Oral Health Group
Feature

You Had Me at “Virtual Consultations”: Modernize Your Practice and Patient Experience

October 1, 2021
by Alina Fintineanu, RDH, C.A Ed, CTP


The world is advancing at lightning speed. Nowadays, we have self-driving and electric cars, virtual home assistants and mind-boggling technological advancements. We can pay in a flash, meet someone without even leaving our homes, shop for groceries from our couch, and track our fitness with sleek accessories.

In a world where everything is becoming smarter, it follows suit that dentistry has to modernize and adapt. Gone are the days of antiquated operatories, out-of-date equipment and film radiography. Our patients seek outstanding care using the latest technology, efficiency, convenience and flexibility that works for them. Streamlining and modernizing our practices, as well as focusing on the patient experience is key to attracting (and keeping!) new patients in this day and age.

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The Basics

Go paperless – If you haven’t done this already, going digital will improve your image and save you money! When you add up how much you’re spending on paper for ledgers, charts, images, statements, correspondence and ink or toner, switching to a digital system is a no-brainer. Add that to filing errors, time and labour spent by your team, and you should be shaking your head that you didn’t do this sooner.1

Your reviews – According to surveys, “positive reviews make 91% of consumers more likely to use a business.”2 Most people who will visit your practice will check reviews first, generally on Google, Yelp or Facebook. Keep in mind that 82% of consumers can be repelled by bad reviews,2 so make sure you or someone on your staff responds to the good and the bad, but do not specifically discuss identifying information nor what treatment was rendered in order to remain HIPAA compliant. You can’t make everyone happy, and there will always be patients for whom you bend over backwards and it’s still not enough. When possible, use bad reviews as motivation for improvement and change.

Service with a smile – In the wise words of Richard Branson, “Take care of the employees and they will take care of your clients.” Treat your staff well, keep them happy, and make sure they feel valued and respected. The vibe in the office is very obvious to someone who has never been there, and paramount to the customer experience. If there is tension, this will translate to the patient.

In addition, have your front desk staff smile when they answer the phone. Studies have revealed an audible difference in tone when someone is smiling when speaking on the phone; 84% of our message over the phone is based on the tone of our voice.3 Also, staff that is truly pleasant and upbeat will have your patients smiling from ear to ear.

Your website

Before coming to your office, the 2021 patient will do extensive research. As a key statistic, “90% of consumers used the Internet to find a local business in the last year.”2 Your website is one of the first things they will look at, so make sure a) you have one, and b) it tells the patient exactly what you want them to know! Highlight your practice motto, your team and doctors with a brief biography and credentials, the services you offer, financial information, your office hours and address, and social media. Make sure you also have an impactful mobile version, as many patients will check your website out on the go. An estimate and forecast for 2019 by Zenith reported that we spend close to 80% of our time on the Internet on our phones,4 and surely that statistic has risen since. Have an easy to navigate and aesthetic layout in complementing colours with lots of photos. In addition, consider adding these features:

Live chat – Have an unassuming popup in case the visitor would like to ask any questions. A report on online shopping showed that 44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person is one of the most important features a website can offer.5 Even a chatbot is a great place to start!

New patient intake forms – Encourage your new patients to fill these out online prior to their visit to save time. Try to make it possible for the patient to submit them directly to the office through the website rather than having to print them out…who even has a printer anymore? Most importantly, make sure your website is HIPAA compliant and has a SSL Certificate to ensure the security of the information provided will not be compromised.

Virtual consultations – If your office started offering virtual consultations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, why not continue offering this convenience? A virtual office tour on your website can help your potential patients get a feel for the aesthetic and layout, while the convenience of a brief consultation may appeal to anxious, disabled, special needs or busy patients.

Technology – Do you have the iTero® scanner for gag-free impressions? Is your digital radiography the latest and greatest? Have you stepped up your sterilization methods above and beyond the requirements? Do you offer same-day CEREC® crowns or two-day veneers? 3D printing? Laser dentistry? CAD/CAM? Shout it loud and proud!

Before and after – This sounds basic but everyone wants to see what your office can do. Make sure you have signed written releases from your patients, and display your team’s hard work. Veneers, whitening, SCRP, orthodontics, full mouth rehabilitation/major restorative work, and composite bonding are some procedures that can yield powerful photos for someone shopping around.

Testimonials – Got a patient who is exceptionally thrilled with their new smile? Have them write a review or testimonial, and showcase your happiest patients to illustrate the life-changing work your office does!

Online scheduling/payments – Give your patients the ability to book their own new patient appointments online. Not having to speak to anyone can be a plus for the 81% of people who feel anxious about talking on the phone.7 Automate your appointment reminders and surveys to free up the front desk for their million other tasks. Offering online payments as an option means your patients can settle their accounts when is most convenient for them. It will also decrease the workload for your financial coordinators…win-win!

Promotions – Who doesn’t love a great deal? Aesthetics is usually at the top of the list of priorities for patients; a particularly tempting offer is whitening. Consider adding that as an incentive or discounted service to new patients who are looking at your practice.

Charitable work – The world can always use a little more kindness and generosity. Does your office volunteer their time or services? Showcase the positive impact you’re making to help others and your community.

Education – Include a page where you provide information on typical procedures in a simplified format. This can set anxious patients at ease and underline your knowledge and expertise.

Social media – Statistics show that in North America we spend on average 2 hours and 6 minutes each day on social media.7 Having an active and engaging page on these platforms may bring more patients to your door. Make sure you have a well-curated feed with photos that showcase your best work, your office culture, and appealing factors like technology and upgrades.

The office

The reception area – Ensure your reception area is modern, uncluttered, and comfortable. An aesthetic layout with lots of natural light, pleasing colours, light music and a peaceful vibe sets the tone for a successful visit. Complementary refreshments, Wi-Fi, TVs, magazines, massage chairs, iPads for kids and various toys help the time fly by. Aim to have minimal waiting time for your patients before they are brought back. Consider adding technological advances that will show your patients that you value their time: 61% of people would like a text message alerting them when their doctor is running late.8

The consultation – Streamline your consultation process so that the patient is in and out in one hour. Have your Treatment Coordinator introduce themselves and the office itself, and address any initial questions. If the patient has completed the forms online, have those ready and insurance information handy and assessed. If your patient is looking for orthodontics for instance, your financial coordinator could have the information ready for discussion to possibly get the patient started the same day.

Continuing education – Ensure the entire team stays up to date with the latest trends and techniques in dentistry. Be aware of what the public is being exposed to in terms of advertising, which in turn will prepare you to competently address questions. Some hot button topics of a few years ago to present day have included oil pulling, charcoal toothpaste, and direct-to-consumer aligners. Continuing education on the latest products, techniques, materials and methods will not only improve the level of care provided by the office as a whole, but also earn the confidence of your patients as knowledgeable and up-to-date healthcare providers.9

The patient experience – You and your team already offer outstanding care, and these measures may not be necessary for every patient to say yes to coming to your practice. That being said, the needs and expectations of patients in 2021 and post-pandemic life have changed dramatically and remaining on the cutting edge can prove to be well worth the effort. Modernizing the practice, offering the latest technology, focusing on flexibility and convenience and being responsive on social media is key to keeping everyone smiling!

References

1. “ Paperless Dental Practice and Its Savings.” Dentrix Ascend. Accessed April 29, 2020. https://www.dentrixascend.com/articles/show/4701.

2. Murphy, Rosie. “Local Consumer Review Survey.” BrightLocal. Bright Ideas/Research, December 11, 2019. https://www.brightlocal.com/research/local-consumer-review-survey/?SSAID=314743&SSCID=41k4_sgkea.

3. “Sales Technique in Ten – Smile When You Dial..” No Fluff, February 15, 2019. https://nofluff.biz/sales-technique-in-ten-smile-when-you-dial/.

3. Murphy, Rosie. “Local Consumer Review Survey.” BrightLocal. Bright Ideas/Research, December 11, 2019. https://www.brightlocal.com/research/local-consumer-review-survey/?SSAID=314743&SSCID=41k4_sgkea.

4. Karaian, Jason. “The Mobile Internet Is the Internet.” Quartz Daily Brief, October 31, 2017. https://qz.com/1116469/we-now-spend-70-of-time-online-on-our-phones/.

5. Clarkson, Diane, Carrie Johnson, Elizabeth Stark, and Brendan McGowan. “Making Proactive Chat Work.” Forrester, June 4, 2010. https://www.forrester.com/report/MakingProactiveChatWork/-/E-RES57054.

6. Meek, Andy. “A Bunch of Millennials Explained in a Survey Why They Despise Phone Calls.” BGR, December 9, 2018. https://bgr.com/2018/12/09/millennials-phone-calls-survey/.

7. “Average Time Spend Daily on Social Media (Latest 2020 Data).” Broadband Search, 2020. https://www.broadbandsearch.net/blog/average-daily-time-on-social-media.

8. “6 Ways to Ensure Your Patients Love Your Waiting Room.” PatientPop, May 23, 2017. https://www.patientpop.com/blog/running-a-practice/6-strategies-turn-waiting-room-asset/.

9. Hornbrook, David. “The Benefits of Modern Dentistry.” Dental Economics, April 1, 2008. https://www.dentaleconomics.com/science-tech/cosmetic-dentistry-and-whitening/article/16387323/the-benefits-of-modern-dentistry.


About the Author

Alina Fintineanu, RDH, C.A Ed, CTP, is a Registered Dental Hygienist with 10+ years of experience in dentistry. She currently works in private orthodontic practice in Toronto. Alina has obtained a Certificate in Adult Education and is a Certified Training Practitioner. She is an educator on Invisalign and profoundly passionate about all things Orthodontics. When she is not reminding patients to wear their elastics, you can find her traveling, baking and petting dogs. Alina can be reached at alina_fin@yahoo.ca


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