At some point, everyone will need to seek the care of a dentist. Even if patients are reluctant to visit a dental practice for fear of COVID-19, they must eventually go for their needs, whether it's help they are seeking for pain, infection, bleeding gums, broken fillings, fractured teeth, or other dental care they need.
Searching for a new dentist can be stressful unless dentists make it easier for patients to find them. During the pandemic, remote work from home became commonplace to the point that people uprooted and moved in droves to seek more affordable or agreeable living conditions. These people left their familiar dentists behind and now need long-neglected care.
Some dentists have moved their practices because of crime waves and political unrest. Some practices have closed down, with the dentist relocating to another business location. If this is the case for you, have you notified your patients?
The ADA collects and analyzes information from dentists around the U.S. every week. According to this report, as of the week of October 11, 2021, "61.6% of respondents reported that their practices were open and busy. And 37.4% said they were available but had fewer patient appointments than usual, while only 1% reported that their practices were closed due to the pandemic."
Dental practices are as busy as we allow them to be at this crucial time. If you have limited days and hours, if patients can't contact you online through your website or find your website or even your current address, how can you expect to build your practice?
People who have lived through the coronavirus pandemic and did so with perseverance and positive goals are more apt to do it again should another pandemic occur. To be prepared as dentists, we must take every opportunity to strengthen our practices and build a reserve to weather any storm.
Have you strengthened the following areas of your practice so that your active patients, as well as new patients, can find you?
Does your practice have an online portal for patients? An online portal allows patients to schedule appointments, ask questions, and fill out intake paperwork at their leisure. While a friendly voice on the other end of the line is excellent, it isn't always enough for busy people who don't have the time to call you during office hours. The convenience of booking an appointment after hours is something you should offer patients now. If you can't offer this, at least have your phones answered by staff from the start of the day, through lunch, to the end of the day.
Offer varying office hours so that patients can come in at times that are convenient for them, such as early mornings, evenings, and weekends. Offer some early morning or later evening hours and maybe a Saturday appointment. While 9-to-5 is a standard schedule, it is also the schedule that is typical for your working patients.
Another convenience you can offer patients is a pay online service so they can pay their bills from their mobile devices. Nowadays, we can buy almost everything online -- why not dental care as well? Most people no longer write checks and don't want to send you their credit card numbers. Your collections will improve if patients can pay online at their leisure.
Teledentistry became a lifeline during the pandemic. Add additional services to give patients an all-in-one stop for their dental and oral healthcare needs. Keep the service for patients who are disabled, who do not have transportation, or who are too ill or scared to come to the office. Screening these patients saves valuable onsite appointment times and builds trust. If an onsite visit is necessary, you can explain why and offer help in getting them to the office.
New information about your team, recent technological developments, and innovative techniques in dental care are of great interest to patients who view you as a necessary part of their lives. Update and refresh the content on your website. Add a blog and a comment section to keep patients engaged.
Finally, invest in patient communication software. The ability to send out announcements, remind patients of their appointments, and keep connected in many ways is the strength of patient communication systems. These solutions can be programmed to be consistent with delivering messages, whereas the human side of the equation can forget or be distracted by other more critical practice areas.
Keeping your patients informed about your practice will ensure they can easily find you and rely on you during good times and an unexpected turn of events.
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.