In recent years, my experience has been that the dental industry has shifted to a more value-based and patient-centered care model. This transition has made improving the patient experience a major focus for many dental practices. Implementing automated communication by way of automated email, texts and patient portals is a great way to achieve this objective since it provides convenience and time savings for patients that ultimately lead to increased patient satisfaction. The added benefit for dental practices is streamlined patient communications and more efficient practice administration.
But Will Patients Embrace Automated Communication from You?
For many (including your patients), checking their mobile device is the last thing they do at night and the first thing they do in the morning. In fact, smartphone owners report using their device more frequently today for mobile email and texting than to actually make phone calls. Furthermore, 97% of mobile users will read a text within 15 minutes of receipt and 84% will respond within one hour (Neilsen Mobile survey).
Although open rates for emails are reported to be much lower than texts, they are on average, still a respectable 22% https://www.textanywhere.net/faq/what-is-the-average-sms-marketing-open-rate. However, you could expect your own email open rates to be significantly higher since your patients can identify you as the source of their messages.
So automation of messaging that caters to convenience has become the communication standard for today’s marketing and consumer-focused organizations. It helps build one-on-one relationships with existing and new clients (or in this case patients), providing personalized options and direct connections. Since it offers quick, easy solutions to day-to-day routines and tasks, it’s the perfect “A click-and-it’s-done” tool for a busy dental practice (or one looking to get busier with more patients!)
The most common message type sent by dental practices is appointment notifications, confirmation requests and outstanding treatment notices. As an example, with a keystroke, the software application sends individual “request for confirmation” messages for a selected group of patients using the preferred communication method/s of each individual (text or email). Message recipients can respond using their smart phone, notebook or computer and in many cases, automatically update their e-calendars. With fully integrated systems, patient responses automatically update the affected data fields within the practice management software such as scheduled appointments now showing as confirmed. In short, there is a tremendous time and cost savings opportunity when managing appointments.
A User Study recently conducted by ABELDent confirmed similar time/cost savings as suggested above. One Office Manager reported that by changing telephone appointment confirmation and patient information requests to a methodical, automated SMS approach, she saved at least 25 hours per month (approx. 300 hours/year). That’s over $7,500 in annualized savings based on average dental practice labour costs. This real life example does not even factor reduced no shows or consider the more revenue-producing initiatives that she was able to undertake using those recovered hours. https://www.abelsoft.com/dental-software/Products/online-dental-appointment-scheduling-software
Patient Portals – Electronic Communication Facilitator
Patient portals are the preferred conduit to send potentially sensitive automated messages as they provide encryption protection and data does not need to be stored anywhere during transmission. Patient portals also provide a secure online website that gives patients convenient 24-hour access to specific information (as determined by the dental practice). Put another way, patient portals enable individuals to carry out an array of tasks that previously had to be completed either via telephone or during an in person visit. It’s a smart next step in giving your practice the platform and the power to move towards increased patient engagement
Josh Gray, vice president, Athena Research, says online access translates into patient retention and financial rewards: “If you can get a patient on a portal, they’re 13 percent more likely to return. The value of the patient who returns is eight to 20 percent higher.”
Patient Portal screen allowing secure patient access to personal information
Automated patient communication portals are a way to give your dental practice a more dynamic, modern edge while also enabling you to realize administrative efficiencies, cost savings, reduced no-shows and increased patient growth. Since portals cater to patient comfort and convenience by utilizing familiar mobile technology, they are rapidly becoming the preferred method for both patients and healthcare providers to exchange select information. User interfaces and data security measures also ensure that unauthorized data changes, patient confidentiality and data breaches are not a concern.
In most cases, the preferred patient portal solution is one included as a component of dental practices management software due to tighter integration between the two applications and in many cases, lower cost. In a business model where client communication can extend to six or nine-month intervals, it only makes sense to take advantage of a quick, convenient and welcome opportunity to build better relationships with your patients.