Even before COVID, the dental community faced quite a few challenges. Let’s be honest—maintaining exemplary oral health is not at the top of everyone’s priority list. Even if it were, more than 75% of adults experience dental anxiety, so they avoid the dentist. Beyond dental phobias, nearly 20% of adults say that it’s too hard to find a convenient appointment time. Add the pandemic into the mix, and in the past year, more than half of Americans did not schedule general checkups with their dentists, according to the American Association of Endodontists.
The good news is that the tides have finally changed. What does this mean for general dentists and oral care specialists? It’s a big spike in appointments! The question is, are you ready for them? Dental practices that are not ready might find themselves overwhelmed and surrounded by chaos. Fortunately, technology has your back. Here are a few ways you can use technology to expertly manage the influx of patients.
Use online scheduling to streamline appointments
Studies show that, even before COVID-19, the majority of patients preferred online scheduling over calling the office to book an appointment. The pandemic only accelerated the demand for digital tools and contactless protocols.
Patients of all ages are now more comfortable going online to order food, buy products, and schedule appointments. Yet, many dental practices still force patients to navigate through a complicated phone system and press a series of buttons before they ever get to a live person. Then, a team member must find several appointment times that might work for the patient. On average, that phone call takes eight minutes. Multiply that by the number of patients calling your office, and that’s too much time spent on the phone. That’s not a pleasant experience for new or returning patients.
An online scheduling system improves the patient experience and makes life easier for your team in several ways.
- Everyone spends less time on the phone.
- Patients view open appointments online and conveniently find times that fit their schedule.
- Patients have a positive scheduling experience when it’s convenient for them, even if it’s after normal business hours, and avoid being placed on hold.
- Staff can focus on improving the patient experience for those who are in the office.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed with the uptick in scheduling requests, the right online scheduling tool can help your team work more efficiently and make patients happier.
Consider automatic appointment reminders
As things continue to open up and mask rules lift, more patients will contact your office to schedule appointments to resume their regular dental checkups. As you get back up to full speed, imagine what it will look like if your team must call every single patient to remind them about their appointments. These phone calls take time away from other office duties and that means less time to focus on building personal patient relationships and growing your practice.
Patient communication software that sends automated reminders not only saves valuable time, it also reduces no-shows. With HIPAA-compliant text appointment reminders, you can keep the schedule full and significantly reduce your no-show rate.
More by Josh Weiner
Digital intake is the next logical step
Digital intake is another way to streamline your office, take busy work off your team’s full plate, and provide a better patient experience. In the wake of COVID, digital intake is the most sanitary solution to gathering patient information. (Think about all the pens and clipboards patients touch to fill out forms.) While many patients didn’t think twice about the spread of germs before COVID, you can be sure they do now. You can ease their minds by offering a digital solution—send a text and avoid the germs, cost, and hassle of pens, paper, and clipboards.
Offer an automated, contactless payment solution
Speaking of germs, providing a contactless payment option is another great way to make patients happy. Since an overwhelming majority of patients (91%!) prefer doctor-patient communications via text, why not use this to your advantage when it comes to getting paid? A patient communication platform that sends a text message and offers the option to pay right from their phone is a game changer for everyone. Like digital intake, digital payments cut down on paperwork and germs and mean you get paid faster. Most people respond to text messages within three minutes, which increases your chances of getting paid within minutes instead of days or months.
Two-way texting—truly more personal?
Online scheduling, automated appointment reminders, and digital intake and payment options are just a few of the ways you can upgrade the patient experience and conquer the chaos of endless office tasks in a world after COVID. But there’s one more thing to address—creating a personalized patient experience in a digital space.
Some of the dentists we work with at Solutionreach tell us they’re concerned that automated patient communication is a less personal way to interact. Surprisingly, the opposite is true. Two-way texting allows patients to easily connect with their dentist on a personal level, in the same way they connect with friends and family every day.
Patients want to take a more active role in their health care, and this includes keeping their mouth healthy. When you send a secure, HIPAA-compliant text message to a patient’s phone with the option to text their reply, you’re giving them what they want. You’re providing them a way to ask questions, learn about your practice, and feel better knowing they’re reaching out to someone who will respond. Ultimately, adding two-way texting to your patient communication tools fosters a more favorable patient experience without adding more work for your team.
Is your practice ready for the increase in patient volume? With a few updates to your virtual communication tools, I’m confident you will be.