By Precious Thompson
Technology can be used to improve communication with patients, sometimes in simple ways. This could mean adding phone lines to be able to accommodate more calls at once or creating a well-designed and up-to-date website that can convey important information to both potential and current patients. Social media could also help patients connect with a practice on a more intimate and personal level.
In the Digital Age, some of those communication ideas seem obvious. The dental industry, however, has been using technology to connect with patients in more creative areas of practice. Now, technology can be used to help patients and dental professionals communicate from the moment the first appointment is scheduled until he or she has concluded the visit. Below are four ways in which technology can help you improve patient communication:
Schedule Appointments Online
More and more dental patients throughout the country want to make that initial contact with a dental office through the internet. Patients no longer want to call or stop in to schedule an appointment. They want to be able to choose a date and time for a visit online and at their own convenience. Automated appointment scheduling helps practices remain competitive, and it can be beneficial to both patients and the practice.
Although having patients use the internet to schedule an appointment may seem like a reduction in communication, this form of communication can be considered a better way to interact. According to research conducted by global management consulting firm Accenture, 77 percent of patients think the ability to book, change, or cancel appointments online is important.
Online scheduling is the type of communication patients want compared to scheduling an appointment over the phone. It is quicker and easier, but it also gives them a feeling of control. Additionally, if dental offices want to add a personal touch to the scheduling process, they can follow up with an email or phone call to confirm the appointment.
Of course, this is a service that could be optional. Some patients, especially those who are less tech savvy, may still prefer to call to schedule an appointment. If they do, they may prefer having that different level of interaction. No matter how the appointment is scheduled, you should be sure to let patients know you appreciate them choosing your practice.
Send Appointment Reminders
Once an appointment has been scheduled, dental offices can utilise new technology to follow up with patients and keep them informed about their upcoming visit. They can utilise services and companies like Solution Reach that work to improve patient communication through email and text-based patient messaging as a subscription-based service.
In plain terms, companies like this use email, text messaging, and phone calls to keep in contact with patients. This could include sending automated text messages to patients to remind them about upcoming appointments. This not only establishes a sense of communication with the patient, but it helps to decrease the number of no-shows a practice may experience.
These emails, texts, and phone calls can be personalized to each patient. The content, style, and design can be changed to match your brand and the image you would like to portray. For phone calls that serve as a reminder, this could include a personalized message you record yourself. No matter how you choose to do it, this simple communication can let patients know you want them to visit your practice.
See Clear Visual of Dental Health
Once patients arrive in the dental office, two-way communication is absolutely necessary. One way to improve communication relating directly to the patient’s dental health is adding more technology like digital radiography to produce visual examples. This can give patients a glimpse into their oral health and can help them visualize how the issues can be resolved.
Digital radiography is a form of X-ray imaging where digital X-ray sensors are used instead of traditional photographic film. This allows patients to see their radiographic images magnified on a large screen, rather than seeing small versions of the X-rays. Additionally, digital radiography has the ability to enhance and magnify the image, which aids the dentist in diagnosis.
If a patient enters a dental office nervous and a little unsure of his or her dental health, these visual images can spark conversation. Instead of a dentist explaining a situation that could be complex to someone outside of the dental industry, these images serve as a teaching example. For instance, if a patient has to have his or her wisdom teeth removed, it is important to be able to show them a visual while explaining the reasoning. This can make them feel more relaxed and trusting throughout the process.
Receive Valuable Feedback
Dental offices should plan to communicate with patients even after they have left the office, and technology can make that much easier. Offices could utilise personalised text messages and emails to receive valuable feedback on the patient’s visit. Companies like Solution Reach use these options to provide a communication outlet for patients and a way for dental professionals to gauge their practice.
These surveys could be sent automatically or manually through email after patients have visited the office. The questions can be customized to your business and ask how you can improve your practice and procedures. They can be questions you choose, or they can be generated based on existing questions. In some situations, the emails can be sent to all patients to obtain feedback regarding policies, procedures, or other broad topics.
Dental professionals often are aware of the need to communicate with patients, but they sometimes forget that patients need a constructive way to communicate back. These surveys provide an outlet for them to explain what they enjoy about your practice and to define some things that need to be improved. This communication can be beneficial to the business, and it can show patients you are concerned about their overall well-being while in your care.
Technology changes the way we communicate, and sometimes that notion carries a negative connotation. People often think technology decreases human interaction and actual communication, but dental professionals can be creative in how they use certain developments. With a little research and effort, technology can be used in a way to make patients and dentist feel more connected than before. Effective communication requires patience, effort, humility, and a process for improvement.