I went to the dentist and I liked it!
I was so excited to go and have my teeth cleaned! Because of closure, my dental visit had been pushed a month too long. Let me tell you about my experience and some things you should consider for your dental practice. Dentists and dental teams – I feel for you big time. The layers of protocol and screening. And I learned a new little technique for hand hygiene – LOVE IT!
It’s a new normal. I’ll tell you my dental appointment story in this blog. And based on my story, I can confidently say that your patients need to know more about your story too. This will help with your practice recovery. Better patient communication will help alleviate you and your team, reduce stress, and reduce the number of frustrated patients you have to deal with each week.
Before I continue, if you’re reading this and wondering about a better patient communication strategy for your practice, schedule a quick 10-minute call. We can share what we’ve created for other dentists and discuss what you feel is needed for your patients and how we can help.
I enjoyed the hand cleansing! You can learn something new every day! Do people roll their eyes at hand hygiene lessons? Do you? Hey, don’t … because the little “tip” tip I got yesterday isn’t commonly included in handwashing infographics. That’s why we’ve created the image above for use in your marketing (print and online) that demonstrates the flat top/bottom, in between fingers, thumbs – and today’s tip, circling fingertips on the palm to ensure they’re cleansed as well!
And let me P.S. already. If you like the infographic we created for this blog, and want to include it in your Patient NEWS marketing campaigns, just let your Account Manager know. We’ll send a file. We can even mail you a poster if you’d like!
Right across the street from the dental office, I can walk into any retail shop, with people that aren’t wearing masks, not necessarily maintaining a physical distance (including staff), stores that have attempted to put some processes in place with flimsy masking tape arrows and makeshift vinyl coverings around cash areas. “Recommendations” to only pick up the thing you’re going to buy, not pick up and put down, and “recommendations” to use tap payment instead of cash to reduce transfer. So loose.
The dental office is entirely different. (Understatement!)
Have your new protocols caused some patients to complain and bluster? It has for my dental office. And that’s just not a good feeling when you’re going over and above to follow guidelines and create a system that works best for your practice and for your dental patients. You don’t want to feel deflated at 10am, you don’t want a team member to either, just because a patient doesn’t understand “why.”
Like one bad apple, one patient can change the mood in your dental practice for an entire day. You can reduce the number of these patients with increased communication and education.
Because I’m part of Patient NEWS, I’m aware of the protocols that have been ADDED to the process for moving patients through the dental practice because we’ve been writing and creating content for our clients to share via videos, dental website content, social marketing, patient newsletters, and direct mail.
But as the dental patient – I went through the screenings, waiting, shuffling, the full process firsthand. I am friendly with my dentist’s Office Manager, so while I was going through my “induction,” she shared that there had been some very unpleasant interactions with patients who were not patient, not even nice. Some patients, she complained, just have no idea what the practice does between patients to keep everyone safe.
Honestly, that could be managed with more proactive communication. Patients NEED more communication right now. They need to understand:
- what has happened and how that has impacted regulations
- what the dental office has done and is doing to keep patients safe
- and what their patient experience will be when arriving for their dental appointment.
Patients also need to know that you’re following CDC guidelines and mandated regulations from your various organizations and that all of these systems haven’t been changed just because you and your team “felt” like adding extra steps for patient inconvenience.
Patients need to understand how difficult this has made it for you to operate, and you’ve taken all of these extra steps to help THEM. When patients can understand that, they will be more empathetic and helpful during their visits.
Can you overcommunicate right now? Not if you want to truly break through and help patients understand what you’re doing and why and how that’s a benefit to them.
And listen, some of your new processes, protocols, and technologies are competitive advantages for your practice and you should be leveraging these new investments with patients!
People like to boast and brag. When you share information and educate patients – instead of complaining when they’re at your door – they’ll share the information and boast to friends and family about “what my dentist is doing to keep me safe.” This is important to your recovery. While it might seem busy right now getting active patients back through, you want and need referrals and new patients.
I’m getting to my appointment story, I promise. Part of it is that my dental office hasn’t emailed me information about COVID-19, what they’ve done or are doing, they haven’t mailed a patient newsletter in a long time. My appointment communication was all by phone. It’s a small community so maybe that was okay pre-COVID. But NOW they should be doing this to alleviate the complainers. Communication will increase patient satisfaction, improve patient perceptions, and it will reactivate patients and boost referrals.
Easy peasy communication – emailing.
Practice ZEBRATM dental software now has email anytime WITH content prepared (your protocols, what patients can expect – and it can be totally customized to your situation) and deployed for you. No hassle. Your Account Manager can help you do this now. Click here to schedule a 10-minute call to get this setup for your practice.
You should be sending email updates to your patients every 2-4 weeks. If you haven’t mailed a regular patient newsletter in a while, start mailing to patients again. The vast majority of patients have always reported appreciating such communications, and with mail, you reach 100% of patient homes. Patient newsletters – by email and mail are appreciated and will go a long way in helping your practice recover.
For my dental office, there was no email, no patient newsletter, and no educational communication about what I should expect as a patient. This would totally assist them with distraught patients that just want to get on with their day.
Prior to the physical appointment, I had two COVID-symptom screenings by phone. One when confirming the appointment two weeks ago and the day before. I had to wait outside the office until the Office Manager could indicate that I could approach and enter to have another screening, be interviewed, complete sign-offs, and clean my hands before being seen.
Once the hallway was clear, we took the one-way route to the exam room. The office has erected new doors on each operatory, with air exchange in each room. My hygienist was very reassuring. I know that some hygienists have refused to return to work across the country, but when I asked my hygienist, she said they have ZERO worries about returning and with both the safety procedures they have always had in place and the extra steps they’re taking now, it was completely fine for her.
This is something all of your team should be repeating to patients. It was great to hear – even for me who had ZERO concerns as well. And honestly, other than the little extra time on entry, and having to wait to be alone when exiting, the appointment went quickly and was a totally pleasant experience.
Don’t let uneducated patients demotivate you and your team. You’re doing your best; you’re taking steps to keep patients safe and follow regulations. More patient communication can truly assist. When you ensure patients have a clear understanding that protocols are not there to put patients out, but to keep them safe, you will have happier and more-satisfied patients. And a happier and more-satisfying experience for you and your team.
Your Account Success Manager can help you with your dental marketing strategy to recover from COVID closure. Practice ZEBRA has email anytime, terrific educational monthly email newsletters, we can help create and mail your customized patient newsletters, deploy community communications, add content for your dental website, social media marketing, paid media (PPC for dentists), and much much more. Schedule a call now.
Here’s to happy 😊 and washing our fingertips! Have a great day (if you read this far, I know you will)!