Staying in touch with patients during the COVID-19 pandemic

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In times like these, when you're not seeing patients for appointments, it is important to maintain strong relationships with them. It supports your overall patient experience, allowing you to nurture those relationships; shows you care; and can improve mental health for you both.

The benefits are clear, but how do you move forward? Start with a little planning. Figure out who you want to target and what you plan to say, then start making those calls.

Who to call

Margaret Boyce-Cooley.Margaret Boyce-Cooley.

Your time and resources may factor into who you call. For instance, if you have a large practice, you may want to divvy up calls among you and several staff members. Some practices may even choose to focus on those with outstanding treatment, then move on to long-term patients and finish up with newer patients.

What to say

At the start of a call, inquire about how the person is doing. Be genuine. Focus on how he or she is doing overall. Don't make it just about the person's oral health. Listen to your patient. Acknowledge any difficulties and challenges the person expresses. Try to avoid sharing your own stressors. This time is about patients and their concerns. In this way, you make your practice a source of support for the many challenges your patients and their families face.

Schedule the call at a time when patients typically would have had appointments. When a patient picks up, say something like, "Mary, I'm so happy I reached you today. It's Martha calling from Dr. Hsu's office. I wanted to call and check how you're holding up through all of this. I know it is a stressful time. How are you?" Make sure to pause and listen.

Continue with, "I know all of this can be so overwhelming. We wanted to reach out and send you some support, letting you know we're thinking of you and miss seeing you. If you have a dental emergency while we're closed temporarily, please give us a call. Dr. Hsu is here to help."

This could also be a good time to direct them to your Facebook page for fun updates. Finish the call with, "We look forward to being open again and seeing you soon. Take care of yourself."

Customize calls for patients who are having birthdays during this time. Because celebrations likely won't be the same this year, they will certainly appreciate you wishing them well on their special days.

Additional support

During these times, many people are looking for a glimmer of hope, a distraction, or a helpful idea or resource. This is your chance to offer up an article or suggest a website or podcast.

Also, these links may be worth sharing:

Everyone could use a boost right now. These calls take little effort but likely will pay off in a big way. You are sure to lift your patients' spirits and have them remembering you when it's time to settle back into those dental chairs.

Margaret Boyce-Cooley is Burkhart Dental Supply's director of the Practice Support team, specializing in developing leadership skills to improve teamwork and key performance indicators for dental practices. You can reach Burkhart's Practice Support team at 800-665-5323 or [email protected].

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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