Communicate With Your Patient Base Effectively as Ontario Reopens

Last week, we spoke about the challenges associated with reopening your practice, including limited PPE, spacing apart appointments which result in delays, and new changes that are necessary, such as removing toys or magazines from your waiting room.

There is a lot to do when it comes to reopening, and communicating your details with your patients is a large part of the process. Being open with your patients also creates a transparent line of communication, helping to alleviate anxieties patients may have about coming to your office while COVID-19 still remains an issue. This week we are outlining some measures and best practices you can do to keep the line of communication with your patients open, and how to send bulk messages efficiently.

There are various tools and methods that can be used to efficiently communicate with your patient base, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Some popular methods you may consider using (or may have already used in the past) are manually sending letters to patient addresses, putting in extra hours to phone patients, or conducting mass email communication by sending automated messages to hundreds or thousands of patients at a time. While putting together letters to send to patients’ home addresses provides a personalized and old-school presence that many patients may appreciate, it takes excessive hours of labour, and also may be costly depending on the number of patients your office has. 

Phoning each individual patient, much like sending letters, provides a personal connection which can strengthen your patient-to-office relationship. Doing this may be ineffective, however, for the following reasons:

  • Many mobile users have not set up their voicemail inbox
  • Overall decrease in mobile users checking their voicemail inbox. CBS, in 2013, cites 33% of people listen to voicemails from businesses, and only 18% listen to voicemails from unknown callers
  • Patients who have not come for a long time may have outdated phone numbers

While sending automated emails may lack the personal touch of a letter or phone call, messages can be customized to appear personable and friendly in tone. The important part is that emails send vital information to large numbers of people efficiently. It is very likely that most dental offices will opt for emailing their patients their reopening policies, as it is a trusted form of communication for many patients. Just like the case for mobile calls, however, it is important to routinely verify that your patient contact information is updated to minimize errors in sending.

While there are drawbacks associated with any form of mass communication, there are times that it is necessary for your office. Ensuring that your office records have updated contact information for patients minimizes the margin of error when sending out messages to your patient base. This can be done by routinely verifying contact information with the patient when they have appointments with your office. 

Another point to address is the use of virtual communications to consult with patients prior to your opening. Patients will naturally have questions regarding your office’s plans and processes regarding reopening and performing treatments. Microsoft offers a free version of Teams businesses and families. You can utilize tools like this to facilitate meetings, and also keep recordings of the meeting for your files. We are working on making a video outlining the basics of Microsoft Teams for patient virtual care, so keep an eye out.

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