4 Back to School Tips to Help Dental Students Succeed This Semester

The following guest post is from Tyler Willis, founder of Tyler Willis Content Consulting. An accomplished writer and editor, Tyler engages with clients from many industries including higher education, technology and healthcare to produce professional quality content that appears in magazines, online news and blogs.

For students preparing for a career in the dental industry, September is a exciting month. As that delicious nip of fall enters the air, the new semester brings new classes, new challenges, and new opportunities for growth. 

Studying to become a dental professional can be incredibly rewarding, but I don’t think anyone who has been through the process would say that it is easy. Dental programs are designed to be extremely demanding, but there are ways to make things easier for yourself.

Here are four tips that can help you head into this school year prepared for success and focused on mastering the skills you need.

1. Plan Ahead

The best way to succeed in dentistry school is to plan so that you are prepared for the rigours of the coming months instead of finding yourself panicking as the end of the semester closes in. Pace yourself, make sure you understand the material and adopt a proactive attitude to learning.

Here are a few areas you can focus on to ensure that you succeed in dentistry school:

  • Manage your time – Mastering the skill of time management is crucial to keeping on top of your assignments and studies while also balancing your personal life and other responsibilities. Keep a calendar noting when all of your assignments are due and the time and location for every quiz, exam, personal appointment, etc. so that you arrive on time.
  • Set some time aside for yourself – This often-overlooked tip is key. Don’t drop all of your social engagements or hobbies just because you’re studying. Make time for yourself to avoid burnout.
  • Always be professional – You are about to embark on a career in patient care, and the sooner you learn how to conduct yourself in a professional manner, the better your prospects will look. Dentistry school is also the perfect time to start building networking connections. Trust me, they will last your entire career.
  • Keep your body in shape – This is an easy one to let slide, especially during exam crunch time. But it’s important to get a good night’s sleep and keep fit. Keeping your body healthy will keep your mind sharp and help you succeed.

This video that shares more good advice for first year students in dental programs.

2. Gain As Much Knowledge As Possible

Dentistry students get a lot of information thrown at them and, when you’re just starting out, it can be tempting to wonder when you’ll actually need to know all this.

The reality is that since you will be running or participating in a business in addition to being a clinician, you don’t just need to know about your own role. You will also need to co-ordinate with team members that have a variety of different skills. As I mentioned in a previous blog, succeeding in dentistry often means adopting new approaches, mastering new software solutions and using cross training techniques to get the most from yourself and your team. Soaking up as much knowledge as you can while in dentistry school, even if it doesn’t seem immediately applicable to your desired role, will stand you in good stead once you are in the workplace.

3. Prepare for a Career in the Real World

Dentistry has changed a lot in the past twenty years, and being part of a dental team involves understanding a lot more than just teeth. In addition to covering standard tools of the trade like scalers, molds and tofflemires, your instructors will talk about practice management and people skills.  

Take advantage of these education opportunities to learn more about industry-specific topics like the role dental software plays in the modern clinic. The specific features of the software will give you a good indication of what is important to track and monitor to run a successful practice so that you are better prepared when you graduate. Remember, successful dental professionals wear a lot of different hats and maintaining an approach to your studies that is focused on preparing yourself for the actual industry will stand you in good stead when you are interviewing for your first job in the field.

4. Don’t Neglect Your Own Health

Let’s face it: if higher education is stressful, advanced study in the healthcare sciences is doubly so. And one of the unfortunate by-products of all this stress is that students often don’t take adequate care of themselves, even as they are learning about the importance of regular check-ups for public health.

When studying to be a dental professional, make sure to regularly book appointments with your own healthcare providers so you can keep healthy throughout the school year. Remember, you can’t take care of others if you are neglecting your own health! You’ll also get a better idea of what approach you will adopt when dealing with patients based on your own experience as a patient.

Many of the healthcare professionals I talk to look back on their university or college years with a sense of fondness for the good times – and a general feeling of relief that they made the grade.

Whether you love the student life or can’t wait to start practicing your profession, it is important to get the most out of your school experience. After all, these years can set you up for a long and successful career in the world of dentistry!

Service and Support: The Key to Dental Software Satisfaction

Recently I wrote a blog about four main factors to consider when evaluating and purchasing dental software. One of the factors cited was the importance of a vendor’s quality and level of service and support. While writing, this had me thinking back to a time when we were doing a lot of conversions from other vendor’s systems – the primary reason not being lack of functionality as one might think, but rather in many cases, the lack of sufficient customer support at critical times.

With the increased complexity and functionality of dental software today, the importance of service and support is even more critical, yet often remains a neglected factor when evaluating which practice management system to implement. Let’s look at the components of a comprehensive support plan that help ensure your practice runs smoothly with minimal interruption.

Solution Implementation

The first indication of the level of support you will receive from a vendor usually comes during the sales process – but at this stage you are dealing with promises. It’s during the software implementation phase where you will receive tangible evidence of a vendor’s commitment to support.

Whether you choose a local server or a cloud-based solution, it needs to be configured to the workflow requirements of your practice and that requires assistance from the software vendor. In many cases, you will need to contract third party hardware/IT vendors that will also rely on your dental software vendor for support. Many installations also involve conversion of practice data from a previous system – another indicator of service level based on the quality and delivery time of the data converted.

Training

The amount and level of training you will receive is another indicator of the vendor’s dedication to high service levels and is a huge determinant of how your dental team will perceive the functionality and quality of the software.

Look for a vendor that has the resources to offer a variety of training methods including onsite, classroom and web-based, and ask about the software’s built in help system and whether they have other training collateral available such as tutorials and videos. The number and experience level of trainers on staff is also a good indication of the quality of training you will receive.

There is a temptation to skimp on this area in an effort to save money but the irony is that quality, comprehensive training allows for the greatest return on investment. However, if you have a person on staff that is skilled enough to train the rest of your team, this can be a viable option to optimize your investment and help ensure that all team members follow the same procedures when using the software.

Software Support

As mentioned, a common reason practices switch to new dental software is poor customer support from their vendor – specifically, slow response times and insufficient problem resolution.

  • Request performance statistics, such as the average on-hold time and average length of call. This information will provide you with an objective metric when comparing service levels between vendors.
  • Ask how many software support analysts they have on staff to respond to technical questions and/or issues.
  • Check out the type of support plans offered and the scope of service hours to see if they match your requirements and budget. Ideally, the vendor should provide 24/7/365 support.
  • Find out from your colleagues whether their vendor’s technical support staff often go beyond simple problem resolution by providing helpful tips based on their experience working with dental practices.
  • Review the vendor’s customer newsletters, blogs, ebooks, training materials, etc. to gauge how helpful they will be and the degree to which they will keep you informed.
  • Look for vendors that provide a customer portal for convenient access to value added resources.

Software Updates

As the dental industry and practice management best practices continue to evolve, so will your dental software need to progress. Software updates you receive from your vendor should consist of improvements to existing features as well as new functionality rather than simply “bug” fixes. Downloading updates should be seamless and require minimal setup to limit practice downtime. Small incremental updates are preferred so that learning curves to implement new features are short and reliance on support services is minimized.   

Third-Party Integrations

No matter how comprehensive the dental software package you choose is, there may be third party applications you want to add that can benefit from an integration. The integration will typically involve sharing of information between the new application and the dental practice management software to provide administrative/clinical synergies and reduce data entry. Third-party applications that can benefit from integration include imaging software, payment card processing, reputation management, and automated patient communication. The number of integration partnerships a vendor provides is an indication of how dedicated they are to delivering leading-edge solutions to their customers.

Conclusion 

Like all companies that use software to help manage their business, dental practices rely on service and support to maintain productivity and minimize downtime. Unfortunately, many dental practices underestimate the importance of quality support before purchasing dental practice management software only to realize its impact after it is too late to change course easily. There is also a temptation to cut support costs since it is an ongoing expense – however, this service has the potential to provide a large return on investment if used effectively.

It can be difficult to determine which vendor is positioned to provide the best levels of service and support. It is wise to start by evaluating the vendor’s overall track record in the industry – a good indicator of the quality of support they will provide after you purchase their software.

What to Look For in a Dental Office Manager

A dental office manager plays a central role in the smooth functioning of the dental practice. If you want your clinic to succeed, ensure that the position is filled by someone who is passionate about patient care and has the hard skills to make sure that every aspect of clinic business is addressed.  

But what does that actually look like, and how can you tell just from an interview and a resume that someone has the character and experience to run your clinic?

Hiring becomes even more challenging when the person you are hiring is going to be responsible for just about every aspect of the day-to-day functioning of your business.

In my experience, the clinics that have been able to find the best people for the job are the ones that have looked beyond basic criteria like credentials and years in the industry to take a more holistic approach.

If you are looking to hire a new office manager in 2019, here are a few things to consider before you start the search.

Make Sure They Have the Hard Skills

In addition to dental office managers requiring a sufficient grasp of industry norms and standards, they also need to be familiar with the software and service technology used in modern dental practices. 

A good manager should be able to perform the following roles:

  • General office administration
  • Financial reporting functions for accounting purposes – perform basic bookkeeping duties as necessary
  • Organize and help lead (along with the dentist) regular staff meetings
  • Coordinate marketing efforts
  • Budget for office expenses and assist with supply orders
  • Oversee staff scheduling and payroll
  • Cover for Front Desk duties and Dental Assisting (if certified)

This means that when it comes to considering candidates, you should look for the following qualifications:

  • High School diploma and relevant certificates or associate degrees (there are a variety of certificate and degree programs designed to provide dental administrators with a background in medical terminology and dental health safety)
  • At least two or three years working in dental administration
  • Solid and demonstrated understanding of billing and insurance procedures, and a high degree of familiarity with the dental accounting and practice management software

These qualifications should be viewed as the basic requirements needed to be considered for the position – there are additional skills that you should look for if possible.

Experience with management in other industries adds diversity and new ideas. Candidates with backgrounds in healthcare marketing, dental technology and software or dental hygiene can also provide new and valuable perspective to the practice. Remember, dental office managers oversee many operational areas – the more diversified their experience, the better equipped they will be to provide direction to staff members and the practice overall.

Don’t Forget Chemistry and Character

When hiring people for management positions in the healthcare sector, my experience has been that most of the candidates applying have similar qualifications and skills.

That means that you are likely to have a range of candidates who all have the knowledge and skills, but may have very different degrees of competency in other areas. These can be the differentiators in order to identify the preferred candidate.

One of the biggest hiring mistakes clinics can make is by selecting the person who has the most experience, or seems most dazzling in the interview. While these things are important, be aware that you are presumably hiring a person that will be working with the practice long term. Therefore, making sure that the manager you hire has the kinds of character traits you desire – being extroverted, communicative, friendly, confident, and patient-focused – is just as important as making sure they have the hard skills to do the job.

Finding a manager with whom you get along is really important and a candidate who is more personable and friendly but less experienced will probably be a better hire in the long run than someone who doesn’t gel with your team or who has a very different approach to management than the one your team is comfortable with.   

Soft Skills Matter

In recent years – in dentistry as well as other fields – employers and recruiters focus their talent identification strategies around soft skills (inherent personality traits that can’t really be taught). With enough time to train, a new hire can learn how to use various components of practice management software such as automated appointment reminders but you can’t teach someone how to have a higher Emotional Quotient (EQ) or how to be more adaptable.

These days, most candidates for dental management shouldn’t be considered unless they possess strong soft skills such as leadership, communication, collaboration, and even culture-fit. A candidate with these attributes is likely to be better at other areas – there’s a natural synergy.

For example, a leader who demonstrates curiosity will listen and pay more attention to feedback so they can better understand where improvements are needed. And, a leader with a higher EQ is more likely to build on feedback to become more self-aware and learn from mistakes.

Bringing on a new member of the management team is not an easy process, but given how impactful the decision is going to be in the long run, it’s important to make sure you do your due diligence when recruiting.

In summary, consider more than just the hard skills: as any experienced leader knows, character is just as important as qualifications when it comes to building a healthy workplace culture and a thriving business.

Top 5 Ways to Improve the Culture of Your Practice

Workplace culture: it’s one of those terms that seems vague, but actually plays an incredibly important role in the job satisfaction and work experiences of dental practice employees.

Where a workplace culture is healthy and vibrant employees enjoy coming to work, are friendly with their colleagues and rally around each other in trying times to face challenges together. A toxic workplace culture, on the other hand, makes employees feel isolated and belittled and saps productivity.

Workplace culture is especially important in the healthcare industry. Workers at a dental clinic are under a lot of stress even at the best of times, so maintaining good teamwork is essential for the effective delivery of patient care and their positive perception.

Even for offices that don’t suffer from passive aggressiveness and team sabotage, hallmarks of a toxic workplace, it is still worth considering whether your clinic could be more effective if employees felt better integrated and more supported. And, the good news about workplace environments, as Glenn Rolfsen explains in this TEDx video, is that they can be changed:

If you believe your dental clinic culture could be improved, and you want to explore some practical ways of doing so, here are five strategies that I have found to work well.

1. Foster a Culture of Appreciation

Everyone likes to feel their work has been noticed and appreciated and you might be surprised to learn just how much negativity comes from workers who believe their contributions are not being recognized. 

Encouraging your employees to become more appreciative of each other starts at the top, so the best way to foster a culture of appreciation is to intentionally make a point of regularly thanking every member of your staff. Something as small as a cheerful “thanks!” after being handed a folder, when repeated daily, can go a long way.

2. Break Down Workplace Silos

Nothing encourages a distrustful workplace like silos, and in a dental clinic, the problem can become prevalent especially between employees working in the front end of operations and those working in the clinical area.

Workplace silos form when particular departments or sectors do not wish to share information with other departments or sectors. Many employees become frustrated with their company when they identify issues, but can’t do anything about it because the problem starts in another department. Using dental practice management software that integrates administrative and clinical functions well can facilitate better communication between team members.   

3. Invest in Better Communications

Simply having good software tools at your disposal isn’t enough: making sure your employees have been trained to use them effectively is an important step toward ensuring your workplace is more interconnected and your workers more communicative with each other. 

A team that doesn’t communicate well will quickly become a team that won’t communicate at all so it is important to make sure that channels to help employees collaborate and share information with each other are open and accessible.

Holding regular team meetings that give front and back end staff opportunities to talk about what is working and what isn’t is a good way to ensure that negative feelings can be processed in healthy ways, rather than festering into resentment.

Of course, this means that as a leader you will have to make the time to train your staff.

Peter Capelli, the director of The Wharton Schools Center for Human Resources, notes that companies are interested more than ever in workers they don’t have to educate. But his research also proved that when employers don’t put aside the time to train young workers on new software, workflow will suffer.

4. Reward Worker Efficiency

In order for a dental clinic to run well, you need to devote time to problem solve with your team. It is a good practice to present different scenarios and ask team members to collectively recommend the appropriate course of action. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and is equipped to handle different and difficult situations as they arise. This won’t just make for more effective patient care, but will also make employees feel more like members of a team. 

As I have written before making sure you have a good team is vital and keeping the team engaged is just as important. Rewarding your workers for looking ahead and using their own critical thinking skills to make operations run more efficiently is a great way to build employee loyalty and a healthy workplace at the same time.

5. Encourage Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is one of those terms used so frequently that its now a cliché. “Yes, of course,” you want to say, “I know that being a workaholic isn’t healthy. I take time for self-care and I encourage my employees to do the same.”

Management attitudes – and especially perceived management attitudes – toward work-life balance has a major impact on your overall workplace culture.

Do more than just let your employees know that they can take time off when they need to; concretely foster work-life balance by discouraging working after hours or on weekends when it isn’t absolutely necessary.

A healthy workplace culture is one of those things that can be difficult to define but it is one that is immediately recognizable.

Patients notice when workers are happy and feel supported and making your workers feel valued and appreciated will pay off in other ways as well. Employees that really feel part of a team are much more likely to cheerfully go the extra mile for the clinic.

The Importance of Cross-Training

A lot of different skill sets are needed to make a dental clinic run smoothly, and successful clinics are usually ones where all of these skill sets work together to provide the best possible patient experience.

Administrative staff book appointments, handle patient intake and receive payments. Dental Assistants sterilize instruments, prepare treatment rooms and assist the dentist with procedures. Hygienists handle routine dental care and refer suspected conditions to the dentist. The dentist naturally focused on diagnoses, treatment planning and performing the required treatments. With each person playing their own role as required, patient care and processing appears seamless and efficient.

But what happens when these systems break down? Illness, staff turnover, or a sudden crisis can throw even the most carefully scheduled day into chaos, creating bottlenecks and reducing your clinic’s efficiency.

In my time working in the dental industry, I’ve heard from many dental practice owners about how frustrating and dangerous this can be. If staffing problems put your personnel in the position of needing to operate equipment, use software, or perform tasks they are unfamiliar with or haven’t been trained on, you run the risk of breaking established workflows and that can cause costly downtime.

This is why cross-training is important. If your receptionists, assistants, and hygienists are provided with the fundamental information that will allow them to step into each others’ roles in a crisis, your clinic will be much more viable in the long run. Here’s why.

Cross-Training Makes Your Clinic More Resilient

Intelligent scheduling is central to a smoothly operating dental clinic, but as the saying goes, even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and a good schedule is nothing if you don’t have a plan B in the case of emergencies.

Let’s say one of your receptionists calls in sick and you can’t find a replacement: does the rest of your staff know how to answer the phones, use the appointment scheduling software and handle integrated payment card processing? Have they been trained on patient intake?

In situations like these, the first thing to suffer is often patient experience. Having your staff scrambling to process payments and book appointments is a bad look for any dental clinic, and if these problems persist you will be lucky if bookings remain stable.

Cross-training ensures that in the case of emergencies, your staff has the resilience to step into roles that are not part of their regular jobs. The day might still be stressful, but if your staff knows how to pinch-hit for their colleagues, you can save it from becoming a nightmare.

A Cross-Trained Team is a More Cohesive One

One of the biggest problems any highly specialized workplace faces is siloization. You know how your job works and the daily challenges that are involved in doing it, but you don’t necessarily know much about the problems the rest of the team is facing. They in turn don’t always understand why you need things to be done in just the right way.

When a team lacks cohesion, it can cause problems down the line. If your administrative staff doesn’t understand just how involved a process preparing a treatment room for a patient is, they might place unrealistic demands on assistants and hygienists. If hygienists don’t understand how the dental software works, they can create huge problems for the administrative team.

Cross-Training Makes Clinics More Efficient

In the world of dental management software, we have come to realize that cross-training helps workplaces run more smoothly even when there isn’t a crisis.

Having an entire team understand how to locate patient files and book appointments using the practice management software, for example, improves workflow by making it significantly easier for hygienists, assistants, and dentists to find information they need without going through administrative staff.

Not only can assistants and hygienists make bookings when they need to, they will also be able to retrieve bookings, and can add relevant information themselves.

And as the following video explains, cross-training staff can also be good for your bottom line in other ways:

Given how much sense cross-training makes, why isn’t it standard across the industry? Unfortunately, the biggest reason is simply the time investment required to make a cross-training program work.

Doing cross-training properly means taking time out of an already busy schedule to teach your staff how to do jobs that are not their own, and given how busy most clinics are, this can be a hard sell. But there are some straightforward, easy-to-follow ways to accomplish this goal.

When cross-training for assistants:

  • Make notes on how to check patients in and out, either manually or digitally
  • For more complicated scheduling software, plan ‘field trips’ and have admin train other staff one hour per month
  • Have a document handy noting what reports need to be run on which days and what calls need to be made and when

Remember that the most effective time for cross-training is when you can fit it in – whenever there’s a break in the chaos of your clinic’s day-to-day, you have your window.

Clinics that take this extra step quickly find that training pays dividends by making everyone’s work easier – and by giving your team the tools it needs to pull together and thrive even when key members are missing. This is why, if you haven’t already done so, you should make cross-training a key priority for your clinic in 2019.

Engaging Staff Make for Engaged Patients: Spotlight on the Dental Assistant

We’ve been talking a lot on this blog lately about big picture ideas and how mission statements and value propositions contribute to the success of your dental practice. Today I want to remind readers that it really is people that keep a practice running and, with a focus on the key role of the dental assistant, explore how finding the right person for the job can increase practice production and improve workflows.

There are those outside the industry who don’t understand the many facets of this position – even some clinicians may not always appreciate the complexity of the role and the multi-dimensional value that the right dental assistant brings to any practice. So, I’m putting a spotlight on this often-undervalued position to show how the right dental assistant will keep your patients engaged and your business growing.

Look for Well-Rounded Staff Members
To perform at the essential level, dental assistants must be well-versed in anatomy and physiology, dental radiography, oral microbiology, and preventative and emergency care. And, they must be skilled at:

  • Preparing treatment rooms with tray set-ups and equipment while keeping a sterile environment
  • Seating and preparing patients in the treatment room
  • Checking blood pressure
  • Taking and processing radiographs (including a keen understanding of the safety protocols surrounding radiation exposure)
  • Preparing materials for dental impressions and other procedures
  • Assisting the dentist at the chairside during procedures
  • Sterilizing instruments according to proper protocols and maintaining equipment

When you are looking for your next dental assistant, be sure that they not only have the hard skills listed above but that they also have soft skills such as the ability to communicate effectively, strong attention to detail, and compassion for the patient. These are skills they can’t teach in dental college and you need to be sure that your new hire will bring them to the job.

Communication Skills Matter
While dental assistants need to know about all the typical dental procedures you perform, it’s their ability to communicate with patients about how the practice will help with the state of patients’ oral health that makes the dental assistant an important pillar of your practice.

Dental assistants are one of the members of the dental health team that help guide patients through the process of comprehending, accepting and then eventually completing treatment – all of this takes the ability to speak well and know when to listen.

Assistants need to take down pertinent patient histories, learn from patients the specifics of their oral health care routines and explain how treatments will be beneficial to their unique situation.

Attention to Detail is Key
Being a detail-oriented worker is another key trait for dental assistants. In order to complete treatments requiring many steps, dental assistants must carefully pay attention to each step in the treatment protocol and focus on assisting the dentist at the right times to maintain a fluid workflow.

Proactive thinking and attention to detail means that patients get the level of treatment they deserve.

Compassion Counts
Fear of the dentist’s chair is the second most common fear in the Western world and your clinic will be catering to people with this fear week in and week out. Nobody wants to think about it but when a patient starts to cry in the dental chair because they are terrified of their dentist, a dental assistant’s compassion can be the key to comforting them.

Form a Bond
The best moment to connect and engage with patients and form a bond with them is throughout stages of the appointment queue. Every dental assistant should have training on how to approach a patient, how to make them feel comfortable and how to acknowledge and help them overcome any fear they may have of the procedures to be performed.

Engaging in small, light conversations can be a great ice-breaker as long as staff are careful not to be too intrusive or pushy. Often, a calm demeanour and pleasant approach are enough to do the job.

Maintain Patients Bonds Between Appointments
For small dental offices it is quite common for dental assistants to do double duty in that they may also be responsible for tasks such as booking appointments and patient post treatment follow up. In these cases, the dental assistant will need additional skills that include how to use the basic functions of your dental practice management system. In particular, the dental assistant will need to know how to schedule appointments, update patient files and locate patients that require follow up.

Performing these extended duties is also a great way for dental assistants to stay on top of patients’ health and demonstrate that the person who assisted with their treatment in the operatory is continuing to take an active interest in their well being. This can forge bonds that lead to lifetime patients.

These days, taking patient engagement to the next tier requires having your entire dental staff on board – working as a cohesive whole. Team-wide, high-level communication skills come with practice, but once implemented, the patient experience can really skyrocket – especially when each office administrator, hygienist, dentist and in this case the dental assistant, operates beyond their basic training.

Remember this and watch your practice grow.

3 Ways Software Can Help Reduce No-Shows and Short-Notice Cancellation

I know from experience that few things are as frustrating for dental clinic administrators as when a patient doesn’t show up for their appointment, or cancels at the last minute. Dental clinics run on efficiency, and nothing is more wasteful than having large blocks of time open up during business hours because a patient couldn’t be bothered to cancel in advance.

While it might be tempting to blame the patient for being disorganized, if you want to understand why short-notice cancellations are so common – and you want to explore strategies for reducing the number of no-shows you have to deal with – it can be helpful to put yourself in the patient’s shoes.

Numerous studies have confirmed that the average person finds going to the dentist to be an extremely stressful experience, so it shouldn’t be surprising that many patients decide to back out when their appointment comes around. Instead of getting angry, it is far more productive to explore what tools are available to help patients keep their appointments, and re-book far in advance when they have a legitimate scheduling conflict.

At ABELDent we’ve built a dental practice management software platform explicitly designed to help clinics modernize the way they handle booking and patient communications. Here are three ways you can use practice management software to reduce no-shows and short-notice cancellations.

1. Software Keeps You Connected

Patients cancel appointments for many reasons, but the root problem is often a sense of disconnection. As a health care provider, it is your job to make patients feel safe and comfortable. Patients who feel cared for and valued are far more likely to follow through on their appointments, and to provide advance warning when they need to re-book.

Dental practice management software can help you cultivate this sense of connection by helping you keep detailed notes about each one of your patients, making personalized care easier and communication more fluid.

Over the years, ABELDent has helped countless dental clinics leverage the power of tools like patient reminder software to make patients feel more connected, and as our testimonials page shows, ABELDent software solutions have had a major impact on clinic success across the country.

2. Software Puts Patients in the Driver’s Seat

Making your patients feel more connected to your clinic is important, but it is perhaps even more essential to make them feel like they are in control of their own booking. If it is hard for a patient to contact your clinic to re-book an appointment, they probably won’t, and in the digital age we live in, patients may consider calling the clinic and talking with a staff member to be too much of a hassle.

If the patient decides to miss their appointment without contacting you, not only does this leave you with a gap in your schedule, it also means having to follow up with the patient and find a new time to see them.

One of the reasons patient portals are so effective is that they allow patients to control various aspects of their booking from their personal device. In addition to being able to view their health records and update personal information, most portals enable patients to view their upcoming appointments, request changes, and even cancel a visit (if you choose to provide this option).

Empowering patients to take charge of their bookings through their smartphone or computer is a great way to ensure that they provide you plenty of warning if they aren’t able to make it to an appointment.

3. Software Makes Sending Automated Reminders Easy

Sometimes, however, short-notice cancellations or missed appointments simply happen because the patient forgot they had an appointment. Given how far in advance bookings are typically made, it can be easy for patients to lose track of time and accidentally double-book themselves. Helping these patients keep their appointments is as easy as sending them an automated appointment reminder with the click of an icon.

Studies have shown that automated appointment reminder systems play an important role in reducing cancellation numbers, and are why sending reminders to patients is becoming a standard practice across the industry. Without this tool, a busy staff faced with a full schedule can result in reminders slipping through the cracks and remain unsent. Using automated appointment reminder software to make sure all patients are contacted in advance via email or text should be an important part of your communication strategy.

Given how many different things are involved in dental practice administration, it can be easy to lose site of the fact that dentistry exists for one reason: to serve patients. Last-minute cancellations are annoying, but cultivating a person-centred approach with patients when dealing with this issue can help. Effectively communicating to patients the importance of keeping their appointments or giving sufficient notice if there is a problem can be a preventative strategy to reduce missed appointments and the associated stress.

Adopting software tools that make patients feel more connected to your clinic and more in charge of their own booking is a great way to increase follow-through, and ensure that anxiety or hectic schedules are not keeping your patients from taking care of their oral health.