The first steps on the new ‘contactless’ patient journey
Just like every aspect of our lives since the COVID-19 pandemic began, dentistry is going to be a very different experience for patients and staff for some time to come. We’re all slowly getting accustomed to a new way of life – social distancing, screens at checkouts, contactless payments, and the mandatory wearing of facemasks in shops. It’s a lot for everyone to take on board.
Dental practices have been hit hard by lockdown, but finally practices are starting to reopen and deliver treatments that haven’t been available for several months. Despite these services being in demand, some patients are still understandably anxious about the threat from coronavirus. Our priority is to help dentists mitigate this fear so they can reassure all patients that it’s safe to return. This is now possible using dental software to help with practical steps, inform via targeted patient communication – and by making a new ‘Contactless Patient Journey’ possible.
Finding a dentist
Digital communication has been pivotal during lockdown, on both a personal and professional level – and this isn’t going to change. Sourcing and ordering goods and services online is now routine – and that includes finding a dentist.
With lockdown easing, it’s paramount that you pro-actively tell your patients about your current practice status. This includes revised opening hours, services being offered – and importantly – the safety measures you have in place – using your practice website, social media channels and through texts and emails.
Patients will be more selective now, so utilising features such as ‘Google My Business’ and posting positive messages and reviews, as well as useful, up-to-date practice information that links to your website are all factors that will improve your search engine ranking. This upbeat online presence is essential for patients to see you are fully across the current situation.
Once patients have found you online you need to keep them there! Dental software that offers an online booking facility allows an instant response to be sent to patients, while helping to reduce the number of calls to what’s likely to be a very busy reception team.
Online bookings can be made at any time, including when the practice is closed, and our research show nearly half (47%) of online booking made using EXACT dental software are made out of practice hours[i]. Once booked, patients can be sent an automated booking confirmation and COVID-19 questionnaire to verify their health status before attending the practice.
Consider ‘virtual’ appointments
To reassure and consult with patients reluctant or unable to leave home or risk travelling on public transport, it’s worth considering offering ‘virtual appointments’. Since lockdown, we’ve become used to talking to family and friends virtually online, and video conferencing has fast become a realistic alternative for seeing people face-to-face.
Tele-dentistry has an important role to play, especially for shielding/high-risk patients, for triaging patients, and converting outstanding treatment plans into booked appointments. This remote approach to initial patient consultations is recommended in the Standard Operating Procedures published 4th June 2020[ii].
For more information about how Software of Excellence can help you transform your patients’ experience visit https://softwareofexcellence.co.uk/contactless-patient-journey/
TOP TIPS: Finding a dentist
- Ensure your online profile is up-to-date so you are near the top of online search results
- Use digital platforms to keep your patients informed
- Use on-line booking to meet patients’ demands and reduce stress on your reception team
- Consider ‘virtual consultations’ as a way of maintaining patient contact
[i] Software of Excellence internal research – data on file
[ii] Standard Operating Procedures Transition to Recovery, Office of the Chief Dental Office. June 2020