers or use you didn’t you never referred me. Yeah. Even though there’s that even though there’s a note in the chart, that really doesn’t mean that the patient got that referral slip, or really was talked to, you know, kind of, you can easily see that you tell your assistant, hey, refer, Mr. Smith, for you know, to take take a look at this lesion. But, you know, it can even make out the slip with the copy and the thing, but never talked to the patient. So, when the patient gets the text and gets reminders and things, there’s no, there’s no way to kind of say, you know, that you never went, right. So, beyond that bill, though, it’s just a much nicer handoff, if this step, you know, we’re promoting that the specialist called the patients and make an appointment, you can easily see that 30 to 40%, more people will go if they if they just somebody on the other side reaches out versus them, you know, with all the acts they have about going to the specialist going to the dentist, right eye soft voice on the other side, could really easily you know, make them go versus just let it sit on the refrigerator door.
Bill Fukui 11:16
You know, you bring up a really good point. And, and I do talk about to practices when they’re even doing their marketing, whether it’s their website, or whether it’s Joanne talking about, you know, the patient experience and, and this wow factor when they come into the office, that whole patient experience and especially now that you’ve got reviews, and all those things now affecting that, you know, the end consumer has so much more power in this relationship, where were facilitating that and exceeding it. We’ve got tools that are you know, disposal now that the practices really don’t use, but I think some of the studies that I’ve seen, whether it’s, you know, recalls and and things where you’re, you’re leveraging technology, and digital communication. Let’s face it, consumers, they live on their smartphones, they live on their computers. Many times, it’s not even a phone call, sometimes it’s the text messaging,
Dr. Sam Ahani 12:26
you know, so our software is built for general dentists to handle the referrals, okay, but just think about this, if you keep sending somebody to the same specialists over and over again, and those patients are having bad experiences at that specialist, for example. And you never know, because who’s going to come and tell you? Yeah, you know what I mean, they’re not going to tell you they know, they’re not a specialist is your friend. So we’re kind of creating, you know, ways of getting some input from patients and just surfacing them to like the referring doctor or to the specialist, just so that they can know what kind you know, you were very busy, like, we don’t have time for this, we don’t have time to like send surveys to patients or call a patient and see how that referral. I mean, I’m sure that some people do it. But by and large, because so many other things that are so any automating any of this stuff, I think is really worthwhile in the office. I mean, how many how many software? Can you say that you can just implement it and probably in 10 minutes, and it just follows the referrals. And having just does it? It just, it just does. It’s just as it’s an absolute? You know, in my mind, I mean, I wouldn’t have built it. If I knew it wasn’t a no brainer, it’s an absolute no brainer that you should be having some kind of system to follow these patients through the process the best as possible. If you’ve got a system great. If you don’t, ours is ours is a really clean and good one. Yeah, that sounds that sounds
Bill Fukui 13:45
great. How many? How many? How many clients or how many dentists do you have using the software? Right now,
Dr. Sam Ahani 13:52
we have about 200 offices on the platform and just receiving some of them are sending, but to varying degrees. The best implementation are like the networks of specialists that all use it with all their general dentists. And you know, specialists refer between each other also. So tracking those patients through those referral processes, it was also important to you send them for the root canal, but now it’s got to be extracted. So there’s a lot of there’s a lot of things we can do as far as you know, keeping those patients you know, happy and keeping them informed on what they need to do next. It’s all built for general dentists, but it’s focused on the patient experience. So we try to really improve that handoff between specialists and general dentists so that patients are happy.
Bill Fukui 14:35
You know, the one other thing that I I’ve heard on occasion is they’re more reluctant to refer out patients to practices even though they know that this guy this practitioner is is really good at what they do. But they’re almost afraid to refer him because they may not see that patient again.
Dr. Sam Ahani 14:57
That’s really the whole you know, So every for over, you know, 25 years, even though it’s my brother and my cousin I’m referring to every time I had a referral to a patient who needs a lot of work like they need, you know that number 14 needs a root canal, but they need, you know, all kinds of stuff. But that number 14 is bothering them. So you know, they need 30,000 hours worth of stuff, they finally got the guts to come in. But there’s that one root canal that I cannot do in the office. Because it’s just too difficult. As I’m handing that referral to the patient. I’m like, I wonder if I’m ever going to see you again. And then I, you know, I hand it to the patient. And then I go up to the front and say, Jeanette, could you please make sure Mr. Smith, you know, comes back after his after his route. And she’ll make a note, you know, she’ll put a sticky on her thing, she’ll put a note in the calendar, maybe, maybe she follows up once, you know, to see what happened or whatever, right? If I tell virtually, if I tell any office, give me a report of everybody you’ve referred out in the last six months, and you know what their status is, and stuff like that they wouldn’t be able to create, I can’t tell ya, they can’t, they can’t create it. And guess what, in my office, we refer out 30 to 50 patients a month, if you’d asked me, I would have told you it was like 15 or 20. And then, and just to give you some sense of scale, that’s about how many new patients we get a month, right? We’re kind of getting him in one hand and kind of handing and getting them out. The other hand, it’s a really big problem that people don’t recognize, it’s almost akin to your recalls, like if you just patients, if you’d let patients through and not not, you know, reschedule them all and stuff, you’re basically doing the same thing, you’ve spent all that money and time establishing those relationships. And guess what you’re referred patients are typically your best patients, you know, you’re not going to get somebody you know, is not good, doesn’t have money, who’s not going to follow through or doesn’t care, you’re likely not going to, you know, send that to the specialist because you know, it’s just a waste of their time, they’re probably not going to do it. Right, you’re probably So these, these patients are actually vetted. And a lot of times they’re like your best patients that just,
Bill Fukui 17:04
you know, one of the other things that that I found, and this is even 2025 years ago, when I was working with some of the specialist primarily orthodontic specialists, more and more dentists, even the specialists now are doing marketing, like you kind of mentioned some clients that are spending 510 $15,000 a month on marketing, some of those are actually specialists. Now the specialists are now going straight to the Consumer Direct to consumer marketing, where they didn’t do that before as much. Yeah, but I think now you’re starting to see, it used to be the GPS were always the kind of the entryway into the dental community. Now their patients can enter through all different ways.
Dr. Sam Ahani 17:50
I’ve, you’ve touched on like a sore spot for me. Because, you know, for years, I’ve been telling like my oral surgeon, like, you know, my cousins and my brother so much, because he’s an endodontist, you’re not going to probably, but my orthodontist, for example, yes. I was like, why don’t you mark it? Well, first of all, if every sending your patients you don’t really need to market marketing is not cheap, right? But the point is, like, how come I’m the only one sending you patients? Why can’t? Why can’t you refer me a patient? You know, well, why don’t you mark it, get the patient if they need something before their ortho send them to me. And you know, now I’m seeing that a little bit more. I see nothing wrong with like, an oral surgeon. Marketing for implants, for example, even wisdom teeth, what’s wrong with their dentists? If that if there are other stuff that needs to be done, they before they recognize that the same way where we recognize, you know, when it’s time to send or not to set, then what is the reason not to just you know, do that so that, you know what it’ll end up being is more new patients
Bill Fukui 18:55
Dr. Sam Ahani 18:57
You know what I mean? And so, I’ve been I’ve been talking this talk for a long time, and I always tell my specialist, why am I the only one marketing? Yeah, that’s market? I mean, what better marketing is it for them? If they sending me five or 10 new patients a month? Well, and I think my goodness, and if anybody else,
Bill Fukui 19:15
yeah, well, I think the other thing too is you know, when you have those kinds of relationships and you use technology to somewhat validate and actually quantify put $1 amount on in terms of what that relate the value of that relationship is it becomes much more of a an adhesive in terms of loyalty when it comes to marketing and referee, things like that. I will say that, you know, when I was doing a lot of TV for orthodontics, that was one of the things that they I would always encourage them to do was use this as a way of building your referral business. Because then you’re going to be you know, at So seeing patients now that need services that you don’t do, and now you can actually start building relationships with these other GPS that never sent you anything. But you got to have that back and forth. And I think managing that so that it becomes transparent. So Exactly. Now all of a sudden, they can see business grow in ways they really didn’t think about before.
Dr. Sam Ahani 20:28
Since since I’m on my software now, a lot, you know, I’m looking at these things, we do have a couple of our specialists who now our marketing will actually send us patients, oh, versus some of the other ones that don’t. And now I can just click and I can see with one, click what they’ve sent me, you know, what one timeframe and stuff like that, if they’re sending you any patients at all, with the likelihood that you send them patients becomes 10x. Specialists Listen to me, in the best way. Best way you can get, establish relationships with your GPS is to reciprocate sending them clients. I think they recognize this, but they don’t, you know, they don’t, you know, I think they all recognize, but they all just wait for the one patient who’s like, I’m sick of my dentists. And I’m like, secretly under the table sending them like, go see this guy, you know? Because I don’t want to lose, you know, either one of those?
Bill Fukui 21:20
Yes, yeah. But I do think that that is, especially for the ones that are doing a lot of direct to consumer marketing. I mean, I think the study studies I saw early on, and I don’t think they’ve changed too much is that, you know, you’ve got 50% of the American population that doesn’t have a regular, you know, dentist, they’re free fillers are pretty much probably more,
Dr. Sam Ahani 21:44
it seems like more, but I’ve heard, I’ve heard that before I see nothing wrong with specialists marketing, and then referring to general dentists, and vice versa, what is the following? I really liked that idea. Overall, it grows dentistry, and it’s good for the patients, too.
Bill Fukui 21:59
I think at the end of the day, you have more compliant patients, more educated patients and patients that are not afraid, I think, with new technology today, you know, the the whole, you know, Fear Factor of dentistry, the you know, being a coward, whatever it is, I think a lot of that is, you know, especially with today’s technology, and with information that that’s accessible to consumers online, whether it’s their websites and stuff, patients can learn so much more about it, where half of the fear was of the unknown. Yeah, I think once patients understand that there are options and that, you know, the outcomes that they can expect, I think it kind of changes, and I think we’re gonna see a change in consumers, I think the one thing that that isn’t going to change is dental insurance, which has driven a lot of the, the marketplace. But I think you’re starting to see more and more consumers kind of take control of that themselves.
Dr. Sam Ahani 23:00
That’s right. So one of the things that we do think about a lot when we’re creating new features and stuff, is that, you know, giving patients a little bit of control over this like referral process, for example, or appointment requests that that can be done directly, or, you know, having them be able to give some feedback at the end, it helps them to, you know, to have a little bit of control, and maybe take a little bit of the angst about, you know, going to somebody brand new, let’s face it, they didn’t want to come to see you to begin with either, and now you’re sending them to somebody else. And they’re supposed to just like call over there and set the whole thing up, it’s just that, you know, it’s, it’s not like they’re going for a manicure. It’s not, it’s not something that they look forward to. So anything you can do to make them feel better, feel more loved, like and taken care of, that’s, that’s your best ticket to having a successful practice. Well, and
Bill Fukui 23:51
I think the other thing, too, is, is when the expectations are so low when I’m going in and it’s something that I’m not really expecting this, you know, as you said, it’s not something I’m looking forward to, but yet if the experience and the communication and experience is so different than what I expected, it doesn’t take much to raise the bar in terms of you know, exceeding patient’s expectations because I think it’s pretty low. I think patients expectations of dentistry is pretty low in general.
Dr. Sam Ahani 24:21
Absolutely. And the problem though, I think, is the the dentists are doing dentistry and so if you were like the CEO and you’re sitting in your office and watching how the thing operates and you know like you know some like now offices have you know, like there’s a lot of deaths is just CEO type of guys out there right? Yeah. What are they focusing on? who answered the calls don’t let it go to voicemail you know, that you know, they’re focusing on that stuff. When normal Dennis is back there, you know, doing fillings and dealing with like scared patients and those kinds of things. They’re just relying on their front desk for that whole thing. And by the way, the front desk Yes, we train them the same guy. Yeah. Nobody. Right? So so if that’s the case, then putting any kind of systems in place, and it’s difficult, I know I’ve, you know, run practice for 25 years, I know, it’s very difficult to be like, in the back and in the front and try to, you know, try to, you know, I was putting my office very close to the front up until this last bill, I would always put it right, you know, behind the front desk, because I always wanted to hear, you know, how the, they were answering the calls. And yeah, that was the, like, the best controls, you know, kind of controls that I have. Now, we’ve got other kinds of controls that we that, you know, we use that can see, you know, how many calls were missed? How many? It’s just, you know, it’s just really hard for dentists who’s just working to even think about those things, you know, all the time, but it’s super important.
Bill Fukui 25:47
Yeah, I absolutely agree. Now, this the this, this session today was really not necessarily intended to be a promotion. But I want people to know how to access information about your, you know, the name of your software, they can get information on it, because I, I think that this is stuff that they need to know. So I don’t want to be promotional, but I want you to be able to get that information to them.
Dr. Sam Ahani 26:16
Listen, I was happy to talk about anything, but this one is pretty near and dear to my heart, you can hardly have a conversation with me, without me spinning around somehow to referrals right now. So that’s just the way my brain is. So sorry, if I did that. I know.
Bill Fukui 26:29
I think that’s perfect.
Dr. Sam Ahani 26:31
So the software is called refer a.com. I just want to say again, it is made for general dentists to be able to use irregardless of the fact that this specialist engages it or not. So it’s just you know, everything’s run through email. And we do have a free version that you can just try and is free for specialists is free for general dentists. Right now, we’re just charging if you want integration, which does make things a lot easier and easier to do, but, and then you know, just ping us on the on the website, we’re happy to answer any questions for you, our phone numbers there to just refer a.com, R E f e r a.com.
Bill Fukui 27:09
That sounds great. And I appreciate you sharing that. And I actually you sent me some some videos just to kind of explain some of the features of it and such really, really helpful. And I, you know, there were some aspects of managing referrals, execution and implementation of that process. That, you know, was I’ve been in the business for 25 years. And I haven’t seen, you know, a lot of this stuff that you had in there, which was enlightening, because as much as I’m big on getting those new patients and marketing and branding your practice, there’s no doubt I agree with you the highest quality leads or potential for new revenue is your existing patients.
Dr. Sam Ahani 28:02
There’s no question if you want, if you want to have a great practice, do your marketing, but also make sure you keep those patients in the loop. And it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s this the way that you know, it’s how your practice becomes stable. And you don’t never have any up months down months, if you’re having any problems with that. Look at how you’re keeping patients in the loop.
Bill Fukui 28:22
You know, and I even think in light of what’s gone on around us this last year with, you know, pandemic and all this other stuff. I’ve seen practices that that just rely on their marketing and advertising. Boy, they really took a hit. Whereas the ones that are more diversified that have, you know, especially loyal, have developed loyal not only patients, but loyal relationships, those are things that you can’t buy, you can’t just buy that stuff.
Dr. Sam Ahani 28:55
You know, I would say it’s easy to keep a good relationship with anybody for a year or two. But it’s a different story to keep a good relationship for somebody for 25 years long time. You got to be thinking about it all the time. Yeah.
Bill Fukui 29:06
And I think what you’re doing is is enlightening. And I actually look forward to working with you doing more stuff, even outside of, you know, outside of dentistry. I mean, this is this is really, really good stuff. It’s really important.
Dr. Sam Ahani 29:21
I appreciate it. Me too. And you’re it’s just fun talking to you. Yeah.
Bill Fukui 29:25
Well, Dr. Honee, thank you again for your time today. And again, refer a.com is the is the website, look for more information there, whether you use the software or not start taking a closer look at what you’re doing to manage those referrals, both to and from your providers. I think it will make for a more bullet proof practice when it comes to consistency as you’re saying in terms of revenue. You know, you don’t you can avoid those really peaks and valleys in terms of you know, You hate to see those Valley months those are quite frankly no fun.
Dr. Sam Ahani 30:04
nerve racking, right? It’s nerve racking but every month you have to look to the next to see what’s happening there. So the more you stabilize it, the better.
Bill Fukui 30:11
Yeah. Thank you again and I appreciate you, you today. Good afternoon, Dr. Honee.
Dr. Sam Ahani 30:17
Appreciate it. Thank you very much. Okay.
Bill Fukui 30:19
Okay. Bye bye.
MSD Insider 30:21
Thanks for joining us for the med shark insider with Bill Fukui join us next week for another dive into all things medical marketing. All episodes can be streamed at WWW dot med shark digital.com/med Shock dash insider
Transcribed by https://otter.ai