Dental professionals have remained flexible, adaptable, and innovative in recent months in the wake of a global health crisis. Many offices have opted for virtual conferencing to maintain communications with their patients, while others have utilized social media and their website to facilitate conversations via the web.
Dental practices have demonstrated the power of remaining adaptable in the healthcare industry. Although routine appointments have been interrupted, important business functions have had a chance to take the forefront. Some of these functions include updating the team’s training, switching practice management systems, treatment planning with patients, and organizing the practice’s finances.
While dental offices are reopening, it is important to remember that the tools that you have learned to use during this time can still benefit your practice daily. Virtual conferencing is a useful tool when patients are unwell, presenting certain symptoms, or live far away from your office. Having your team post on social media every now and then helps maintain your office’s presence on the web and helps you by bringing more prospective patients in.
If your office has not utilized any virtual conferencing applications, we have created a walkthrough for you detailing how to download and use Microsoft Teams. Applications such as Teams help you continually provide care to your patients via Teledentistry. Microsoft offers a free version of their application which you can use in your practice to virtually connect with your patients as your office adopts a new level of normalcy.
We hope you enjoy the video. If you have any questions, concerns, or feedback, please email us, message us, or give us a call.
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.
Health professionals are preparing to reopen to the public, presenting an excellent opportunity for creating informational materials. As you reopen your practice, educating patients on the measures you and your team are taking to ensure everyone’s safety will encourage your patients to come in, as well as dismiss any misinformation that they may have regarding their safety. Making information readily available via social media, your website, a company blog, or even flyers and handouts benefits both your practice and your community. This blog post focuses on the reasons for having a dental blog for your office.
Valuable patient treatment is not limited to work done inside of the operatory. Providing regular and digestible resources for your patients to improve their health literacy improves their wellbeing. Having an understanding of their own oral health generally makes patients more enthusiastic about their oral hygiene and necessary dental treatments. This naturally leads to increased patient influx due to word-of-mouth, as well in more recent times, good practice reviews.
While it is important to continue accumulating positive patient reviews by providing exceptional service, posting expert blogs builds practice credibility while contributing to your practice’s online presence. Great blog posts in turn also foster more positive reviews that together drive more patients to your practice. Maintaining positive reviews is one of the many reasons for having an office blog. For this post, we will present three specific ways that maintaining a blog can boost your business.
1. It influences how prospective patients perceive your practice
Instead of first visiting physical locations, people these days tend to screen businesses online beforehand. Potential patients may be curious about your office’s values, the treatment that is offered, and your quality of service. Prospective patients often refer to public reviews and your homepage first for this information. Unfortunately, several bad reviews can turn potential candidates off if even if they may not appear credible. However, if you provide a blog, you can present your business values on your own terms. Providing regular blog posts adds value to your online presence and works to build trust with your audience. Potential patients can read your own content, which is highly preferred in comparison to reading medium-to-low rated reviews that are beyond your control.
2. It educates your patients and the public
When people experience dental pain, they are likely to research their symptoms online to determine whether their issue is temporary, or if they need to seek professional help. You can increase your page views to these people by properly geotagging (adding geographical identification to) your posts, implementing SEO strategies and using key words as identifiers in your post. These strategies and tools are usually included with most major blogging platforms such as WordPress or Blogger. Blogs of this type expand your public domain since they will attract both individuals researching the symptoms of their dental discomfort, and folks who are reading your posts as they are seeking out a new dentist.
Blog posts that educate the public on good oral health habits remind individuals of the importance of maintaining a healthy mouth and potentially prompt them to do something about it. A blog that educates the public not only contributes to a healthier community that values their oral health but can also be an effective source of new patients for your practice.
3. It shows that you care – and helps you gain patient loyalty
Your dental practice’s blog can subtly and over time, work to reduce no-shows and missed appointments. Regular blog posts, especially if they are sent to patients on a subscription list, create a new conduit of communication for your patients. This open stream fosters patient trust towards you and your staff and helps build credibility for your practice. The trust formed from these blog posts builds patient loyalty that will likely translate into more booked appointments and fewer cancellations and no-shows.
While blog posts can present this opportunity, be mindful that your patients likely receive a lot of emails per day and many may end up in their junk mail folder never to be read. As a result, they may not even see your blog posts unless they go to your website on their own..
A strategy to combat this problem is to inform your patients of your blogs on a regular basis and what valuable information they offer. For example, try embedding a blog link in your automated appointment or outstanding treatment reminders. Additionally, you could post a sign in the reception area encouraging patients to look at your website and blog. Lastly, make sure you provide a blog link directly from your homepage so that visitors to your website can easily find your blogs.
It may seem overwhelming – but you’re not alone
There are many resources that are made to help you and your practice have a great online presence starting with this guide. For practical advice for starting or maintaining a dental blog check out this article.
Even just sharing and briefly adding to posts from other authors is helpful for company blog upkeep.* For instance, Colgate’s blog covers a variety of topics pertaining to oral health with information that may be highly beneficial to your patients. Making information like easily available to your patients encourages healthy oral practices.
If the commitment of posting your own blogs regularly scares you here are some suggestions:
Consider starting by writing a few posts over a few months and then evaluate your engagement
Share posts or articles written by oral health experts as mentioned, but add more value by summarizing the main points so your patients can easily understand the premise
Delegate blog posts to a trusted person in your office with dental expertise and/or find a team member who has strong communication skills.
Do an email promotion of the posts to your patients that have given you permission for email marketing.*
Whether it is a weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly blog post, having an oral health blog can greatly benefit your dental practice by increasing the number of positive reviews you receive, establishing your credibility in the marketplace and improving your overall patient relations.
* Note: be sure to always give credit to the original author. * Note: be sure that you are acting with CASL’s protocols
The last few months have marked a period of adjustment worldwide. Some industries are adapting to the circumstances by finding ways to work remotely and limiting social contact. Many professions, like dentistry, share a very different story, wherein most work cannot be done as it requires physical contact. While attending to dental emergencies are essential, how are dentists extending oral care guidance to their other patients?
Dentists are employing virtual tools to facilitate conversations with patients. Virtual connections allow dental providers to continually help patients. This is the main defining factor of teledentistry, which we have spoken about in the last few blog posts (found here and here). Teledentistry includes treatment planning, video conferencing, and even telephone calls that entail a dental provider performing any kind of virtual treatment, for example, giving follow-up instructions. Various studies have been done on the validity of teledentistry. These studies are highly prevalent at a time like this, as they offer the industry a perspective on how using virtual treatment tools can objectively help dental practices and patients alike, while also acknowledging precautions.
We have spoken about the various ways virtual communications aid both your practice and your patients a few times. Using resources to keep patients informed and motivated ensures that they are bettering their oral health, even if they have to delay hygiene visits.
Try sending emails to your patients on file to inform them of oral hygienic practices they can keep doing at home. You can use your dental software’s messaging system for quick and effective communication with your patients. Reaching out to your patients in any capacity contributes to a positive doctor-patient relationship, and will benefit both them and your practice in the long run.
Something as simple as a reassuring or informative email can leave a positive impact on your regular patients. You can also utilize your social media outlets and your practice’s website to let patients know how your team is doing or provide information on health and safety. For instance, adjusting your homepage content to address whether your office is currently accepting emergencies, or wishing good health to webpage visitors creates a great first impression. Doing this also addresses the situation, thus helping minimize patient anxieties.
Difficult situations such as outbreaks are bound to happen. All industries face their own set of challenges, and it is important to keep looking forward and remain adaptable in a changing world. While this is a challenging time, doing the best with our available resources make our communities stronger.
Alabdullah, Jafar & Daniel, Susan. (2018). A Systematic Review on the Validity of Teledentistry. Telemedicine and e-Health. 24. 10.1089/tmj.2017.0132. Arora PC, Kaur J, Kaur J, Arora A. Teledentistry: An innovative tool for the underserved population. Digit Med [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Apr 28];5:6-12. Available from: http://www.digitmedicine.com/text.asp?2019/5/1/6/249836
Case management accounts for a substantial portion of a dental professional’s career. Prescribing treatment to your patients takes time and care, as well as planning ahead for complex procedures. As discussed in previous blog posts, you can use your extra time to keep up with a number of essential business functions such as training your employees and ensuring your records are up-to-date and secured. You may consider engaging with continued learning via online courses. In this blog post, we are encouraging you to prioritize case management and patient relations to plan for when your office reopens.
As a dental professional, your time is a valuable investment. Despite current restrictions for public health and safety, you can still use your time by planning treatments with patients that have been postponed for any reason. Even though the treatment itself must wait for a few months, various aspects of the planning process can be done now. This may include preparing financial payment plans, informing patients of pretreatment requirements, or ordering materials and instruments that you need for the procedure. As long as all communications are done safely and virtually, you can set your practice up for success when offices reopen.
By dedicating a portion of your time to case management, you are helping your practice thrive for months to come. Arranging profitable treatment that is essential to your practice will help you bring your business back to where you want it to be. Planning treatment with your patients not only financially benefits your practice in the long run but also strengthens your relations with your patients. Letting them know that you are still here to discuss their oral health goes a long way, whether it be by an automated email, or posting a notice on your website. This, in turn, can foster positive reviews for your practice, which are assets.
Routine appointments will come naturally, as patients have gone months overdue for their dental cleaning. If you find your schedule has gaps, using your dental software’s tools such as a treatment manager assists you in finding patients who have yet to book outstanding treatment.
Reviewing cases with your patients now prevents further delaying treatments once your practice reopens, and also helps you fill your schedule quickly with valuable appointments, putting your office back on track.
Dentists worldwide are utilizing various technologies which help facilitate teledentistry during this health crisis.
Resources cite that although providers can only do limited exams and treatment planning or virtual consultations, teledentistry maintains patient relations, which is a vital aspect of owning a practice. Teledentistry also provides a way for dentists to work during the worldwide health emergency, but can also be used to enhance the daily operations of your practice under normal circumstances.
Visuals Made Virtual
A huge part of treatment planning with patients is visually presenting the problem, and also showing the solution to keep patients fully informed. For instance, you might show your patient the x-ray of their decay, or walk through the details of a specific procedure using intraoral pictures of their problem area.
Brant Herman, CEO of MouthWatch LLC, writes on Dental Economics points out that virtual treatment planning works well with visuals, as he argues patients understand images better than words alone. Additionally, Herman brings up the point that family members often are the final deciding factor before a patient undergoes a specific treatment. To counter familial disagreement (which is often due to misunderstanding the importance of the treatment), virtual images and videos can be kept on file and saved by the patient for family members’ understanding.
Using Procedure Codes for Your Time
There is a section of procedure codes in the Ontario fee guide that is often overlooked, but can be effectively utilized at a time like this, especially if you are engaging with patients via teledentistry. Patti DiGrangi, RDH, speaks to this in a video addressing the impact of COVID-19 on the dental industry. DiGrangi brings up a few codes that are typically ignored, such as consultation with a medical professional, case management, and oral hygiene instruction.
Maintaining procedure codes and documentation is a priority if you are engaging with patients via virtual means. You can use your dental software at home to make chart notes of virtual meetings between yourself and your patients so when you return to the office, everything is in order, files are easily accessible, and treatment can quickly begin.
People are at the centre of any healthcare business – both as patients, and as a team of providers delivering care.
While technical concerns are common at a time when the dental industry is undergoing massive changes due to improvements in software and technology, one question I’m frequently asked is about the human side of things: “How can I make sure I have a good team who can provide sterling care, and how should I go about assessing my team’s effectiveness?”.
There are no quick technological fixes to improve how your team operates or to build a better clinic culture but technology can help you confront these problems. One of the best tech solutions available for unlocking the full potential of your team is Human-Focused Technology, or HFT.
Human-Focused Technology is a new approach to quickly gathering information about how and why people behave the way they do. It can help employers better understand their workforce and realize its full potential.
If you want to optimize your team to better serve your patients’ needs, keep reading to find out how HFT can help.
What is Human-Focused Technology?
If you pay attention to the latest news about workplace software, you’re probably familiar with the term “human-centred design” to describe approaches to software design that take the needs of human users into account from beginning to end.
While Human-Focused Technology is similar, its uses are much more specifically geared toward helping employers optimize the skills and capacities of employees to create the best and most effective possible workplace – including dental clinics.
This technology is based on a few fundamental insights, namely that:
All humans have developed certain innate behavioural styles that govern how they do what they do
Behavioural styles arise from core motivators that determine why they do what they do
Traditional hiring methods use unreliable tools like resumes and interviews that don’t yield information about styles and motivators and therefore cannot deliver optimal candidate selection results
Technology can play a role in helping us determine every individual’s behavioural style and core motivators
Using a few basic tests, Human-Focused Technology can save companies huge amounts of time by providing high-level information about the styles and motivators of everyone on their team, thereby making it easier to understand core dynamics in your workplace culture.
The Role of HFT in the Hiring Process
Unsurprisingly, the first applications of Human-Focused Technology have been in the hiring process. Because HFT provides more reliable information about how a potential employee will actually operate in the workplace, it makes it a lot easier for to find the right people the first time around.
Rather than relying on traditional hiring techniques such as lengthy interviews and over-hyped resumes to find the best candidates for your dental clinic, using human-focused hiring techniques allow you to identify employees to join your team long-term.
Human-focused personality tests can help you to help cut through facades and biases, showing clearly whether an applicant possesses the personality traits essential to helping you run your clinic by identifying soft skills that can’t necessarily be trained, including:
Flexibility – this is an extremely valuable asset to any dental clinic. People who are able to adapt to any situation are going to be dependable and able to perform no matter what’s thrown their way.
Creative thinking – being able to develop unique solutions to problems as they arise is an invaluable tool, as it drives innovation while increasing efficiency.
Feedback acceptance – a major key to fostering growth in any workplace requires the ability to not only accept feedback gracefully but also to apply that feedback going forward.
Because of their effectiveness, HFT tests are an increasingly standard part of the hiring process in a variety of industries and may join other basic technologies like cloud storage and reputation management software as essential tools every dental clinic needs.
According to one recent report, employee turnover rates are one of the top concerns for employers across the healthcare industry. Turnover costs clinics and hospitals countless hours and millions of dollars in lost revenue every year, and bringing turnover rates down requires addressing the root problems in your workplace culture.
Fortunately, Human-Focused Technology is perfectly designed to help you improve retention rates by hiring the right candidates and reaching a better understanding of the deep needs and underlying dynamics of your current employees.
How HFT Helps You Understand Your Team
HFT can help you understand the personalities, needs and habits your current employees bring to the workplace.
Most workplace conflict happens due to misunderstandings between people with different behavioural styles and different core motivators. Unfortunately, the root causes of these disagreements are often obscured by the day-to-day conflicts around which they play out.
As an example, it may seem as though your hygienist and your receptionist disagree over how to handle last-minute cancellations. One may consider building relationships most important and so takes a more social approach with patients while the other is task-focused and insists on a more direct approach. In reality, both are motivated to keep the chairs full and both inform the patient that a cancellation fee may apply so the seeming “conflict” is actually a difference in communication styles.
In summary, HFT helps make deep motivations and behaviour patterns legible, it can help you map out the true dynamics of your workplace, and help your team find better ways of communicating and working together.