As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, remember that the operational and safety protocols of every business changed as a result. Your dental practice must take steps now to ensure you can successfully meet the demands of this new normal and be prepared for an anticipated “bounce-back surge” that will be faced by many health care practices. In addition to proactively sourcing appropriate personal protective equipment to perform safe patient care and to ensure the safety and well-being of staff, practices must shore up their digital workflows and actively cultivate meaningful patient relationships. Many dental patients will gravitate toward dental practices with robust online and remote servicing options.
Here are four key areas to help you and your practice navigate a successful return to full practice.
Strengthen your virtual workflow.
Front-load the patient intake process by incorporating secure online forms and secure email communications into your practice. Secure online patient registrations and referrals expedite the intake process and facilitate the patient completing forms from the comfort of home. Directly integrate submissions into your practice software to save time and eliminate data entry errors. Likewise, secure email systems will allow your practice to seamlessly transmit patient health information between patients and practitioners and maximize your off-site communication abilities.
Cultivate your community.
Now is not the time to be silent. Right now, patients are online searching for answers and guidance. Timely email communications to your patients about the status of your office is a great start, but not enough. Connect with your patients where they are spending time — online and on social media. Your patients are looking for your trusted leadership and guidance during these uncertain times. Winning the conversation means extending your influence and reach. Try launching a “call-only” pay-per-click advertising campaign to capture local patients looking for care options and initiate a social media marketing campaign focusing on your emergency and virtual consultation options.
Employ next-level patient communications.
Get your patients to their appointments on time and prepared with automated and personalized text, email and voice messaging triggered directly from your practice software. Reconnect with patients who missed appointments when your office was closed or limited to emergency care with a message that lets them know you miss them and care about their health. Reassure patients that your practice is following the latest guidelines for patient and staff safety. And develop messaging that informs them about the changes they can expect to see in your waiting room and operatories to enhance safety. You can also configure patient waitlists to triage your patients for staggered fulfillment and to help you fill last-minute cancellations and gaps in your production schedule. Timely and personalized messaging not only enhances patient satisfaction but will improve your online reputation. To gather feedback from patients, consider using automated patient satisfaction surveys that take the patient right to Google and Facebook.
Consider teledentistry to help streamline business functions.
Those practices that successfully incorporate both synchronous and asynchronous servicing pathways for their patients will emerge at the top. A successful teledentistry model will incorporate the collection of online forms, such as consents for participation in teledentistry consultations, patient health histories, as well as COVID-19 patient disclosures and allow these elements to be staged and completed in a convenient virtual waiting room. Virtual dental consults are also better suited for streamlined multi-provider collaboration and will yield significant time-savings allowing your practice to better maximize your in-office chair time. It is likely that sporadic office closures will be the new normal for the next 12-18 months, and teledentistry will help you communicate effectively. (See related article,Virtual visits peak during crisis.)
Adjusting to the new normal will be a challenge for both patients and providers, but a conscious decision to bolster your online presence and digital workflows will allow you to continue to deliver high-quality care and connect meaningfully with your patients now and as your practice recovers from the COVID-19 crisis.
About the author
Mr. Levine is president of PBHS, the endorsed marketing services company for ADA members. For more information on PBHS dental website design and marketing, visit PBHS.com.