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Volume 53, Issue 1
Incorporate new software and analytics programs to innovate patient interactions and improve perceptions.
Happy New Year! As you think ahead to the coming year, what goals have you set for yourself? For your practice? If nothing else comes to mind, then let this year be the one you simplify. Practicing dentistry and running a practice can be difficult as it is - why make it any harder than it has to be?
This is especially true when it comes to patient communication. When there are open lines of communication using the technology that your patients find valuable and convenient, the dentist-patient relationship is stronger, patient outcomes improve, treatment acceptance increases and loyalty becomes unwavering. Nothing can replace the valuable face-to-face interaction that takes place while the patient is in the office, but as the practice typically only sees the average patient twice a year, there’s a ton of opportunity in two areas that commonly present marketing challenges for many dentists: pre- and post-appointment communication.
Today there are tech tools designed specifically to assist dentists in creating meaningful connections with patients all year. Here are five innovative ideas to help streamline and simplify your patient communication tactics this year.
1. Don’t overlook your website
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone born after 1990 actually pick up a phone to make a call. Millennials now make up the majority of young families, as they’re now in their 30s, but their communication habits couldn’t possibly be more different than their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts. That’s why nothing in a dentist’s marketing arsenal is more important than the dental practice website.
Your practice website is only as useful as the information it provides patients, and if users can’t find the information or features they’re looking for, then the website isn’t living up to its potential. For example:
Finding contact information: Ensure that your phone number, email address and physical address are easily accessible on the website, particularly when viewed on mobile devices, so patients never have an excuse to put off contacting your office.
Making appointments online: At the very least your website should have a web form where patients can request an appointment on the “Contact Us” page. The ability to actually schedule appointments online via a company like PatientPop (patientpop.com), Zocdoc (zocdoc.com) or LocalMed (localmed.com) is a highly valued feature for many tech-savvy patients. Many patients in their 30s and 40s today won’t choose a dentist unless they offer this feature, and this kind of patient-friendly technology is one of the major advantages that large DSOs and dental chains have over the independent dentist.
2. Refocus your attention on Google
Considering the enormous power of Google, a dentist’s Google My Business profile is arguably one of the most important to have online, especially in terms of reaching prospective patients. And as of November, Google has enhanced features by rolling out the Google My Business app. Now customers (patients) can follow, leave reviews and message businesses directly, while business owners (dentists) can respond easily from within the app. The new
mobile app also allows businesses to post images and content, rivaling other platforms like Yelp, Facebook and Instagram.
3. Invest in front desk technology
Most practice management systems come standard with some type of rudimentary patient communication software. As patient communication technology has evolved, there are several trusted companies in the dental space that offer enhanced communication solutions, like Weave. With features like real-time texting with patients straight from the desktop computer and an algorithm that can identify and contact recall patients in order to seamlessly fill holes in the schedule, dentists can boost the efficiency at the front desk with just a few simple clicks of the mouse. But let’s be honest, while these systems seem impressive and flashy, what they truly do is make the workflow in the front office much more streamlined, allowing the staff to focus on other productive duties.
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4. Explore the option of online chat
Online chat has taken real-time communication with patients to a new level. It’s widely used in the consumer space; you’ve likely utilized online chat to resolve a customer service situation yourself. Patients love the speed and anytime access, and dentists who have adopted this technology love the fact that their office is reachable by prospective patients 24/7 via a HIPAA-compliant, online communication method.
5. Always follow up with a survey
Do patients agree that your office runs as efficiently as you believe it does? Would they like to give a particular team member a shout out for a job well done? Post-appointment surveys provide a wealth of insight into the overall patient experience. They also demonstrate your commitment to patient satisfaction and even provide a natural segue into asking happy patients to post an online review. They can be automated to be sent out after every appointment and can provide an anonymous channel for patient feedback. While it’s true that no one likes to hear criticism, surveys provide a unique opportunity to identify and correct any weaknesses that may exist in the practice.
One final note: Many dentists are hesitant to automate patient communication out of fear that the messaging will come across as cold and impersonal, but take a moment to consider what all of the technologies above have in common - your valued patients like them. The benefits of these tech tools can not only help you run a more productive practice, but they can also simplify communication from the patient’s perspective. And anything that makes it easier for patients to interact with the office is a tool worth exploring in 2019.