6 Best Practices for an Online Front Desk

When we talk about the power of online technologies to transform today’s practice, the discussion often revolves around patient engagement: anything from social media marketing to text message recare notifications to automatic treatment plan follow-ups.

But what happens after you current or prospective patient says “I do” and wants to schedule their appointment? Does your front desk continue to impress? Do you provide a high-tech, high-touch experience that delights the patient every step of the way? Today’s consumers are fluent in Web technologies, are always online and are instantly available for meaningful interaction. Increasingly, they’re expecting dental teams to meet them half way.

Here are some best practices that will help you WOW your patients before they ever step into your office and have them referring their friends and family after each appointment:

  • Let patients request their appointments online. This seems simple, and it’s certainly not a hard feature to implement on your website or your social media page, but even a simple appointment request form may get you appointments you wouldn’t have otherwise scheduled. A big chunk of online searches for dental services occurs after business hours, and even your existing patients may not get around to calling you until after they get out from work. The last thing you want is for someone to keep putting off seeing you just because they can’t speak to a live person when it’s convenient to them.
  • Confirm patient appointments using email and text messages. Much has been said about the efficiency of automatic appointment confirmations, and the benefits your office can recognize with these perfectly timed, consistent appointment communications. Now to the part that really matters: that’s exactly what your patients want as well. In recent surveys 90+ percent of all patients said they’d rather get an email or a text message than a disrupting phone call at dinner time. Fewer and fewer people have land lines these days, and fewer and fewer cell phones are made for talking (good luck operating some of the late model devices with one hand) – so electronic confirmations are all the rage. The good news is that an average patient will usually respond to a text message within minutes of receiving one – compared with hours in response to a voicemail you leave them.
  • Let patients access their account online. The importance of this becomes obvious when you think about every other service provider relationship your patients have in their lives. Think about their banks, utilities, telecom providers and insurance companies. Every one of these has an online portal where one can log in and get the information one needs in real time. Ironically enough, your average patient’s relationship with you is a lot more personal than that with their insurance agent, yet you’re likely lagging in the self-service tools that you offer. Truth is, your patients would rather go online than call you for appointment & transaction histories, treatment details and financing applications – and you would save a good deal of time by giving them exactly what they want.
  • Give patients a way to pay their bills online. There are two good reasons to develop this capability. One is that this is the next big thing patients want after online access to their accounts. The other is that it benefits your practice tremendously through higher collections and shorter cash cycles. Being able to log in and make a payment with a couple clicks upon getting the bill (without the hassle of envelopes, checks and stamps) can mean the bill is paid next to instantly rather than ending up in a pile of other mail on the countertop.
  • Send out automatic post-op instructions. This isn’t something that’s easy to implement yourself, and this isn’t something your patients expect – which is why it’s a HUGE wow factor for them. A system like RevenueWell can scan your practice management software for services you walk out after each appointment and instantly send out customized post-op instructions for common procedures like fillings, crowns and root canals. Besides the obvious health benefit to your patients, this kind of follow-up means that the last thing they remember from their visit isn’t the discomfort or you asking them for money – but the personal follow-up at time when it matters most.
  • Systematically ask patients for feedback. One of the best ways to improve your patient experience is to actually ask your patients what they think. Trouble is, surveying your patients in the office is cumbersome, and it often produces skewed results by virtue of a staff member administering the survey. One of the common best practices of late is having a computer system automatically send out surveys after each patient’s appointment, asking them to rank your practice across criteria that are important to you. Such timely feedback may help you identify blind spots in how you run your practice and address any issues before they become widespread.