As we approach the last two months of the year, schedules become full as holiday time eats into available office hours and patients rush to utilize their year-end benefits. So how can you keep patients who may be less ‘patient’ happy while managing a limited schedule?
Know what patients find frustrating
It is frustrating to patients when an appointment experience is not what was expected. Having to make decisions they were not prepared for, experiencing problems they didn’t expect, or not leaving with an outcome they assumed increases patient stress and reduces their perception of your endodontic practice. And not being able to offer attractive appointment options because of a full schedule only increases their dissatisfaction.
“The more your patients clearly understand what to expect from their appointment and prepare for it the better chance they have of having a good experience.”
Reduce their frustration and help them prepare
Prepare your patients for their potential costs ahead of time. Even without a formal treatment plan, it’s possible to give patients a sense of what costs they may be facing in many cases. You can do this by quoting your patients a range of costs, or quote them a consultative cost plus a high side feel for what similar treatments have cost others if the treatment can be completed the same day.
If your schedule allows for same day treatment, ask them if they want it instead of assuming it. Some patients may have anxiety and not wish same day treatment. Others may want same day treatment but want to know beforehand in order to psychologically prepare.
If your schedule doesn’t allow for same day treatment, tell them beforehand.
For those patients wanting treatment as fast as possible, emphasize that completing new patient paperwork before appointment time is crucial for prompt appointments and increases the chance of same-day treatment.
Ask your referring practices to include the patient’s insurance policy information in the notes section of the referral form upon submission. Patients often struggle to obtain and relay their insurance information and most general dentist offices already have this information. Emphasize to your referring practices that your priority is to treat their patient as soon as possible and providing as much patient information as possible helps you do that.
Clarity and preparation make the difference with patients
Nobody likes surprises. The more your patients clearly understand what to expect from their appointment and prepare for it the better chance they have of having a good experience. Start by utilizing these simple tips and survive the holiday rush successfully!
Every quarter it’s time to treat our referring offices to a care package to thank them for referring patients.
But before falling prey to the same old marketing habits, perhaps we should ask ourselves how much impact giving donuts or cookies with a quick ‘thank you’ really makes to our referrers:
•Is it of meaningful, memorable value to them?
•Does it help you stand out?
•Does it increase their confidence in your skills or patient care?
•Does it help them feel heard, that you are always looking to improve the service you provide them and that they matter?
A thank you is always good, but if it doesn’t accompany anything of meaningful substance or value, is it really making an impact on them and influencing their referring decision?
We performed a brief survey to find out how referring general dentist offices feel about quarterly care packages. The results may surprise you.
We asked both general dentists and their administrative staff what they find most influential in their referring decision to an endodontic practice and endodontist. Care packages? CE courses? Personal visits from a specialist? Biannual parties?
General Dentists emphasized prompt referral follow-up reporting as having the most direct influence on their referral decision. They also indicated that specialists who provided thought leadership and educational opportunities through CE courses strongly stood out to them.
Administrative staff noted ease and efficiency in the referral process — having an easy, secure way to get information to specialists, being kept informed of progress of specialist care, and receiving prompt, proactive follow-up reporting — strongly influenced which specialist they prefer working with. They also indicated meeting a specialist office’s team in-person helped them build close, trusting, and long-term relationships between offices.
Your referrers are the source of your patients, the source of your business. Instead of mindlessly following the latest marketing lore, consider doing things that can bring them meaningful value and help your office really stand out.
When visiting your referrers ask questions. “How can we make your referral process easier?” “How can we improve the care we provide your patients?” “How can we make it easier and more efficient for you?” Listen carefully to their responses, take note, then extend a personal email or phone number and take action to follow-up on their requests.When we asked general dentist offices what most specialists did when visiting, every participant answered “They gave us a care package, said thank you for referring patients, and left” and nothing else. Asking questions can help you gain valuable insights into how you can better serve your referrers, tells them powerfully that they matter to you, and can help your office dramatically stand out.
You, the doctor, visit personally, and bring key members of your team along if you can. An appearance by the doctor strongly tells the referrer they matter. And even if the visit ends up being short, seeing you and your team in person helps the general dentist staff associate smiling faces and warmth with your office and establish stronger ties.
Consider hosting a CE course by inviting a dental market professional to speak. Introduce your office and staff in the first part of the presentation, educating them on the latest technology and techniques you offer patients.
These simple ideas can make your marketing investments more impactful and increase your return. It’s not the ‘donuts’ that deliver the impact. It’s the substance that you provide when making the delivery.
First impressions are important and having a great front office staff can make or break an endodontic practice. Yet are you doing all you can to help your front office staff thrive?
By taking time to listen to your staff and taming mundane tasks, you can turn your front office staff into customer care rockstars and ultimately help your practice grow.
Take Time to Listen
The first step to turning your front office staff into rockstars is to take the time to listen to their concerns, frustrations, and successes on a regular basis.
As the people who interact with your systems, referrers, and patients most closely on a daily basis, your front office staff best know what is going well with your office and things that could be improved. As a result, they are the perfect resource to let you know how your practice is really going. While it’s easy to get defensive when told that things aren’t going exactly right, shutting down open communication will ultimately hurt staff morale and thwart your practice’s growth.
In contrast, setting aside time each week to allow for an open discussion will keep the ideas flowing and help staff feel like their contribution truly matters. In addition, having these open conversations will identify the pain points that are holding your practice — and great customer service — back.
Identify Pain Points…And Do Something About It
There is nothing more demotivating then when the mundane tasks start piling up, impacting your ability to interact with patients and effectively do your job. Yet all too often, the first symptoms of pain points in your office management appear when something goes wrong and staff performance takes a negative turn.
This can often come out unintentionally in stressed-out staff as less than stellar customer service to patients and referrers.
Yet while it may be easier to chalk it up to just a staffer’s bad mood or an unusually hard day, in reality, who can blame them when they occasionally are a little short given the juggling act that each front office staffer is tasked with each day.
The front office serves as the nerve center of an entire endodontic practice. At one moment, the front office could be on the phone dealing with an upset patient, making certain all the pre-appointment paperwork is done for another, all while another phone line rings and a general dentist is calling about a referral or needs information right now.
Now, add in a trying patient standing at their desk wondering why it is taking so long to be seen and a subpar appointment software that requires one too many user clicks on their desktop computer to get anything done and you have a virtual recipe for a daily disaster and frayed nerves.
While making sure that your front office staff has good customer service training to help better deal with these tense moments when they occur is no doubt also key, by identifying your practice’s pain points — the things that are not working in your office and creating repeated staff stress — you can create a work environment that allows front office staff to put your patients first.
Taming the Mundane
First of all, it is important to recognize that no matter what, there are times when the front office will remain hectic.
As long as you have patients in your lobby, some are bound to get impatient when waiting for care. As long as you have an office phone, there is bound to be times when everyone seems intent on calling at once.
Yet, by taming the mundane tasks of the front office by putting more efficient, endodontic-specific management systems in place, front office workers will have more time to deal with these moments of stress and focus on handling patients’ needs.
The key is finding a front office management system that minimizes mundane work and ultimately works for them.
Improving Patient Intake and Referral Flow
There are a number of ways an integrated office management system will ultimately improve your office’s workflow and free up staff’s time.
To reduce patient stress on appointment day, consider implementing a system that allows new and existing patients to access forms electronically before they arrive for their appointment instead of handing them a bunch of paper forms when they arrive.
Dental EMR, a cloud-based dental endodontic practice management software, for example, makes this pre-appointment exchange of information easy and easy to be completed before appointment day. Giving patients simple — and secure — access to forms and information before they arrive means one less thing for them to worry about on appointment day and keeps nerves and stress at bay.
For busy front office staff, it also means one less thing to juggle when a new patient arrives and less time the patient has to wait before their appointment begins, saving both time and ultimately money. Also since electronic new patient paperwork is submitted online and fully integrated within Dental EMR, office staff are not required to manually enter information, reducing transcription error and liability.
Likewise, implementing a system that allows referring dentists to have all they need to provide referrals directly from a secure portal on the web, like Dental EMR’s, reduces the pre-appointment back-and-forth between referrer and your office, saving time for all involved. You see, by granting you the ability to provide your referring dentists with richer information related to the care you provided via the Dental EMR referrals portal, multiple reports, secure bi-directional images and files, Dental EMR enables you to stand out and gives your referring dentist more reasons to refer to you than others.
Easier Scheduling and Reminders
An ineffective scheduling system is a common source of stress in endodontic offices. Having a subpar system in place, though, ultimately costs time and money and increases staffer stress and burnout. This is compounded when the system does not easily integrate with an efficient means to provide pre-appointment reminders to patients, a must to keep your daily schedule on track.
Given the fact that missed appointments can easily cost a practice thousands of dollars a year, investing in an up-to-date management system like Dental EMR is an easy and cost-effective means to help your front end staff spend less time behind their computers scheduling and more time interacting with your patients. For instance through Dental EMR’s appointment reminder feature, even if it helps you prevent 3 Root Canal No-Shows per month at an average of $1000.00 per visit, your endodontic office could potentially save $3000/month or $36,000 saved per year.
“Dental EMR is an easy and cost-effective means to help your front end staff spend less time behind their computers scheduling and more time interacting with your patients”
While identifying pain points and implementing an office management system will no doubt improve the workflow and work lives of your front desk staff, taming the mundane will ultimately free your front desk staffers from administrative staff and allow them to focus on the well-being and care of your patients and referring dentists.
This means a better experience for patients, better feedback from the patient to the referring dentists, more word of mouth referrals and referring dentists that are willing to work with your team again and again.
In other words, taking the time to focus on listening to your front desk staff and finding solutions for the pain points is ultimately an investment not only in your staff but for your entire practice, and one that will ultimately pay dividends with improved customer care, rockstar front staffers and a practice that is not only thriving but growing.
The concept of trust is important specifically in the world of healthcare because in most occurrences, there are levels of uncertainty and risk for the vulnerable patient who is reliant on the competency of their healthcare professional.
Dental practices today may have more of an issue maintaining trust and lasting patient relations than ever before. Through our technology-driven world and social media influence, patients may be subject to the whirlwind of gossip where the shocking and indignant stories rise to the top; therefore, lessening their trust in their dentists.
One negative review can stick like glue, swaying patient trust before the relationship even begins. Some referring dentists can be $100,000 worth of production per year to an endodontist due to the volume of their referrals. The last thing your endodontic practice can afford is losing one of your main referrals due to a bad review or negative experience from a patient. Dental EMR allows a quick and convenient way to promote your practice’s reputation online and manage reviews to avoid the stigma of an over-hyped Google Review.
Building trust is critical for the patient experience. Unfortunately, trust can be fragile and evanescent. It can be either eroded or heightened in an instant. It is important that the endodontist and dental providers understand the individual and what aspects of trust are important to them. For example, a patient might be concerned on why this practice is the best choice for them and their family. In that case, it is up to the practice to assess what aspects are important to them.
In the dentist-patient relationship, trust is established in many ways. One of the ways trust is built is the assurance that their personal information will be kept confidential. With Dental EMR’s secure, cloud-based endodontic practice management software, a patient’s appointment times, dental records, and referrals are kept private and secure.
Another factor of trust is that recommended procedures are in the patient’s best interest, not the practice. The dental professional wants to ensure they are expressing the care and benefit factor rather than a sales pitch.
Building trust with your patient also coincides with valuing and respecting their time. When they take time out of their day then spend most of it sitting and waiting, it disrespects their time and damages that vital patient value.
An important thing to think about when looking to improve dentist-patient relationships is looking at your process and how you can advance it. What little changes could your practice make that could remove frustrations for your patients? Could you shorten the time between arrival and being seen? Could you speed up the pre-appointment paperwork? Maintaining thorough communication with patients is also a significant way of sustaining trust. And fortunately for dentists and endodontists, Dental EMR is the most convenient software to improve a countless number of these aspects. Dental EMR provides a simple mechanism to remind patients of their appointments, rather than an unnecessary phone call from the receptionist. It also provides more convenience and easy management for the practices themselves; therefore, allowing for more focus on patient care.
Building Trust in your Endodontic Patients and Referring Dentists – Dental EMR for Endodontic Practices delivers on that!
Good communication doesn’t just involve the communication about upcoming appointments and overdue x-rays, but also the active listening and remembering of the personal lives of your patients. Building a personal connection goes just as far with your patients as a professional one. Rather than asking, “What are you majoring in at school?” for the fourth visit in a row, “How’s business school going?” will make a patient feel special and considered; therefore, establishing more trust.
Communication is a science and an art that requires substantial skill. It is not just about what we saw, but how we say it. How we say something results in how it is interpreted. It is how we behave, the way we listen, and how we relate.
That personal connection and quality time spent with your patient will create a certain trust and also a more enjoyable experience. When a patient gets the sense they are just a dollar sign in the eyes of the dentist, he or she will withdraw his faith in them.
Client feedback is also one of the imperative ways to not only gain trust, but also maintain it. There is something so humbling about wanting genuine feedback, whether it is positive or negative. This will show your client that you care about the quality of your work and if they are satisfied or not and that you are committed to meeting and exceeding expectations. It also shows that you are open to learning and growing as a professional and a practice as a whole.
One of the most pressing issues that dentist should closely attend to is the issue of patient involvement in the treatment decision-making process. Offering more thorough explanations, details about costs, and specified consultations will likely lead to a greater willingness to participate. Some reasons why patients put off going through with certain treatments may include high costs and the amount of time it may take to do it. Given this, it is important to always be clear and straightforward with your patients about what exactly the treatment or procedure entails. If you fail to do this, patients will be left feeling blindsided, disrespected, and taken advantage of. Dentists should always act with fairness and truthfulness, and in the patient’s best interest.
Dental EMR is focused on their customers by keeping the behind the scene processes simple and convenient. By allowing dental practices to store records accessibly and efficiently, it allows the physicians to spend more quality time on customer satisfaction. The e-prescriptions and e-payments accessible through Dental EMR not only assist physicians, but also make things simpler and quicker for the patients, all while also keeping things secure and confidential. The goal is to free up the physician’s time so they can free up their customer’s time.
At the end of the day, knowing how to create that trust starts with word of mouth, which comes from treating patients how you would want them to treat you if roles were reversed. And although dentists are still highly respected and widely trusted by the majority of the populace, there is still much work that can be done to instill a greater sense of trust into their patients and to improve the patient-dentist relationship. Moreover, to ensure a successful relationship, continuity of satisfaction, and customer retention, dentists need to focus on building a strong sense of trust that infiltrates all aspects of dentist-patient interactions and ensure that at the end of the day, the patient is being valued.
General dentists are looking for endodontic offices to refer to. Patients are looking to see who does endodontic treatments in their area and who is best. It’s not enough to have a good website for your endodontic practice. Your customers also have to be able to find you online, and they find you by online searches.
Are they finding you?
In the past, websites would tell search engines how to be found by providing the search keywords they should be listed under, but those days are long gone. Now search engines regularly ‘read’ the content on each website and decide for themselves, based on each website’s content and other criteria, which websites should be included in search results for each unique user search.
Your website’s search ranking matters
Being included in results for searches by potential customers doesn’t, however, mean they can find you because the order of websites in results strongly affects their ‘visibility’ to searchers. Those at the top of the first page of search results, for example, are seen by the most searchers, whereas those farther down the list, especially on subsequent pages, are seen by far fewer. The order of results, or their ranking, also can affect their perceived credibility. Those ranked near first in order are often perceived as ‘largest’, ‘major’, ‘industry leaders’, and therefore potentially more ‘trusted’. Further, major search engines like Google also group local, similar businesses together then show only the first few business with the highest ranking.
Regular, new content improves ranking
While search engines use a complex set of criteria to determine search result rankings, a major determining factor is how dynamic each website’s content is. Adding fresh, relevant content frequently can improve a website’s search ranking.
How often to add fresh, relevant content to a business website to provide a meaningful boost in its ranking depends on the number of competitors that also show up in search results.
General dentists have many competitors in each local area. To meaningfully improve their search order ranking, it is not uncommon for them to have to provide fresh, relevant content to their website on at least a weekly basis.
In contrast, there are fewer specialty dental providers like endodontists in these same local areas. In fact, it is not uncommon for an entire mid-sized market to have a number of endodontic practices on the order of tens instead of hundreds. As a result, monthly postings of fresh, relevant content on an endodontic website can provide a meaningful boost to its search rankings, moving it towards being in the top few results.
Climb to the Top and Be Seen
Winning customers requires both having the right message, then getting it to them. Help general dentists and patients looking for endodontists to find you by both being included in their search results and as close to the top of the results as possible. For your endodontic practice, adding new content on a monthly basis is usually sufficient to move you towards the top. After all, if you’re not at the top, someone else will be.