Communicating with patients is an important part of running a dental clinic. Practices have a wide range of communication channels open to them but few providers use them effectively. In fact many clinics still rely on postcards and other paper based communication methods. But in a world filled with smartphones and tablets, getting a postcard from your dentist might seem quaint to most people.
Text messaging or SMS has grown in popularity to the point where many people prefer sending texts than making a phone call to contact someone. Text messages are convenient in many ways. It doesn’t have the urgency of a phone call. The recipient can choose to see it at a time that works for them instead of being forced to either answer a phone call or send it to voicemail. Texting is also generally quicker than even the shortest phone conversation.
So Do You Use Text Messages for Your Practice?
The first step to improving patient communication is to offer multiple channels for your clients to get in touch with you. Don’t just rely on postcards or snail mail. Give patients the option of communicating via text messages, email, through your website and even social media for certain types of interactions. It means they can choose whichever alternative is most convenient for them at any particular time.
Now let’s talk about text messaging and what it can do for your practice.
Sending reminders for appointments is one of the most common interactions you have with your patients. Merely sending a postcard in the mail is generally not enough to make sure the patient is there on time. Some patients may not receive the card in time while others may have forgotten about it. With a text message, you can remind patients a couple of days in advance and also a few hours before their appointment.
Not only does this reduce no-shows but it is convenient for both you and your practice. Many EHRs come with automated reminder features that can save many hours for your front desk employees.
Fill up Your Appointment Calendar
Even with text messages, a few no-shows are inevitable as work or family schedules get in the way of appointments. Instead of just sitting idly by, use texting to inform other patients about an empty appointment slot. Patients can quickly reply if they’re available at that time and walking for that procedure. This way you reduce downtime in your clinic without having to spend much time or financial resources.
Engage Patients Between Visits
Let’s face it, your patients don’t refer you to their friends and family based on just how efficient your staff is or at how well you performed certain procedures. Or to put it another way, those benefits are not the only reason they will talk about your practice. Patients are more likely to refer others to your practice when they have an emotional connection. This usually happens because they have a positive experience during their visit, you have friendly staff who make them feel comfortable or you provide convenient options like online appointment scheduling, free Wi-Fi in the clinic etc.
Text messages can be a valuable tool in creating a great experience. Keep in touch with the patient between visits through messages that remind them to take medication, brush regularly or any other oral care tips. You can also use texting to remind them to schedule an appointment, for preventive care or to take certain medication before coming in for a procedure and so on. So start using text messages to communicate with your patients and see how much of a difference it can make your relationship with them.