How to Use an Email Autoresponder to Provide a Better Patient Experience

It’s no surprise we live in a world where instant gratification rules the roost. Gone are the days when you’d go months … years even, without the correct answer to your latest burning question, or that brief touch-point from a friend who lives miles away. These rules are no different when it comes to business. Which had me thinking … how good are you at holding up your end of the bargain? When patients reach out to you and ask for your assistance, how quickly do you respond? And, do you respond with information they consider useful? If you want a feel for how you’re doing, the simplest way to find out is by looking at your automatic email responder. How does yours hold up? Do you even have one?

If you're asking yourself right now, "What's an automatic email responder?" I'm glad you're here! I'm also pretty sure you're familiar with what one is, because most of you must have used a vacation response or "out of office" message in the past. Those are auto-responders ... essentially, a pre-configured reply to certain types of messages that arrive in your office inbox. Here's how you can set up an email responder with Microsoft Outlook, for example. Auto responders help you reply to messages that require a quick response when you're not around, or too busy to get to the message immediately. They also save time so you're not having to type out each response individually. For a busy dental practice, they're a must. If you receive any sort of email from your website, you'll benefit from creating one...

Below you’ll see one of our favorites. Customize it. Make it your own. Make it the kind of communication you’d appreciate receiving.

“Hello, thank you for contacting us. All emails will be responded to on the next business day. Office hours are Monday-Thursday from 7:30am-3:30pm. If this is a dental emergency, please call 555-555-5555 and leave a message. If you need to cancel, change or make an appointment, please visit We’re always accepting new patients! Thank you for being a patient at our office.”

… a few important things about the above email worth noting

  1. It’s important to let patients know your office hours. This might seem like common sense (or maybe not worth it at all), but it’s a certain way to ensure those trying to reach you can do so when you’re more likely to be available. Don’t force patients to hunt around your website for office hours, just give it to them right off the bat.
  2. Give an option to deal with a dental emergency. Do you have a referring doctor you recommend, or an after-hours service?
  3. Offer a direct link to the appointment request page that lives on your website. Referencing this convenience is a good idea when creating your email and voicemail response. Now, more than ever, patients are looking to make their initial appointments online. Giving them the ability to do so is a win for them and a win for you.
  4. Want extra-special bonus points? If your office has a patient portal to pay bills and view records, you should include the web URL for patients to access that as well. Aside from booking appointments, these two requests are also common. And after all, who doesn’t love the idea of easing a patient’s ability to pay?!

Everyone appreciates knowing their email requests have been received and that someone is readying a response. Setting up an email responder helps you meet that demand. So, go for it. Aside from winning over patients, you’ll also be unburdening yet another communications channel, and that’s a win for everyone involved.

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Noble Vincent, Region Manager, RevenueWell