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Digitizing the patient experience: A playbook

Oct. 26, 2022
Many practices have been slow to adopt digital solutions. Learn how this DSO broke records for new patients, quadrupled reviews, and increased patient satisfaction using digital technology.

Over the past few decades, the dental industry has undergone rapid changes as technology has increased to meet patient needs. Especially in the last two-plus years of the COVID pandemic, customers across all demographics have demanded an increase in digitization and convenience from their medical practices in the same way they’ve come to expect it in every other aspect of their lives.

Many practices have been slow to adopt digital solutions. A recent survey of 1,300 dental professionals found that only 26% of practices accept online booking.1 Despite this being a popular and common convenience in a variety of other industries, the dental industry has lagged behind.

Transforming 30 years of manual data entry

Our DSO serves patients at 106 locations across Texas, Georgia, and Florida. Like many practices prior to the pandemic, we relied on legacy systems to schedule and maintain our records, but our front desk staff was becoming increasingly frustrated with the amount of time these manual updates required.

While we’ve become accustomed to most of our daily needs never being more than a touch away, the effects of the pandemic showed that the industry needs health-tech innovation to improve the provider and patient experiences alike.

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In late 2021, we implemented NexHealth to automate and digitize many of the administrative tasks that our front-end staff was previously doing manually. Both our office staff and patients have benefited from a digitized experience. We’ve experienced significant patient growth and generated more reviews based on increased patient satisfaction.

For practices burdened with paper processes, or for those short on front office staff, digitization can streamline daily activities and make both staff and patient lives easier. Here’s our playbook for digitization:

Build a property management system (PMS) integration sync that works: Implement an integration with your existing network of on-premises servers to create a unified interface for staff to instantly access patient information and data.

Create a frictionless online booking system: This new integration allows your practice to introduce your patients to a seamless online booking system. In our case, this includes an online onboarding process for new patients with HIPAA-compliant forms. Providing a streamlined onboarding process can be critical to a practice’s growth, as this solution can add to your overall volume of patients.

Digitize record collection and maintenance: With online forms and digital record keeping, you can optimize the overall financial health of your practice group and cut down on your physical footprint by saving on paper storage.

Ensure every appointment time and chair is filled: Consider providing a wait-list feature that triggers automatic messages to patients to ensure you’re using your time and resources efficiently. Incorporating options like Recall and 1-Click booking features can also ensure that patients are coming in for their regularly scheduled hygiene visits.

Provide modern alternatives to a call center (web, texting): Our call center was previously receiving up to 2,000 calls daily, which wasn’t optimal for our patient communications. By investing in online resources and streamlined communication methods, such as web chatting and texting, you can cut down on the amount of customer service calls you field.

Capture positive reviews to bolster our online presence: Digital upgrades have an immediate positive impact on the patient experience—at Coast Dental we saw an almost 375% increase in reviews from December 2021 to February 2022, with an average rating of 4.5/5. The return on investment of a digitized patient experience can’t be overstated, and as you roll out your new processes, make sure you share your accolades externally. Positive online reviews can only help grow your practice.

Free your team’s time to focus on in-person patient engagement: Beyond satisfied patients, implementing digital solutions frees up hours in the day for front office staff by reducing phone calls and the need for manual data entry. By making these changes, your staff can spend their time focusing on the patients in the office.

The aforementioned survey found that high patient volume practices overinvest in happy patients, and at Coast Dental we can attest to that fact. We’ve seen a direct impact from our digital investments such as NexHealth resulting in an increase in positive reviews, patient growth, and a more efficient experience for the entire practice.

Practices looking to prioritize the patient experience should consider taking the first step toward digital transformation. By modernizing your processes and investing in future-proofed solutions, you’re ultimately investing in the long-term success of your practice.

Editor's note: This article appeared in the October 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

Reference

1. State of dental. Year of the patient 2022. NexHealth. 2022.

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