2 practice processes to weather the unpredictable

2022 08 05 00 19 0386 2022 08 05 Johnson Bete 400

Everyone would probably agree that recent years have been marked by some significant challenges in dentistry. Teams are still managing the lingering effects of the pandemic, such as difficulty hiring new team members. New challenges are also on the horizon, as inflation is impacting both dental practices and patients and talk of a recession continues to grow.

The good news is that most patients value their oral health and will continue to seek both preventive and needed care. When asked about appointment volume as part of a NexHealth survey, 94% of dentists said they expect to have similar or greater patient volume than pre-pandemic levels.

Bete Johnson.Bete Johnson.

But as inflation squeezes household budgets and people shift to saving more and spending less because of recession worries, collecting out-of-pocket costs may become more of a priority. In fact, in that same survey, dentists also said that faster collection of payments was a priority, second only to improving patient satisfaction.

As dental practice leaders plan for the remainder of 2022 and into 2023, below are two key considerations that align with dentists' priorities.

1. Patient satisfaction should always be the primary focus.

Online reviews and shopping have become a primary way for consumers to determine the goods and services they need and what companies to get them from. With more patients searching for providers online and being influenced by customer satisfaction ratings and reviews, it's important that dental practice leaders focus on delivering an exceptional patient experience and enabling happy patients to quickly and easily leave a positive review and five-star rating.

Time your review requests to the "magic moment" when patients are checking out and express their satisfaction with the practice and dentistry. For example, say, "Mr. Jones, I'm so glad we've exceeded your expectations today! Could you scan this QR code which connects to a patient satisfaction survey and write a quick review? We'd love to share it with others who may be looking for a new dental home."

These reviews and ratings should be a big part of the practice's online presence and included on the website and social media channels. Creating a QR code is easier than you may think.

2. New technologies make care convenient.

We've been watching a shift on the payer side too. Since 2018, more insurance companies are bundling adult dental coverage into their overall health plan coverage. It's great to see payers prioritizing convenience for patients as part of their coverage options. After decades of dentistry being considered separate from a patient's primary care, it's refreshing to see insurers recognize dentistry as a key part of overall healthcare.

Patients will continue to need support bridging the gap, however, between their overall cost of care and the services their private or health insurance covers. For practice leaders, it's important to consider innovative and flexible ways to bridge that gap and make paying for care easier for patients and practices.

Dental practices seeking to improve the patient experience can leverage new technology that may make it easier to deliver care. Teledentistry and post-appointment video consultations and care recommendations gained a lot of traction over the past few years and will continue to be useful with select patients.

Technology can also help overcome cost as a barrier to care before, during, and even after their appointment. For example, providers can use corporate tools to see whether patients can prequalify for credit options and address cost concerns before and after the appointment.

If dentists continue to focus on patient-centric technology and payment processes that are both effective and time efficient, they'll continue to deliver top value to patients. While we can't say for sure that more unpredictability is on the horizon, new technologies and shifting patient preferences can deliver comforting predictability in areas dentists and their teams can directly control: patient satisfaction and collections.

Bete Johnson is senior vice president and general manager of dentistry at CareCredit, a Synchrony solution. She is a 25-year sales, marketing, and practice management veteran. Johnson was recognized as one of the Top 25 Women in Dentistry and is a recipient of the Linda Miles Spirit Award.

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.

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