Dental offices have not needed to adapt as much as other businesses, as people have a need for dental care. Traditionally, dental clinics relied heavily on referrals to acquire new patients and could use clinical and administrative softwares to manage their clients.

In the last number of years, dental software trends have caught up to other industries, with cloud-based practice management software and social media marketing rising in importance. To provide the best service to your customers and make managing your dental clinic easier, you will need a reliable, high-quality patient experience platform.

To make sure you are adopting the right software for you, we break down the top dental software trends for 2021 and the near future, broken down by category:

Now that you know what’s going to be covered, let’s dive into the most important dental software trends to follow and adopt.

Patient communication trends to improve the customer experience

One of the biggest changes to the dental industry is the method and style of communication. Previously, appointments were scheduled by phone. Modern patients want online booking options and simple communication that can fit into their day, such as email, mobile apps, and even text messaging.

Below are the top trends centered on patient communication and the customer experience:

Teledentistry usage will only grow after COVID

Teledentristy is the practice of conducting dental patient care via virtual visits – over the phone or a video-conferencing application. In the current market, many dental clinics are adopting video-conferencing applications that allow enhanced patient care over virtual means.

Why it matters:
During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of telehealth increased significantly (by 154% according to the CDC). While the adoption of this method was largely due to the pandemic, now that patients have learned that this is possible and available, they will demand that it continues. At the very least, dentists that fail to adjust to offer this service will lag behind in acquiring – and retaining – customers.

Actionable takeaways and benefits:

  • Provide customers virtual patient visits via telephone and video-conferencing
  • Enhance customer communication and accessibility
  • Limit unnecessary patient visits and focus on patient care

Web users are relying more on chatbot functionality

Most websites now offer chatbot functionality, allowing users to easily ask one-off questions and get timely responses. Across all industries – not just dental – customers want faster, more efficient customer service and support.

Why it matters:
Dental patients, whether they are choosing a dentist or already have one, want a chatbot function available to streamline and simplify their service needs. It is predicted that by the end of 2021, 85% of customer interactions will be handled without human assistance. If you fail to offer this, patients will go somewhere that does. Chatbot capability allows customers to answer direct, simple questions and saves your representatives time answering questions.

Actionable takeaways and benefits:

  • Offer chatbot capability to your current and prospective customers
  • Set up automated responses for common questions to save your team time
  • Communicate this option to customers so they know it’s available and you can free up your staff’s time for other tasks

Offer online booking capability for better user experience

Online booking software gives patients the ability to schedule their appointments online easily and conveniently. These solutions often pair with clinical application, treatment, and administrative software to help you manage your dental practice easily.

However, they also need to sync to your patient management system to ensure all your appointments are up-to-date. If this isn’t done properly, you will end up wasting time with missed bookings or causing issues with double bookings.

Why it matters:
Modern patients want the simplicity and convenience of online shopping in every area of their life, including medical fields. Most people find online booking to be the simplest, fastest, and best method of scheduling dental appointments. Online booking solutions also automate much of the administrative duties that would otherwise be used answering phones and manually scheduling appointments.

It’s important to note that not all patient management software is designed equal, and some have more issues than others. Be sure that any solution you choose can book by appointment type, and that a confirmation will be sent right away. Without immediate confirmation emails and the ability to select the right appointment type, you will find patients will still need to call to book an appointment, eliminating the benefits of online booking.

Actionable takeaways and benefits:

  • Ensure that the client management solution you use has online booking capability for patients.
  • Purchase a practice management software that integrates seamlessly with your clinical and treatment solutions
  • Save administrative staff time scheduling bookings manually

Marketing and customer acquisition trends to grow your dental business

Dental offices have not had to rely heavily on online marketing, as referrals have served as a main means of acquisition. However, in today’s online market, people make decisions about their medical professions much differently than before, searching online reviews and finding a new dentist through digital marketing avenues such as social media.

We cover marketing and customer acquisition trends that are essential to adopt:

Engage in digital dental marketing or fall behind

Dental practices have been able to thrive on referral systems in the past, as patients referred family and friends. Today, this is not enough to drive adequate business to your practice, as people rely more on online recommendations and comparisons than they do referrals.

Why it matters:
In today’s climate, no business can succeed without marketing online. Nearly 75% of patients research a practice online before ever booking an appointment.  Digital marketing is an important method of getting your dental clinic in front of potential patients. To do this, you’ll want to have a high-speed, quality website, engage in pay-per-click marketing where it will have the greatest impact, and optimize your content for search.

Actionable takeaways and benefits:

  • Optimize your website for search, speed, performance, and user experience
  • Use PPC marketing where advantageous (without blowing your budget)
  • Integrate digital marketing into your overall marketing strategy

Social media has become an essential part of your marketing strategy

Social media marketing is essential to stay ahead of the competition. While it may seem like a strange avenue for dental clinics, where patients have traditionally been acquired via referrals, social media should be an essential component of your digital marketing strategy.

Why it matters:
Social media is a great way of developing brand recognition, as well as actually acquiring patients. Approximately 75% of people admitted that they purchased a product because they saw it on social media. More than simply driving new patients, social media is a great way of communicating with your existing patients and fostering deep loyalty to your practice. It’s always important to use social media marketing as both an outreach and retention tool!

Actionable takeaways and benefits:

  • Create and run social media accounts for all major platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Use social media to promote your business to new patients
  • Use social media to foster customer loyalty and build retention
  • Use social media to communicate with your patients (while still understanding that not all patients will use it)

Patients rely more on online review sites for referrals

The traditional system of referring friends and family to dental clinics has changed in the online climate. Instead of referring close friends and family, patients refer other people through online customer review sites. However, as a business serving your local community, you will still need to have a locally focused strategy.

Why it matters:
With online review sites widely available, it’s easy to research and compare dental clinics online. Rather than relying on your patients to refer people close to them, patients can network with anyone, sharing their experience. It’s important to always put your best foot forward and create an experience that patients will write positive reviews about, building your name recognition and ensuring that people finding you via these methods choose you over competitors.

Actionable takeaways and benefits:

  • Always treat patients with care and attention, ensuring they leave having had a good experience
  • Promote certain online review sites to your patients, requesting that they leave reviews after their visit
  • Respond regularly and appropriately to patient reviews
  • If you are struggling to get people to leave reviews, consider running a promotion motivating patients to contribute reviews

Patient management solutions to track patient history and manage your practice

Patient management hasn’t been done on paper for a long time, but there are still many innovations changing how software manages your practice. This includes scheduling, patient tracking, and much more!

Below, we cover the top tips for managing patients and best practices for scheduling appointments:

Cloud-based practice management solutions streamline your workflow

In the past, dental offices relied on on-premise software to manage their practice. Today, most use web-based practice management solutions to manage their patients and clinical work. As cloud-based services have grown in popularity due to access and upkeep, many businesses are shifting to cloud-based practice management solutions.

Why it matters:
Cloud-based solutions require little to no management and upkeep, as the solutions are constantly updated. Remote access to cloud-based practice management makes it easy to provide access to all necessary users, and saves you the hassle of storing your own data.

Actionable takeaways and benefits:

  • Save management and upkeep labor by using a cloud-based platform
  • Get larger data storage that you don’t have to manage yourself
  • Cloud-based solutions are easy-to-use and access

Easy integration between treatment and administrative tools improves work quality and output

Previous dental solutions were focused on specific tasks, separating clinical and administrative softwares. However, many modern softwares are intuitively designed to easily integrate with other solutions via APIs, allowing fast, simple integration between solutions.

Why it matters:
Providing the best service across the board means having a complete picture of your patients. The best way to do this is to visualize this information in one place, with integrated patient management solutions.

Actionable takeaways and benefits:

  • Purchase dental software that will easily integrate with the other solutions you are currently using (or plan to use in the near future)
  • Integrate your solutions and practice using them in tandem for best performance and results

Integrate software with clinical dental technology to assist you in your work

While most legacy softwares focused on specific tasks, modern dental softwares aim to unify administrative, clinical, and all other functions into one solution. This allows them a more complete view of the patient issues and needs, and empowers dental professionals to make quicker, better decisions about treatment and care.

Below are the top dental software technology trends to make sure you stay up-to-date:

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) enable virtual consulting

Both augmented and virtual reality offer the ability to experience things without actually being there or performing the task. Many industries have adopted this technology with great results; the real-estate industry, for example, has used it to show homes without people needing to visit. As you can imagine, the potential of VR and AR in the dental industry are astounding.

Why it matters:
VR and AR technology will make it possible for virtual patient consultation and professional workshops (to share and collaborate with other dental offices). These options will make it easier to communicate clinical information with clients and make them feel comfortable about their upcoming procedure. It can also allow for real-time practice using augmented reality. If used correctly, these can be great to use not just for clinical cases, but to promote your business to new patients.

Actionable takeaways and benefits:

  • Find ways of integrating VR and AR into your training and education sessions, allowing for remote access
  • Use VR and AR to aid your clinical work and consult with patients
  • Use VR and AR to effectively promote your business to new patients

Digital impressions improve patient records

Digital impressions, also known as 3D intraoral scans, involve taking a virtual scan of the mouth, which captures this and creates a visual replica. These wand-like tools are used by the dental professional to scan the mouth, and the visual can be displayed on a computer screen.

Why it matters:
Digital impressions allow you to better track and monitor your patient, and store this information with all of the patient’s other information. Having all of this information easily accessible virtually saves time, improves accessibility, and makes analysis easier.

Actionable takeaways and benefits:

  • Store all patient information – both administrative and clinical – in one place
  • Increase analytics and insights, helping you make decisions with the patient’s entire history at your fingertips
  • Save the time and effort of making – and accessing – manual molds
  • Save the consistent costs of materials to make molds
  • Virtual molds save storage space from the physical molds

Looking for these features should help you find a great dental software solution for your dental clinic. For a patient experience platform that allows you to manage your practice with ease, check out NexHealth, which is specifically built for the dental service industry.

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