When dental offices are asked why they avoid automated communication, a few of the same reasons come up. Change is scary; the patients are older; they love their staff, and don’t want to see them replaced with a machine.
The misconception here is that offices swap seasoned staff for software – whereas in practice, automated messaging systems simply support staff in their job, helping them deliver more personal attention to patients. Patient communication software is the handy sidekick to your superhero of a practice, lending a much-needed hand whilst not undermining the importance of the human element.
Your staff have talents a software program doesn’t have. Empathy – the human connection to patient care – is at the top of that list, and it’s one of the most important aspects of your practice. But when menial tasks get in the way of quality patient care, it’s time to find a better solution. Handwritten dental recall cards (the kind that get pulped in the laundry) and manual calling are fast becoming a thing of the past; instead, practices are opting to send automated reminders straight to the patient’s phone – avoiding the wash cycle altogether!
Reminders sent straight to your phone, with a one-click calendar link to help keep the schedule clear, bring modern convenience to medicine. Patients love the user-friendly nature of digital reminders and handy extras like pre-treatment advice, whilst your practice benefits from greater efficiency and more successful appointments. The customizable messaging settings mean you don’t have to take a one-size-fits-all approach, whilst the appointment reminder templates ensure you don’t spend time agonizing over message content.
Automated reminders don’t diminish human interaction, either. In fact, they help increase your staff’s ability to talk with people and give them more personal attention, since they aren’t overwhelmed by massive reminder call lists. For those few patients that do still need a phone call, the experience is less rushed, so they don’t feel like they’re hassling your practice. Patient satisfaction is key to patient-centered care, as the NSDA is keen to point out: in their patient communication guide, they note that “evidence has demonstrated a positive association between a patient’s satisfaction with the care they receive and their provider’s ability and willingness to communicate and empathize with them.”
Of course, reminder software doesn’t just have a positive effect on the patient experience and dentist-patient communication. It can transform your office’s productivity and dramatically reduce no-shows and cancellations. The University of Rochester Eastman Dental Center, an urban academic dental center, published an internal study in the Journal of Dental Education, where they describe the effect that an automated confirmation system had on their practice. After implementing the system, they reported the following:
“The clinical areas that have benefited the most are General Dentistry, where the no-show rate dropped from 23.67 percent to 19.77 percent, and Pediatric Dentistry, dropping from 29.42 percent to 25.25 percent. Given the volume of patient visits these improvements represent, we estimate that we have increased our patient care revenue by $473,000 during the twelve-month period. With the increase in attended appointments, our resource utilization has improved, and our front-end staff have been able to focus their attention on face-to-face customer relations.”
Patient communication software helps to foster a more holistic approach to running a dental practice and improving patient care. As the doctors at Eastman Dental Center say at the end of their study: “The ability to place confirmation calls after normal business hours, to have a consistent routine of confirming each appointment, and to be able to refocus front-end staff on tasks that create a more patient-centered approach has made a consequential difference.”