There’s no shortage of technology out there, making it easier than ever for doctors to automate their dental practices.
There’s a lot that goes into running a dental practice. From the front of the office down to the dentist, every member of the team is stacked with daily responsibilities.
Fortunately, as the dental industry evolves, there are ways to streamline operations through automation.
Automating your office doesn’t mean replacing anyone on the team. Rather, it makes life easier for all team members while also enhancing patient experience. And, in many cases, automated processes yield greater revenue.
With all the tools now available, there are certain areas of a practice that absolutely should be automated.
Ways to Automate Your Dental Practice
How efficient is your patient intake? If it involves a clipboard, then the process could certainly be better.
Electronic forms streamline so many areas of the front office that it’s incredible anyone would ever drag their heels in setting them up.
For one, e-forms enable patients to fill out the majority of their paperwork before ever setting foot in the office. This thins out lines at the reception desk. It also makes for a pretty sleek intake system.
And then there’s the fact that most electronic forms automatically sync with a practice’s PMS.
This alone shaves considerable time off the check-in process. Not to mention, it also eliminates any errors that may pop up due to transcribing illegible handwriting.
Some electronic forms can also “print to iPad,” which is a fancy way of saying that personalized treatment plans can be uploaded to a tablet where patients can sign on the spot.
Ultimately, digital forms are the most mainstream way to automate your practice.
We already have them everywhere, from insurance agencies to restaurants, so it only makes sense for e-forms also be in dental offices.
Social media can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s a proven way to market your practice. On the other hand, it can become a time suck if you’re not careful.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Healthgrades, Yelp … there’s already a laundry list of social media sites, and it feels like the number grows every day.
Taming social media is a two-step process.
Step One: define which outlets are best for your practice. Platforms like Facebook, Yelp, and Healthgrades are a must. From there things become situational.
Once you’ve determined the platforms you need it’s on to step two: automating the process.
As they’ve grown in scale, many of the social media sites have made it possible for you to schedule posts. This is invaluable when it comes to engaging with patients in a meaningful way.
If you manually tweeted, posted to Facebook, hit up Instagram, and then published something on LinkedIn, it would eat up half your morning.
Schedule Facebook posts in one chunk so you have a runway of content. Some practices schedule for a week, others a full month. The same goes for Twitter and Instagram.
When it comes to scheduling, there are several options. You can do it on-platform (i.e. through Facebook itself), with a third-party app such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, or through dental-specific technologies that have built-in libraries of already-created content.
Educated patients are often the best patients. They ask the proper questions, they’re genuinely invested in their oral health, and they are the most open to elective treatments.
Too often, though, patients simply aren’t educated enough. They sit down in the chair half-understanding what procedures they need. And with a stacked schedule, there’s only so much time the doctor or team members can spend on education.
Pamphlets and posters are great, but they’ll only take you so far.
That’s where dental programming comes in handy.
Whether broadcast in the waiting area, the oepratory, or both, platforms such as Dear Doctor or Patient Connect TV will ensure that your patients have all the proper information to make educated decisions.
Look at the day’s schedule and then dial up programming that’s pertinent to your treatments.
Now, educational television throughout the practice isn’t a substitute for the doctor or hygienist. Rather, it’s a supplement.
This programming primes the pump. It enables patients to think about their treatments and formulate questions prior to sitting in the chair.
Or, if they’re in the operatory, to learn more about follow-up procedures and not be caught off guard when you discuss next steps.
With the right programming, your practice can educate patients from the moment they step foot in the door through the moment they schedule their next appointment.
Recall and Reactivation
Recall and reactivation are the backbones of any thriving practice. After all, they’re how you get butts in the seat.
The only issue with this is that, when done properly, recall and reactivation campaigns are incredibly time-consuming.
You need to plan them out well in advance, engage with patients through numerous communication channels, send you messages in a variety of media, and keep a proper cadence.
A successful recall campaign might look like this:
- 30 Days Out
- Postcard that says, “Flossing is good, but it’s not enough.”
- 2 Weeks Out
- Email that says, “Don’t forget to schedule your cleaning.”
- 7 Days Out
- Text message that says, “You’re due for an exam.”
- Recall Date
- Tweet that says, “We have a last-minute opening!”
- 7 Days After
- Email that says, “You’re now past due.”
- 14 Days After
- Personalized letter titled, “3 reasons we need to see you.”
- 3 Months After
- Postcard with offer that says, “Free Sonicare toothbrush with your next exam and cleaning!”
As you can see, this campaign lasts for 120 days, it uses several channels of communication, and it doesn’t give up on the patient after they fail to show up for their appointment.
Without automation, a campaign like this isn’t necessarily impossible, but it’s certainly not probable. After all, that’s seven touch points for just one patient.
A more likely campaign for a practice that does manual recall is three postcards and out. Batch all the recall postcards together every month or two weeks, and hope for the best.
Practices that use some type of marketing software are able to get more patients in the chair simply because they run much more extensive recall and reactivation campaigns.
In today’s world it’s all about volume and reaching patients in the way they best prefer. They may not like traditional mail or Twitter, but that email caught them at the right time. As such, it led to an immediate appointment.
Manual recall isn’t just inefficient, it also leaves tons of revenue on the table. An automated system is better for both your team’s sanity and your practice’s bottom line.
Treatment Plan Follow-Ups
Automated treatment plan follow-ups are, perhaps, the perfect way to show patients just how much you care about their well-being.
Consider the following scenario: After finishing an extraction, you tell a patient how to care for herself while at home. As the patient checks out, a team member gives her a sheet of paper that also has care instructions. Then, as the patient is headed home, she receives an email follow-up from you, again laying out care instructions.
What’s this do?
Well, the initial instructions are personalized. They came from the doctor and therefore carry a certain weight.
The printed instructions reiterate the point in case pain or medication made the person a bit forgetful.
And then the emailed instructions ensure that, if the printed follow-up gets misplaced, the patient still has a record of what to do when she gets home.
This is decidedly better than the alternative scenario. One where your patient gets home, is in severe pain, and can’t, for the life of her, remember the doctor’s instructions because she was too groggy.
By automating follow-ups you effectively ensure patients are well cared for even after they leave your practice. It’s the top-notch patients experience that might not always be acknowledged, but is always appreciated.
Outside of electronic forms, a patient portal is the most intuitive, mainstream way to automate your practice.
It’s no different than all the other portals people visit on a daily basis.
There are online banking portals where folks check their accounts, credit card statements, and rewards cards.
There are also e-commerce portals, like Amazon, where people can handle all their shopping needs in one spot.
The patient portal is a place where patients can access their history and see how much they paid last visit. Some patient portals are even HIPAA-compliant, meaning patients can view x-rays and past treatments.
Patient portals give patients ownership of their accounts. They feel less in the dark knowing that, at any moment, they can access their medical records.
And while great for patients, patient portals are equally as good for your practice!
Think of all the time your front office will save by not having to answer phone calls about payments or record requests.
What’s more, patient portals accelerate cash flow and reduce costs associated with taking credit card payments over the phone.
The convenience presented to patients is paid off in spades with day-to-day operations within your practice.