Emergencies happen, and we always need to plan for them. But, now more than ever, you need to ramp up your efforts to prevent hospitals, which are overtaxed from the COVID-19 pandemic, from becoming further burdened with emergency dental patients.
Let's also not forget these stats: A staggering 46% of dentists believe they will not be able to sustain their practices if they are forced to keep postponing all nonemergency treatments through the end of August due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey from the ADA Health Policy Institute. An earlier survey from the institute showed that 76% of practices only saw emergency patients and another 19% didn't see any patients at all.
Now, with all of that in mind, the message is clear. Dental practices need to start seeing emergency patients to prevent further strain on hospitals and tap into the only viable revenue stream available to most dentists right now. But, with so many pending variables during these unprecedented times, how do we proceed?
Creating awareness that your practice is open for essential care is the first step in building a strong emergency-focused business. Follow the seven steps below to attract emergency patients.
1. Update your website
Make it clear at the top of your homepage that you treat dental emergencies and offer same-day appointments. Adding a dedicated "dental emergency" page to your website also will improve your search results.
2. Create a dental emergency hotline
Rebrand your phone number as a dental emergency hotline. This number should appear on your website since a phone conversation is the most effective way to begin building rapport with emergency patients.
3. Use social media
Regularly post staff photos and videos. Post things unrelated to dentistry, but then end messages with your dental hotline number. Existing patients will know you are ready and available to help them. Also, it will provide a taste of your culture, which could lure in new patients who have emergencies and are searching for help. Additionally, don't forget to use your Facebook and Instagram pages to stress that you are taking every measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during exams.
4. Send texts and emails
Alert both current and dormant patients via your communication systems that you're open for emergency care. Let your patients know that protecting their dental health during this time remains your top priority.
5. Offer same-day and next-day appointments
When patients have toothaches or broken crowns, they don't want to wait. Make sure you have the staff available to take emergency patients right away. If you don't, they will find practices that will take them sooner.
6. Work on weekends
Unfortunately, now is not the time to take weekends off. Instead, your new mantra must be "open early, stay late, work the weekends." Though many people are at home during regular business days and hours, some aren't. Patients may need rides or babysitters. Now is the time to be flexible.
7. Embrace teledentistry
It may be a new concept, maybe one you never considered, but now is the time to give it a try. At a time when social distancing is encouraged, teledentistry is emerging as a must-have diagnostic tool. Virtual consultations provide your patients with peace of mind. It enables you to conduct initial diagnostics, provide prescriptions, and confirm the necessity of an emergency appointment prior to an office visit.
The new normal
Consider today's dental emergency as tomorrow's regular hygiene appointment. That's just where we are.
Don't forget the long-term benefits that come from adopting an emergency-only schedule during the pandemic. Use dental emergencies to offer necessary services, connect with existing patients, and build lasting relationships with new patients.
Still unsure? Consider this: 82% of emergency patients who were treated by a new dentist said they would continue to see that provider in the future, according to a survey conducted by 1-800-DENTIST.
That's not a bad return for doing the right thing.
The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.