The pandemic was a bad time for teeth, according to the Washington Post. Those who could work from home brushed less because Zoom co-workers can’t smell bad breath. More stress caused clenching and jaw tension. Easy access to pantries meant more snacking. And on top of the less-than-healthy habits that were formed, patients skipped routine cleaning appointments because of pandemic safety concerns.

Now, those patients are returning to offices in droves, looking to get their cracked teeth fixed and cavities filled. That’s why it’s the perfect opportunity for your practice to create an outstanding patient experience to keep them coming back.

Offer patient scheduling online

Those who have avoided the dentist for a couple of years might be feeling anxious about returning. Maybe they have concerns about going maskless for an hour or so during their appointment. Perhaps they are ashamed of their lack of brushing and flossing. Letting patients schedule online on their own time will help put them at ease because it puts them in control of their dental experience.

But the benefits of online scheduling don’t stop there. Other benefits include:

  • Patients can book day and night, not just during business hours
  • Patients can choose from open times in a practice’s schedule
  • Practice managers spend less time on the phone scheduling appointments

The medical scheduling software industry is booming, further proof that this trend is overtaking all sectors of healthcare. Global medical scheduling software will grow from $234.8 million to $612.5 million over 8 years, according to research from Reports and Data.

As it stands, research from our report, The State of Dental 2022, shows that virtually all practices accept calls, but only 26% of practices accept online bookings. Practitioners have flagged this as a major area of growth, with 40% of those surveyed saying they plan to implement it in 2022.

Ditch physical appointment reminders

Whether your practice is sending appointment reminders by mail or handing them out in the office, it’s time to move to a digital format. There are a number of reasons paper reminders are ineffective. They are easily lost, costly, and add more work for administrative staff. Not to mention, millions of people moved during the pandemic, and the patient addresses you have on file may no longer be accurate.

Switching to text messages and email brings dental practices in line with consumer expectations. These days, customers get digital reminders about oil changes and restaurant reservations, so there’s no reason dentists shouldn’t follow suit. Text messages offer quick delivery and people usually open them. Meanwhile, email lets you send longer, more in-depth messages, and it’s easy to measure its performance, like open rates and the time people spend reading them.

Both of these methods also let patients reply to confirm or cancel an appointment. This helps reduce no-shows and makes for simpler schedule management.

Use technology to combat staffing shortages

The combination of the Great Resignation with short-term absences from COVID quarantines and isolations has been incredibly taxing for businesses. Patient experience platforms help automate administrative functions, like patient information collection and appointment waitlists, and can smooth over gaps in personnel.

Practices report that scheduling is one of the most time-intensive tasks for a dental office. More than 40% of dental practices spend three hours or more per day managing their schedules, per our research. And they’re facing the extra challenge of meeting increased demand in services alongside staffing turmoil.

“Dentistry may have ‘fully recovered’ in terms of employment levels—sheer numbers of employees in dental offices—but those employment numbers are no longer sufficient to meet the new demands of dental practice,“ according to an article from Dental Economics.” Practices are short-staffed.“

This is where patient management software can help by cutting down on the time a practice spends reaching out to patients and letting them focus on other essential daily duties.

Attract more patients with a patient engagement platform

The disruption COVID caused to the dental industry was profound. Now, providers have the opportunity to come back stronger. With many options for providers in your area, your practice will want to stand out and offer features that attract patients old and new. Digital conveniences, like online scheduling, are methods that lead to improved patient satisfaction. And patient engagement software like NexHealth puts all those features in a single platform. If you’re interested in learning more about what to look for in patient engagement software, download our report, the State of Dental 2022.

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