It’s no surprise to anyone that COVID-19 has made a lot of patients nervous to walk through the front doors of your dental practice, even now that quarantine has lifted. And for patients who are at a higher danger of contracting the coronavirus, the reopening of your office can seem especially scary. However, bacteria, plaque, cavities and other dental problems wait for no one and no virus. No matter their risk level, more and more of your patients need to come in for their much-needed dental appointments.
Overdue routine cleanings, procedures half-completed before quarantine began, and dental emergencies—it’s absolutely critical to both the success of your office and your patients’ dental health that they all feel safe and comfortable getting the treatments they need. That’s why I’ve spent these past few weeks discussing and problem shooting this issue with over 50 dental offices across the country. Together, we’ve identified and tested a few ways you can make even the most vulnerable patient feel like they’re in the best hands with you and your dentists.
One of the most important focuses we’ve found is communication. Proper communication with your office can help you overcome the fears your patients have built up over the months. You need to build their trust so that they feel safe enough to come into your office. While some patients may need only a single phone call to do this and get them booked, a lot of others, particularly special patient populations, will need a lot more care and consideration to get them past their valid concerns and worries.
A really great and unique way to tell them about your office’s safety measures is to show them. A picture’s worth a thousand words, after all. Create a short video tour of your post-quarantine office and send it your patients’ way. In it, you can explain just what you’re doing to follow the CDC’s recommendations and keep them safe when they come in for their visit. If you’re going above and beyond those safety regulations, then don’t hesitate to include those, too! This video doesn’t need to be long—keeping things as sweet and simple as possible has proven to be the most effective—but it does need to show the level of care that you’re putting into their well-being. You’ll want to cover things like:
- Your processes
- The equipment that you’re wearing (gloves, masks, face shields, gowns, etc.)
- How you’re spacing patients out appointment-wise and in your waiting room
- The care you’re taking to keep your office clean in between patients
Another thing you should take advantage of is the number of ways you can get in touch with your patients. Don’t be afraid to use as many forms of communication as you can to reach out to your patients. Email blasts, mass broadcast text messages, and phone calls are all essential to crossing that distance barrier between you and your patients. If you reach them by phone, go the extra mile to personalize their call by letting them speak to the dentists and hygienists they’ll be seeing. As nice as your front staff might be, your patients need to trust you and your judgment so much more.
Once you get in touch and book their upcoming appointment, don’t wait until they finally come in to talk with them again. In these uncertain times, you need to make sure that their confidence in you, your staff, and your office is unwavering. Continue to contact them periodically to check up, remind them of their appointment date and time, and overall continue to make them feel good about coming into your practice. Using a drip email sequence, which notifies your patients of their upcoming visit at scheduled times, is a good way to do this. Just a few lines about your COVID precautions in each one can do a lot to show patients your dedication to them.
The way you talk to your patients can make a huge difference to your success, as well. Constant phone calls, emails, and text messages are great ways to get your patients’ attention, but if you don’t use your time with them well, all of your efforts can all be for nothing. Your message and delivery are the most crucial aspect of your patient outreach. Is your content easily understandable to your patient? Does your tone show you as friendly and approachable enough to encourage questions, responses, and, of course, that all-important call to schedule their next appointment?
If, after your conversation, your patient still doesn’t feel comfortable coming in to see you, it’s not the end of the world. Instead, you have a unique opportunity at your fingertips: teledentistry consultations. Quick 15 minute digital consultations allow you to check in on your patients’ teeth and dental health all while allowing them to stay safe and self-quarantined in their homes. This is a great option especially for your high-risk patients. For more accurate results, you can try sending your patients a camera before the appointment so that you can get dental-grade photos in real-time.
Teledentistry calls can also work two-fold. Not only can you use these digital appointments to perform long distance exams, but you can also let your cautious and high-risk patients know how you’ve changed your office post-COVID to stop any possible spread of the coronavirus. Talking with them face to face can go a long way to help them feel safe enough to come in for their next appointment. If they’re open to the possibility, you can even use this time to book their overdue cleaning in a few days or weeks’ time.
If you need help writing a script for your office video or what you should say in your emails and texts, don’t hesitate to reach out to me and my team. We’ve been focusing on these exact methods to help our dentists bounce back from quarantine stronger than ever, and we’re happy to help you accomplish the same as well.