Patient Communication: How to get it done
Instagram showcases what your neighbor had for dinner. Facebook details the life of your 9th grade best friend. Snapchat shares pieces of an evolving story – but only for a second, and texts have all but eliminated the need for actual phone conversation.
With all of this, is lack of communication still a “thing”? When it comes to patient communication, it is.
The benefits of patient communication have been extolled time and again, but understanding what you should do and actually doing it are two very different things (refer to that exercise bike turned clothes hanger). Sometimes the very concept of patient communication can be overwhelming.
Does your practice need a formal plan? How much is too much? You talk to patients regularly – is that enough? So, like the personal training session you got last Christmas, the idea remains on the peripheral but nothing really comes of it.
The key to implementing anything new, whether it’s an exercise plan or a patient communication strategy, is to break it down into digestible pieces (we’re talking donut hole, not entire cake). To help you in this effort, we’ve highlighted a few opportunities for patient communication that you might not currently be leveraging.
5 ways to be a better communicator! Get started.
- Reminders – patients need them. People get busy – there are calendars to be juggled, deadlines to be met and only 24 hours in a day. Given everything vying for your patients’ attention, it’s no wonder that bi-annual hygiene visits fall to the bottom of the list. Enter patient reminders. Don’t worry, the passive aggressive type your well-meaning sibling uses (i.e. Did you ever use that training session?) generally isn’t warranted. Often, all a patient needs to stay on track is a quick appointment reminder.
Don’t want to task your front desk staff with making endless reminder phone calls? Good – that’s not what your patients want either. In a recent Hanover Research study, 80% of patients said they preferred text or email reminders over calls. How do you accommodate this preference? Using an automated patient communication system is a great way to deliver consistent communications that align with patient preferences, reinforce your practice’s high-tech image, and reduce no-shows. While we can’t reap the benefits of cardio by pressing a button yet, dental practices can automate the majority of patient outreach.
2. Birthdays – everybody’s got one. Although some patients, like the kid sporting an “I am 7”shirt, are more vocal about them than others, a warm birthday greeting is generally welcome. No need to send a case of protein bars, birthday wishes sent via text, email, or old school greeting card can help strengthen patient relationships and keep you top-of-mind between scheduled appointments. Worried about execution? Unlike maintaining proper form throughout that Body Pump class, an automated patient communication system makes it easy to ensure every patient gets a personalized birthday message.
3. Post-procedure instructions – because no one remembers. According to the National Institute of Health, dentists’ recall of consultations is different than that of patients. In the majority of cases studied, patients were unable to accurately recall dental health advice or recommended actions. Sound familiar? Oh, 30 minutes of exercise daily– I thought you said three. Providing detailed follow-up care instructions is the best way to ensure patients adhere to post-procedure guidelines, which reduces the risk of complications. Additionally, it shows that you care about your patients’ wellbeing.
4. Information – you’ve got it. When you work hard at something it’s ok to be a little braggadocios (#Down10Pounds), especially when patients reap the benefits (#ExpandedOfficeHours). Let current and prospective patients know that you invest in your practice. Growing your team, accepting new insurance plans, adding new technology, or offering promotions are all opportunities to communicate with current and prospective patients. After all, if you don’t tell them who will?
5. Patient reviews – you want them. According to Dentistry IQ , 70% of dental patients said that online ratings and reviews influenced their choice of dentist. So, aside from delivering the best patient experience possible, how do you get more positive online reviews? Step 1) Ask. Step 2) Make it easy.
It’s not that your satisfied patients don’t want to leave a review, it’s just that they probably don’t think about it. People are busy and as soon as they set their next appointment, they’re out the door and onto the next thing on the list. You’ll be surprised at what a simple ask can do. Try sending a follow-up email with a link to your website’s Reviews page and/or other review sites like Yelp and Google +.
At this point you might be thinking, “Sure, there are numerous opportunities to communicate with patients – but still only 24 hours in a day. How am I supposed to do this in addition to treating patients?” Many patient communications can be automated, and even those that are handled manually (i.e. announcing new office hours) will soon be routine if you make information sharing standard protocol.
Still not sure how to get started?
Reach out to an Internet Marketing Advisor at 888-932-3644 for help creating a patient communication strategy and details on ProSites’ PracticeMojo automated patient communication solution, or visit www.ProSites.com. Trust us – it’ll be easier than leg day.
 Misra, Sarah, Blanaid Daly, Brian Millar, Mark Packer, and Koula Asimakopoulou. “Dentist–patient Communication: What Do Patients and Dentists Remember following a Consultation? Implications for Patient Compliance.” (n.d.): n. pag. PubMed Central. 17 June 2013. Web. 16 July 2017.
 Henry, Kevin. “Convenience, Honesty, and Online Reviews … Some of the Things Your Dental Patients Want.” Dentistry IQ. N.p., 2 May 2013. Web. 16 July 2017.
About the blogger
Heather Frechette-Crowley is Director of Product Marketing at ProSites. ProSites is a leading dental marketing provider that helps dentists accelerate practice growth through innovative website design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, and pay-per-click advertising solutions. For more information, or to start a free trial, call (888) 932-3644 or visit www.ProSites.com.