The role of the dental receptionist is a complicated one, and it differs from office-to-office. There are varied job descriptions, tasks, and duties established by each practice. Something consistent, however, is that dental receptionists are always on the “front lines” in a practice. Fielding patient and team inquiries, managing patient issues, and keeping all records organized are just some of the tasks receptionist’s handle. For many prospective patients, receptionists and front-desk workers are the face of the practice.
In 2019, we wrote about things every dental receptionist needs to know for maximum patient satisfaction, efficiency, and organization. With COVID-19’s implications on the dental industry, we thought it was time to update our list to address current social issues that you may encounter in your practice. In this blog post, we discuss the top three things to know as a dental receptionist in 2021.
1. Remain adaptable
Adaptability, even in ordinary circumstances, is a valuable skill in reception. As mentioned in our previous blog on this topic, receptionists are the first to greet patients and the last to see them out. Being such an integral part of the team, front office team members must be able to adapt to new technologies, organization systems, and communication approaches. For instance, many dental practices have adopted digital communications, especially since lockdowns minimized dental appointments. Using texting software to send automated or ad-hoc messages may require an adjustment period but adapting to new (and often more efficient) systems ensures that your office remains ahead of the technological curve.
Patients can keep you on your toes, especially if they are particularly apprehensive about receiving dental treatment or care, or if they are very thorough and inquisitive. Some patients may require more in-depth responses, or even an approach that you do not normally use. The ability to adjust your approach to different situations is highly valued in this position, as unique individuals can raise issues in your office that can’t always be solved with a generic solution or a solution developed during more normal times.
2. Look ahead to fill your schedule
Under the best of circumstances some patients will look for excuses to avoid proceeding with dental treatment, whether it is for financial concerns, dental anxiety, or other reasons. COVID-19 added another reason for patients to delay their treatments. With all the mixed messages from official and unofficial sources, and changes in guidelines over time, cuments released , many patients are legitimately confused about whether it is safe to visit their dentist for regular appointments, and when they can see their dentists.
With vaccinations being rolled out worldwide, receptionists are looking ahead. While still taking the necessary precautions such as spreading out the waiting area (or making patients wait outside/in their cars), leaving gaps between appointments, and using paperless forms, receptionists should continue reaching out to patients who need recare appointments. Call lists, email lists, and contact sheets can result in a lot of manual work, especially if the lists are long, and perhaps growing longer. Having a system or tool to help you quickly send many messages at once helps your front-desk team when working to fill the schedule months in advance. For example, ABELDent’s Treatment Manager is built-in to our LS, CS and LS+ software. Whether you use a system is as simple as a customizable email template and manual sent emails, , a more efficient, built-in recall manager, or a third-party application that helps with recall management, such a solution can help to keep you organized and on track during these especially challenging times.
Looking months ahead helps you in the long-run by having a structured schedule month-by-month, as well as keeping patients’ recare appointments on track for their own health. Scheduling appointments early will help you to uncover patient concerns that can then be addressed in advance to establish patient commitment. Getting patients back on track will be a big job, but booking appointments and dealing with patient concerns early will reduce the likelihood that you will be scrambling at the last minute to fill a providers’ column or day.
3. Practice professional empathy
In 2020 and 2021, thes impact of COVID-19 on organizations resulted in large number of layoffs and heightened Canada’s unemployment rate. Financial troubles will undoubtedly reduce the priority of dental treatment for some patients. While there may not be anything your office can do in some of these cases, providing a professional, empathetic tone may make an enormous difference when communicating with upset patients. Professional empathy can be conveyed through word choice, tone of voice, and body language. If you are communicating virtually, using keywords and phrases such as “we understand” can help to diffuse anxiety caused by financial concerns.
The importance of empathy extends past financial concerns. Ashton College highlights the difference that using empathy has in a difficult situation with a patient or even a team member. Additionally, being able to understand another perspective will aid you when problem-solving, strengthening the quality of patient care.
These three tips are just a few of many things dental receptionists should know to maximize their office’s potential in 2021. With tools and technologies evolving, the dental industry is getting more efficient while simultaneously becoming more complicated for new hires. Going forward, we look forward to speaking more on this topic and providing content that helps your entire dental team.