Patient Communication Best Practices using ABELDent Portal

Patient appreciation and business productivity can be optimized when the following techniques are adopted:

  1. Personalize your emails
    Using a simple merge tool, the appeal of your email can be immediately doubled by replacing “Dear Patient” with “Dear Mary”.
  1. Be specific
    While brevity is key to effective use of SMS, don’t forget to identify your practice as well as the date and time of the appointment. For example:

“The team at Main Street Dental looks forward to seeing you on January 15 at 2 pm.”

“A friendly reminder of your appointment at Lakeview Dentistry on January 15 at 2 pm.”

  1. Incite action
    Offering a simple “click to confirm” option encourages positive action. It should also incite patients to contact your office if a re-book is required. While no one wants to promote re-scheduling, a re-book is always better than a no-show.
  1. Maintain a short-notice list
    Easily manage an ongoing list of patients waiting for cancellations or those with last-minute flexibility. First to respond gets the time slot…
  1. Use your data to get the best outcomes
    Different patients respond to different types of contact. Keep data on patient preferences up to date and communicate with your patient accordingly. People who don’t respond to email at all may respond instantly to a text, while some patients don’t use SMS at all. Experiment with the timing and frequency of your messages to identify what works best for your practice.
  1. Obtain permissions
    Although you have an existing business relationship with your patients, it’s always smart to ask permission to contact patients via email or SMS. Your portal and sign-in kiosk can simplify the collection of opt-in data by asking their preferred method of communication.
  1. Keep in touch
    Create legitimate opportunities to connect with your patients between appointments. Use the integration with ABELDent’s Treatment Manager to follow up with patients with unscheduled treatment and integrated On Demand messaging to communicate with individual patients in advance of or after appointments.
  1. Ask for feedback and ask for referrals
    A satisfied patient is often your best advertisement. Post-appointment follow-up communication will help personalize your patients’ experience, reinforce the best assets of your practice and even help you isolate areas for improvement. Encourage patients to refer to your practice and offer incentives for happy clients who oblige.
  1. Learn from early adopters
    Turn to experienced portal users for ongoing tips and techniques. ABELDent developers are constantly improving the software to accommodate feedback from clients. Regular webinars and newsletters contain valuable, up-to-the-minute ideas.  Getting opt-in permission on their patient registration forms? Or ask patients to check off their preferred method of communication?

In a business model where client communication can fall to six or nine-month intervals, why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of a quick, convenient and welcome opportunity to build better relationships with your patients?

They want me to change to SQL!

The following guest post is from Marinus J. Kolkman, Partner and Founder of iNETtechnologies Inc. iNET is a preferred hardware vendor for ABEL customers across Canada.

Why, and what is this SQL?

To some, it’s another techno-babble session to be avoided, but it needn’t be. With this explanation, I will shed some understandable light on what the fuss is all about!

A database is simply an organized way to store information. The way data is added and especially the way it is retrieved makes all the difference. Understanding the differences between the question-and-answer systems is key to making the decision to upgrade.

Historically, in older (I hate that word!) systems like Microsoft Access Database, or MDB, it’s “asking” the database to give back information that creates a roadblock. Your data sits in a flat file like a spreadsheet: rows and rows of information arranged in hundreds of columns. Everything stays in the order in which it is entered. As it grows, it takes longer and longer to write to it, and to get an answer when you look for something.

The system always starts at row one, column one, with every single request. The data is mostly stored on the hard drive and needs to be extracted every time – a lot like wrapping up the fish and chips, unwrapping to get a bite, rewrapping, unwrapping to get another… on and on!

It is a one-way system with all users who ask it something lined up at the door and taken in order. Add to this, with Digital Imaging and Clinical Charting now built in, the whole process of posting data and standing in line to get data becomes unmanageable. There’s huge potential for corruption and data loss as the volume of data and number of users increase!

SQL stands for Sequential Query Language and offers big advantages over this process. I describe it as a “You asked – here it is” system. That’s because it is built to handle millions of records – not thousands, like MDB. The data is “indexed” in individual places and stored mostly in RAM for near-instant retrieval. An SQL system can manage far more add-on programs: Digital Radiography, Imaging, Clinical Charting, Portal and future enhancements all rely on the power of SQL. Backup, restoration and repair are all far more dependable than MDB; with SQL, security and PIPEDA compliance are taken to a whole new level.

My advice? SQL is worth the investment. It will bring real value to the long-term profitability of your business. Consider this analogy: Where an MDB database is a one-lane highway with alternating traffic, first in then out, SQL is a multi-lane expressway literally responding to hundreds of “what do you want” queries simultaneously.

Where would you prefer to drive?

Believe it: Your Patients Welcome Text Messages

We’ve had great feedback from our many customers who now champion the ABELDent portal as a way to communicate with their patients. Everything from upping their “cool” status to definitive positive impact on their bottom line.

Yet some are still not 100% sold on whether their own patients would embrace the change and adopt the technology. So this is for you: I came across a recent announcement from Walmart that they recently crossed the threshold of having sent 1 billion prescription SMS reminders to their customers.

You don’t get much more mainstream than Walmart!

Walmart Pharmacy customers opt-in to receive a text to let them know or remind them when their prescription is ready. The text includes the total price along with the pharmacy phone number. I would imagine that the heads-up is particularly useful when a patient’s prescription is sent electronically directly from their care provider.

Nearly 30 million SMS reminders are sent by Walmart every month to customers’ mobile phones.

Walmart reports such benefits as decreased wait times in pharmacy lines, improved communication, a reduction in returned prescriptions, and fewer calls to the pharmacy… all drivers of increased customer satisfaction. And they have to be happy that this program has generated a positive ROI based on stock results.

Customers have spoken… and they’ve done it via texting!