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Off the dental chair. What’s next?
The last few decades have seen us becoming increasingly busy with our day-to-day lives. The recent technological advancements have only contributed to making people’s lives more hectic, not less. One could argue that today’s generation is the busiest in the history of humankind. We constantly find ourselves glued to our smart devices, ignoring what’s happening around us. “Stop and smell the roses” has become a thing of the past. There is one big casualty in today’s rat race: inter-personal relationships.
The dental industry is no exception; dental practices nowadays seldom find the time or resources to check in with their patients and monitor their welfare, especially post-treatment. If you ask a dental practice when the next communication occurs after dental treatment, most of them would answer “the next appointment reminder” or “the next preventative care reminder”. In the past, you would often find dental receptionists calling their patients the next day to address any questions or concerns.
Is it enough to communicate with patients only when there is a revenue opportunity? The answer is a resounding “No”. Dental practices must communicate with their patients regularly. Sending your patients monthly/quarterly newsletters is a great way to keep in touch, but it lacks the personal touch. Now you ask, how can a busy practice maintain this personal touch with each and every one of their patients? Is it worth my time following up with every patient? When should I contact my patients to let them know that our care extends beyond the dental chair?
The answers to all these questions lie in understanding today’s technological and social climate. It is true that everyone, practices and patients alike, is busy. Most people today find phone calls to invade their privacy and are less likely to respond well. However, most of us today carry our smartphones wherever we go and are much more responsive to less invasive communication methods such as text messages and emails. At the practice end, the conception of “Automation “has become the biggest time saver. We automate our appointment reminders, and patients happily confirm their appointments via SMS without either party having to pick up a phone.
Combining our patients’ preference for less invasive communication and practices’ preference for automation presents a golden opportunity to resurrect the now dead concept of “personal touch”. This process is called after care. With after care, the practice can automate the post-treatment care check-ins and only be alerted about the patients that need attention and manual intervention. It is usually a pleasant feeling when the dental practice contacts the patient the day after treatment to see how they are recovering and if they had any concerns about the treatment or recovery. What if the automation can personalise the care messages based on the treatment? The patient would have only to answer questions relating to their treatment; as a result, the patient is more likely to respond and let the practice know their progress.
Today’s practices seeking to improve their online reputation and patient retention make two cardinal mistakes. They ask the patient for a review without checking on the patient’s welfare and only contact the patient when there is a revenue opportunity for the practice. After care turns this approach on its head and contacts the patient with no apparent revenue opportunity and only asks for a review after thoroughly ensuring that the patient is cared for. One must ask themselves which category you would rather belong to? An opportunistic dental marketer or a dental professional whose care extends beyond the chair and reaps the same benefits as the other? The choice is yours.
About the Author
Sean Perera has 18 years of experience in the Australian Dental Information System industry and currently works as the Product Manager for Centaur’s flagship products, Dental4Windows and Dental4Web. Sean holds a Bachelor of Applied Science from RMIT University and a Master of Business Administration from Swinburne University.
Sean is a passionate data analyst who loves everything data. Sean spends most of his time doting on his little daughter Amelia outside work.
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