Grow your practice by connecting with new and existing patients.
You have an established dental practice, but you are now looking to take your office to the next level by increasing revenue and improving your reputation in the community. What better way to help your practice than by learning how to better communicate with patients? Research shows clear communication in a dental practice leads to an increase in positive dental reviews, more referrals, and a dramatic growth in production and revenue.
Dental school and residency programs teach you how to become a dentist and to be competent in your diagnosis and clinical skills. Communication with a patient is not exactly tangible, but it’s a skill that takes practice and patience. We all know that our employees and patients’ personalities vary enormously, but there are some key tips to improving the way your practice communicates with any patient.
1. Dental Team Etiquette
The first person your patient interacts with when entering your practice is your front desk receptionist. When hiring and training, it is imperative to discuss proper etiquette when your dental team answers the phone and greets a patient at the front desk.
Answering the phone seems like a simple task, but it is the way you communicate with patients that drives them into the office. Encourage your staff to be polite and respectful, ask clarifying questions to ensure they understand the needs of the patient, and to really listen to their concerns. If a team member is unsure of an answer, let the patient know it will be answered at the time of their visit, or someone will call back with the correct information.
When you practice communication skills, your patients feel their time and oral health is respected. When patients arrive, they should be greeted and informed if there is an extended waiting time—or, even better, given a courtesy call to let them know there will be a wait. Communication with patients takes place in all areas of the office, including the waiting room to the operatory.
2. Patient management software communication
Patient management software is valuable because it has customizable features, like patient communication, text reminders, and scheduling appointments online. This type of software is useful because it reduces incoming phone calls to your office so your administrative staff can focus on other tasks, and it allows patients to communicate directly with the office when they need to.
Some patient management packages offer text reminders that have a two-way response so that patients can respond to an appointment or ask a question that a team member can answer on the spot.
A live chatbox is also offered by many website companies for real-time communication. Patients like this feature because they can directly message a representative about office information from their smartphones.
3. Email Blasts
A patient may only need two dental visits a year, but you can always keep your patients up-to-date with the latest office information through a newsletter or email blast. Over 85% of people check their email on a daily basis using their smartphones, which means sending patients emails is one of the most effective ways to communicate with patients.
Patient emails can include information like updates to hours, staff, or insurance information. This way, when a patient comes back for their six-month recall appointment, they are up to speed on the latest practice details.
4. Social Media
Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok are platforms that every dental practice needs to incorporate into their marketing and communication tools. They are effective in showing patients the latest dental treatments you offer, like Invisalign, orthodontic braces, teeth whitening, and cosmetic dentistry.
People spend a lot of time on social media, so having your patients follow your office is one of the easiest (and most fun) ways to inform them of the great things occurring in your practice.
5. Interactive Patient Portal
More and more medical facilities have online interactive patient portals that allow patients to view their medical history, lab results, and more. The dental industry can tremendously benefit from this tool because it creates an efficient system for both the dental provider and patient to view and track their dental progress.
Some benefits an interactive patient portal can have in dentistry include allowing patients to:
- Track their oral hygiene progress.
- View and update their medical history prior to dental appointments.
- View lab status on when appliances are ready.
- Create and change appointments.
- Update insurance information.
6. Patient-friendly Website
Your website gives the first impression of your office, therefore, it should be user- and mobile-friendly. When patients search for a dentist in your area, you want to ensure you are showing up as a number-one rated office, therefore Google ads and ratings are important.
A properly designed website should include information about your team, all the services you offer, insurance information, and frequently asked questions. Many websites will add customized features, like before-and-after photos, office tours, and patient forms. An online scheduling system is beneficial because it allows patients to easily make and change appointments instead of dealing with inconvenient phone calls.
A high-quality website is the first step in showing patients you invest in your practice and patients. Remember to keep it updated and remind your staff to let patients know to check it out prior to visiting your office to see all the information relevant to their appointment.
7. After-hours Service or Emergency Line
When you are away from your office, make sure that your patients still have access to you in case of an emergency. You can do this by having an emergency service take phone calls and forward them to the provider on-call or having an associate in the office get forwarded calls.
Some offices even offer an email or emergency line number to call for after hours. Either way, showing your patients they can still communicate with the office after hours is effective in reducing the impact of emergencies, and ensuring your patients know you are there for them when they need you.
8. Letter of Introduction
New patient visits are great for office growth! Consider sending a new patient letter as an introduction to the practice. It is a great opportunity to “meet” the patient prior to their dental visit. The letter can contain a welcoming introduction about what they can expect at their appointment and some information about the doctor.
When you make a powerful introduction letting a patient know your education and treatment focus, they are more likely to schedule an appointment because of your reputation. If you have other services on offer, such as orthodontics or cosmetic treatments, then this is a great opportunity to let your patients know you offer these valuable options.
A welcome letter is an excellent way for a dental practice to show patients how they are valued prior to even attending a dental visit and can contain patient paperwork to fill out in advance to eliminate any additional time in the waiting room.
9. In-office Streaming Videos
We all know how stressful it can be for patients waiting for the dentist or hygienist in the operatory or the waiting room. Adding streaming videos that are informational is a great way to offer patients background on dental treatments. Some offices offer videos detailing surgical procedures to give patients information about their procedure and what they can expect post-treatment.
Having streaming videos about orthodontics or teeth whitening is an effective marketing tool to spark interest in a new treatment. It is also a good communication tool because, in addition to giving written or oral instructions, it drives home important information if they have time in the chair throughout the appointment.
10. Personal Treatment
Lastly, with all the modern technology that is out there today to accelerate appointments and make visits more efficient, remember that people still like speaking and handling personal information with other people.
Have your staff give office tours, ask patients if they need any water or accessories, like a warm hand towel, to make their visits more comfortable. While technology is a great feature to fabricate dental appliances and help diagnose tooth decay, sometimes patients still feel more at ease when their insurance and finances are still handled by an actual person.
Clear communication is one of the key factors in creating a successful dental practice. Have a well-trained and compassionate dental team and offer several platforms like newsletters and social media to communicate with patients in and out of the office. When you prioritize your office’s communication skills, you’ll completely enhance and revitalize your dental practice growth. If you’re looking to enhance your treatment options, such as providing orthodontics, for your patients, the American Orthodontic Society can help with courses in Basic Straight Wire Orthodontics to get you started.
To learn more about our popular orthodontics courses for pediatric and general dentists, check out one of the upcoming events below.