By PETE JOHNSON
In the wake of COVID-19, our way of life has dramatically shifted. Businesses are shuttered, homes are filled, and human-to-human contact has decreased significantly. In unprecedented times like these, a new rule book must be made when adapting to new restrictions and consumer mindsets.
There are many steps dental practices can make to adjust to patient needs and maintain services without compromising safety. From virtual appointments to increased communication, numerous actions can combat sleepier times in the dental industry.
Here are a few to consider:
Telehealth has been a buzzworthy topic for some time. Now more than ever, patients are amenable to the concept of having healthcare come to them via online services. Common forms of telehealth include live video chat, remote patient monitoring, and mobile health. Recently, teledentistry has entered the public consciousness, offering a wealth of benefits to patients virtually.
Teledentistry, the act of remotely servicing patients with their oral health, is beneficial for a number of reasons. One of its main draws is the fact that it offers a more affordable visit. Additionally, it’s much more convenient for patients and dentists alike, omitting travel time for visitors and simplifying visits for practitioners. While not all visits can be virtual, appointments like follow-ups and consultations can easily be done on video. Types of visits may include follow-ups where dentists prescribe an e-script for an antibiotic or a non-narcotic pain medication if needed. There are tooth brushing monitoring programs made possible with a QR code that aim to better your technique and prevent sepsis. Dental Second Opinions is a service where patients can consult with professionals on a certain dental treatment. Finally, for a bit of fun, Smile Survey will score your smile from 1-10. TeleDentists then provide feedback and advice on improving your score if needed. There are a number of ways to utilize TeleDentistry. Many of these forms are preventative, bettering the health of patients so they avoid expensive procedures down the line.
TeleDentistry offers even more benefits in light of COVID-19. The majority of the country is currently practicing social distancing, therefore less bodies can be found in dental chairs. Teledentistry lets patients continue to consult with their dentists without putting either party at risk. One of the best ways to utilize Teledentistry at this time is to host consultations to see if it’s necessary for someone to schedule an appointment. Many issues and complications can be scheduled for the future while some need immediate attention. A video call allows dentists to assess the urgency of a situation. If an immediate in-office appointment can be avoided, they will provide advice on treating the issue and schedule an appointment for the future. If there is an emergency, they can schedule an appointment and be prepared upon their arrival.
If Teledentistry is an option for your practice, don’t hesitate to let patients know it’s available to them. Be sure to offer it on your website, on social media, and within email campaigns. Contact patients who are overdue for a cleaning or have recently cancelled an appointment directly to inform them of their options. While Teledentristy is necessary in this current climate, many patients may use it for years to come after trialing it now.
Heighten Communication & Remain Transparent on Safety Precautions
When it comes to the art of communication, a lack of it is the most unsettling to consumers. Therefore, make sure you are as present as possible at this time. While appointments may be decreasing and traffic to the office is dwindling, your voice should remain active.
Transparency is key when communicating with your patients. It’s important to address COVID-19 with understanding and clarity and relay your response to it. Whether you’re offering Teledentristy or emergency appointments, provide adequate details on your services. On top of this, assure your patients that you are following proper guidelines in regards to sanitation and safety. Get specific with your measures, so they can rest assured a visit to your office is a safe one. Steps many offices are taking include letting patients sign in verbally, staggering appointments to decrease volume, spacing chairs out in waiting rooms, and providing hand sanitizer. Announce your precautions on your website and in social media so patients will feel comfortable before they arrive.
Adapt Your Message & Tone
The reach of Coronavirus and its prevalence in the news cycle means it’s on everyone’s mind. Therefore, not addressing it, especially in the healthcare field, may come off as tone deaf. Now is the time to change your messaging to adapt to the public consciousness.
For example, if any of your marketing materials ask patients to “come in at their earliest convenience” or to “visit your office sooner than later”, remove it from your copy for the time being. We also recommend ramping up your social media presence to offer updates, reminders, and any change to your services at this time.
Patients may be less interested in dental visits, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about their oral health. Now is a great time to kickstart a blog on your website to provide tips and tricks for optimal health. A blog can help educate users, position dentists as experts in the field, and inspire patients to seek out treatments that may help them. During COVID-19, blog visitors will feel comforted that good dental advice is within close reach. Plus, blog posts will live on your site forever, so users can utilize the information for years to come.
In times of uncertainty in business, unusual reviews and feedback may rise. For example, if a patient is displeased because they can’t receive a non-essential treatment at this time, they may leave a review voicing their frustration. In scenarios like this, it’s important to follow proper guidelines for handling reviews. When responding, let them know that you understand their frustration. Then, calmly relay your reasoning for the change in your services and highlight the need for safety. Not only will this appease the reviewer but it will also inform readers of the responsible measures you’re taking to keep everyone safe.
Be a Positive Influence
There may be a lot of unfortunate news in the public stratosphere, but that doesn’t mean we can’t sprinkle in some positivity here and there. Therefore, when implementing all of these strategies, be sure to do so with an uplifting energy. While transparency and acknowledgement of the crisis is key, so is a sense of togetherness. Therefore, assure your patients that while you may not physically be there, you are still present and connected. Remain active on social media, on email, and on review sites.
In these challenging times, the team at Get Practice Growth is prepped and ready to assist with anything you may need. Please don’t hesitate to call or reach out if you have any questions or concerns.