Embrace the future—because it’s now
The dental industry was catapulted at least five years into the future because of the changes implemented during COVID-19. Besides enhanced infection control that consumed most of our time at the beginning of the pandemic, many automated and contactless systems were integrated and are here to stay. These include:
- Secure patient portals, where patients have easy access to everything from appointments, balances, prescriptions, insurance information, and the ability to contact the dentist directly
- Online scheduling 24/7
- Online intake forms
- Contactless check-in/check-out processes
- Websites that offer patient information via a robust Q&A page
- 24/7 live chat option
These improved systems optimize convenience and efficiency, creating a time-effective experience that the 2021 consumer expects. But don’t assume that everyone prefers digital and contactless interactions. Statistics show that many baby boomers prefer human contact. This balancing act can offer speed and convenience without compromising patient relationships and patient care. Yes, consumers want things to be expedited, but not when it comes to one-on-one time with their health-care professionals. Patients want to know you hear them and understand their concerns. Only then will they put their trust and faith in you.
– Nancy Clark Crossin
We live in a social world. We are in constant communication by phone, email, text, FaceTime, and Zoom. Then why are we all not using teledentistry to connect with our patients? If 2020 taught us anything, it was that our practices, as well as our way of life, can change in a minute. We had to adapt, adapt, adapt! Businesses that were thinking outside the box and were not afraid to be bold were able to successfully move forward.
We have all had these patients in our practices: Mrs. Parker now lives in assisted living and it’s too difficult for her to get to your office. What do you do? Do you just let patients like Mrs. Parker go untreated until their perio complicates their medical condition, or worse, they have a serious medical emergency? Could you put some type of care mechanism in place for them?
Teledentistry: One dentist’s user guide
I suspect that many patients, especially the elderly or otherwise compromised, are a bit reluctant to go back to the pre-COVID way of life. Are you ready for the opportunities you can offer them, including teledentistry? Convenience is now a significant factor when making life decisions, not just for seniors, but for anyone with a busy schedule.
Teledentistry doesn’t change who you are, what you are, or what you do. Executed properly, teledentistry does not change the standard of care or the scope of your license. The only difference is the method used to treat your patients, as well as the number of patients you can reach. It allows you to deliver care without compromise. You are able to reach a variety of patients in many situations.
If you would like to learn whether teledentistry could optimize your patient care, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.
– Theresa Parker Sheppard
The number one reason patients choose an oral health-care provider is whether the practice “takes their insurance.” Statistically, 70% of prospective patients use this as their primary decision factor. The next major factor is convenience, which is key in most of our decisions as consumers. Why are Amazon, Airbnb, and flying rather than driving so popular? The answer is simple: speed and convenience.
In an era where time is money, we need to apply other industry mindsets to our patient care when it’s appropriate. When we can effectively and efficiently add different disciplines under the same roof, both patients and the business win. Run some of these options through your plans and see what makes sense for your business model: orthodontics plus pediatrics; endodontics plus periodontics; oral surgery plus periodontics plus endodontics; or finally, general dentistry plus periodontics plus oral surgery.
The motivator here should not be to make more money. The outcome, however will be more revenue. Here are two things to consider:
1. More revenue does not necessarily mean more profit. There is a distinct difference.
2. Have you done the due diligence to know if you can sustain the additional disciplines in your business? Are you monitoring the number of patients you’re referring for procedures you don’t presently offer in your practice?
When you can offer more, deliver better-than-expected results, and bring convenience to your patients and prospective patients, it’s time to put the wheel in motion!
– Theresa Narantic
Quadrant dentistry is a convenient, cost-effective way to schedule patients with restorative needs. People with busy schedules appreciate being able to get their treatment done in large portions, in fewer appointments. Not only is this considerate of their time, but it’s a great way to generate more revenue. Quadrant dentistry will improve your net profit by increasing production while decreasing overhead. It will also make your schedule run more smoothly due to less patient flow and more productive days.
A good experience starts with the first phone call. Ask a lot of questions. Find out about their last dental appointment, and if they haven’t seen a dentist in the last six months, schedule a comprehensive exam and cleaning on the same day. This can all happen in the same operatory, so you have less room turnover. If a single filling is diagnosed, and if there’s time, take care of the treatment while the patient is in the chair. They will love not having to return to your office right away. If sealants are recommended for a child, let the parent know that you’d be happy to take care of that for them during the same appointment. These situations are a win/win for everyone.
Flexibility is key when you invite patients and their families to your office. One of the reasons people don’t schedule or go to another practice is because they can’t get their children in when it’s convenient. Group family scheduling for recall is a great service for your patients as well as an effective marketing tool. Advertising this on your website and allowing patients to schedule their own appointments provides convenience for busy parents.
– Sherri Dinkins and Teri Osborn
Meet busy people where they are
People are busy, and time is precious. Life has gotten so fast paced and demanding, so much so that companies have made consumer convenience their number one priority. Enter Netflix in 1997, which made the trip to Blockbuster obsolete. Then at the beginning of the 21st century, companies realized that consumers wanted not only convenience, but also instant gratification.
So, in 2007, Netflix started offering streaming services, so people no longer had to wait for the red envelope containing the DVD to arrive in the mail. In 2003, Amazon started Amazon Prime, where customers could get their purchases in just two days. Online ordering and delivery are available for practically anything today.
And did I mention that people are busy? The other day I forgot to make an appointment at the dealership to have my car serviced. Fortunately, they have a link on their website and with just a few clicks, I was able to schedule my appointment. There was no need to take time out of my day and call, only to be placed on hold or transferred.
I’ve been in the dental field for more than three decades, and our industry has gotten more and more competitive. It seems like there’s a dental office on every corner. So, how can you set yourself apart from Dr. Smith down the street? While the obvious answers are to provide quality dentistry and superior patient care, it’s a great idea to add consumer convenience.
There are so many ways to make the entire dental visit and experience a seamless and efficient process for your patients. These include two-way texting for appointment reminders, online scheduling, text or email links to pay bills, text or email forms in advance of appointments, text or email post-op instructions, text or email treatment plans with educational videos about procedure(s), and teledentistry. In this fast-paced and demanding world, patients will be grateful that you offer these options.
– Candice Martin
Technology for scheduling and check-in
One of the greatest lessons I learned from COVID-19 is that there’s a need for technology to reduce unnecessary human contact from our lives even as we desperately crave human contact. It’s a strange inconsistency. However, the truth is that both are attainable if we’re willing to consider the options. The challenge is getting the dental community to be open to the options.
Two areas where increased use of technology can balance this inconsistency is the use of online scheduling and automated check-in procedures. Some dentists love the idea of online scheduling while others, not so much. They believe these platforms hand over control of their schedules to their patients. They wonder what their day will look like when that happens.
While I understand the concern, it’s time to get on board. People schedule everything online today. They book vacations, shop, order meals, and schedule business meetings. They simply expect to be able to do moreonline, particularly new patients who come across your website at midnight and want to book that appointment now.
While there is still a place for scheduling patients in person before they leave your office, if you add online scheduling, know that you will not be handing control over to your patients. You will, however, be handing them convenience. The easier you make it, the more likely they’ll be to book an appointment.
Also, many offices are short staffed right now. Imagine a patient trying to check in for their appointment, only to be left waiting while the front office staff runs ragged, doing everything but acknowledging the patient in front of them. This is not an impressive start for human connection.
Now, imagine if that process were automated. Technology allows for digitized medical forms to be filled out in advance. Similar technology can be used to advise the office the patient has arrived and is ready to be seen. This is better than leaving someone waiting or be gruffly acknowledged by an overworked team member.
Now the challenge is to maintain that momentum by using technology to increase efficiency, reduce needless wait times, and adapt your practice to maximize convenience for your patients, while still maintaining that important human touch.
– Shawn Peers