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Communicating with your patients during a pandemic

How to make personal connections in a “contactless” world
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When you were making New Year’s resolutions for 2020, you never could have imagined the world as it is today. This year you’ve had to face the unimaginable: closing your practice for a time, furloughing or possibly laying off staff, watching your revenue dry up during the closure and convincing patients it’s safe to receive treatment in your practice. 

Then there are the old lingering concerns such as increased competition, open schedules and reduced profitability due to lower insurance reimbursements. All of these issues have created a perfect storm for dental practices. The good news is you can weather it and come out on top with strong patient communication. 

Patient communication is more important than ever

As everyone is doing their part to control the spread of the coronavirus, going “contactless” is a safer choice for your team and patients. Yet, even as you eliminate points of contact, you don’t want to cut out personal connections. 

While always important, communication becomes even more critical during times of crisis to inform and connect with current and prospective patients. Strong communication is key to keeping a loyal patient base and attracting new patients.

You can use best practices and modern technology to help make your burden light with patient engagement, reputation management and online marketing tools. Using the right technology is paramount to your practice’s ability to pivot quickly.

Let’s examine some simple tactics you can implement immediately to reengage your patients to help fill your schedule, improve your online reputation and ultimately get revenue flowing again.

Consider new ways to communicate

Begin by taking time to reflect. What was working well before the pandemic that you can continue to do? What will you need to change going forward? Don’t be afraid to reexamine processes and tools you’ve taken for granted and try solutions you may have ruled out in the past. 

COVID-19 guidance and policies change from week to week. Use patient communications tools and strategies to make sharing updates easy, so you can stay more connected with patients while decreasing calls and physical contact. 

  • Send a regular e-newsletter to keep patients up to date with new policies and safety protocols, and help them stay connected to your practice while staying safe.
  • Use two-way texting or calling to follow CDC and ADA guidance on asking patients to wait in their car until the dental staff is ready to treat them. Texting is a quick and simple way for staff to notify patients it’s their turn to come into the office, and it also helps your office communicate with patients in the way many prefer now. 
  • Walking to the parking lot and escorting them is also a nice way to welcome them back into the practice, and if feasible, temperature screenings can take place there, too.
  • Stay in touch — without over-communicating. Your patient communication software should allow you to send automated reminders with custom parameters, so patients don’t get overwhelmed or annoyed by multiple email, phone and text reminders.

Share information quickly on your website

Your patients are nervous about COVID-19 and are seeking information to calm their fears. They want to know things like — Is your office open? What ADA-recommended restrictions should they be aware of before coming in? Can someone accompany them? Is it required to wear a mask? 

Your website is the quickest way to broadcast information to a large audience of current and prospective patients and is thus one of your best tools to answer questions while also communicating the branding and feel of your practice.

Before you rush to check off this step as already accomplished — perhaps long ago — take a minute to evaluate your website with fresh eyes. Is it modern and inviting? Is the information timely, including your office’s newest COVID-19 policies? Do you have several pages that link back to each other to help raise your Google ranking? 

We’ve learned in 2020 that these are new times that call for new ideas. Technology changes quickly. If you haven’t updated your website for awhile, it’s worth taking a look to see if it needs a fresh look or functionality upgrades. 

Let your practice shine online

As you focus on creating the best patient experience, you’ll want to capture those positive experiences to help increase your online reputation. Because you not only need to keep current patients happy, you must continue to attract new patients to thrive. 

Reputation management can be complex and time-consuming, but you can enlist the help of an expert or patient communication tools that can dramatically simplify and automate tasks, making them very cost-effective. Some services allow you to automate sending a quick survey to patients to rate your practice or collect reviews from patients with targeted marketing campaigns and allow you to automatically guide incoming reviews to certain platforms, like Google. 

As you create a patient survey, research best practices so you can create a simple and short questionnaire that patients will actually take — one that captures positive reactions and discourages negative reviews, so you can build an excellent online reputation that continues to attract new patients.

Make patient communication easy

Bottom line: Patient communication is critical, especially now, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Use modern technology to ease the burden so you can focus on dentistry even as you communicate effectively with patients, leverage powerful positive reviews, keep your schedule full and create the personal connections that keep patients satisfied and loyal. 

It is possible to do all these things and continue creating stronger personal connections with patients not just in today’s world, but for years to come. 

About the author

Article author image for Andrea GallimoreMs. Gallimore has more than 19 years of experience in the dental industry. With her extensive software knowledge and real-world office management expertise, Andrea can help practices maximize efficiency and profitability using Henry Schein One Practice Management Software and eServices. To learn more about patient communication benefits and solutions, visit Demandforce. To learn more about your online presence, visit Officite. Are you a Dentrix user? See how Dentrix Patient Engage and Dentrix Website can integrate into your Dentrix practice management software.