How contactless patient experience can improve your practice

December 7, 2020
Emma Rodgers

Emma Rodgers is director of communications at NexHealth. She is passionate about the intersection of health care and technology. NexHealth is a suite of telehealth tools that helps hospitals, private doctors, and dentists operate their practices.

Transitioning to a contactless patient experience provides increased patient satisfaction, improved efficiency for your dental practice, and reduced risk of COVID-19 exposure.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has been difficult for everyone.

This global public health crisis has forced us to fundamentally reevaluate how our society works. Industries have had to innovate to stay in business as the economy ground to a halt, while doing their part to flatten the curve.

Health care workers were hardest hit. They are the soldiers fighting on the front lines of a war against an unseen enemy.

Caregivers, nurses, and physicians are at the highest risk of exposure, and are most in need of protection. Personal protective equipment has been in short supply since the beginning of the pandemic. Health care practices, dental clinics and hospitals have had to balance the needs of their patients with the safety of their frontline staff.

How do we accomplish that? The answer is to create a contactless patient experience that removes exposure, keeping risk of COVID-19 transmission to a minimum.

Here are the benefits of a contactless patient experience, and some tips on creating one.

Benefits of a Contactless Patient Experience

Increased Patient Satisfaction

Patients often delay visiting the dentist because it is seen as an unpleasant experience. A 2019 consumer health care trends report showed 80% of patients select providers based solely on convenience.

Contactless patient experiences are more convenient than in-person visits. Patients can join their appointments with a couple of clicks on their laptops or smartphones. They can book appointments, ask questions, fill out paperwork, and pay for their visits, using the same online portal.

Creating a contactless patient experience is a good way to endear yourself to patients and gain an advantage over other local dental clinics. Why would someone spend an hour at an in-person visit when they can consult with you from home?

Keeping patients satisfied with their relatively painless virtual appointments will help ensure patient retention.

Improved Efficiency

The administrative functions of running a dental clinic are formidable, before the actual work of caring for patients.

Using online forms to upload patients’ insurance, medical history, and billing information provides a more streamlined user experience.

You can use teledentistry software to automate time-consuming tasks, including follow-ups, booking, and appointment reminders. Using emails and SMS texting reminders will help patients keep their appointments.

This lets you spend more time, energy and resources on patient care. You no longer need front desk staff to manage invoices or coordinate your schedule.

Patients are more likely to pay bills in a timely fashion if they can easily do so online rather than having to mail a check. Moving toward cashless, online payment will not only get money to your clinic faster, but will increase your return on investment (ROI) by eliminating processing fees.

Moving your billing, appointments, and scheduling to a virtual workspace will improve tracking and reporting. You will be able to see what aspects of your dental practice are operating at maximum efficiency, and to remove any bottlenecks.

Reduces Risk of COVID-19 Exposure

Patients no longer feel safe or comfortable visiting their local dental clinic unless necessary. They do not want to risk exposure to a potentially fatal disease.

Hospitals, doctors’ offices, and dental clinics are seen as possibilities for exposure to COVID-19. Emergency department patient volume dropped to between 30% and 60% in 2020 for non–COVID-related cases.

With telehealth software and digital forms, you will be able to give patients a mobile experience. They will be able to manage most of their dental care from their devices.

Your staff can assess the needs of patients during a video consultation, and limit
in-person visits to necessary cases. This reduces the physical and emotional burden on your staff that comes from remaining open during the pandemic.

This allows time to more thoroughly screen each patient for COVID-19 symptoms and disinfect patients before an in-person visit. This process ties into patient satisfaction. If your clinic is not providing a safe experience, your patients will find another that does.

Creating a Contactless Patient Experience

Teledentistry

We are fortunate to live in a time when many tasks that would have required a physical presence just 10 years ago can now be done remotely, thanks to teledentistry software.

Teledentistry refers to software that allows you to conduct appointments virtually. The goal is to minimize physical contact with patients as much as possible, making visits more convenient for patients and less risky for you.

Your best bet is a teledentistry solution that creates a mobile-first experience, allowing patients to check in, schedule visits, communicate with you, and pay bills from their smartphones.

Implementing mobile-first teledentistry will also enable patients to book on demand. This reduces the need for front desk staff, which saves on administrative costs and improves your ROI. Teledentistry can also make in-person visits more efficient. If patients make a prior appointment online to discuss their needs, you can be more informed about their concerns when they do visit the office.

Online Forms

Paperwork, or even electronic sign-in forms on a tablet passed among patients, creates a risk of infection for you, your patients, and your staff.

The solution? Use online forms to collect insurance information, identification, and billing information.

Go paperless and send all paperwork to patients electronically prior to their appointment, and collect their information before their prescreening calls.

Automate your workflows by sending email and SMS text reminders ahead of appointments, and ask patients to complete all intake and medical history forms online before their visit.

Contactless Payments

Patients now expect to be billed on the same platform they use for appointments. Why would they send a check in the mail when they could pay for dental visits online with a few taps on a screen?

Giving your patients the option of cashless, contactless payment, helps patients to feel in control of their health and their spending.

Online payments reduce the average days until payment by half, because patients don’t have to wait for their bills in the mail. When they receive their bills digitally, they are more likely to pay on time, and you receive payment faster.

Cashless payments also eliminate the physical touchpoints that carry the risk of possible COVID-19 transmission. That reduces the risk for everyone involved.

Configure your invoices so that they are sent automatically by text or email when the visit concludes. This will make it easy for patients to pay for their appointments, so that the money reaches your account faster.

Wrapping up

COVID-19 has brought about a strange time. A common joke involves comparing life during COVID-19 to a disaster movie, and people unironically refer to the prepandemic world as “The Before Times.”

People are scared and worn out from the uncertainty. They are turning to you to maintain their oral health throughout the pandemic. If you give them a fast, easy and convenient patient experience, they will reward you.

Transitioning to a contactless patient experience provides increased patient satisfaction, improved efficiency for your practice, and reduced risk of COVID-19 exposure.

Ways you can implement a contactless patient experience include the following:

  • Choose a teledentistry solution that lets patients manage their care on their mobile devices and book on demand.
  • Use online forms to automate the process of collecting medical history and insurance information.
  • Use cashless payment systems to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure, expedite the payment process and improve your ROI.