Let’s take a step back in time to when phones still had coiled cords, movies were watched with VCRs, and the internet didn’t exist. I’m talking about the 1980s. After serving in the Army, my Dad bought his dental practice from a retiring dentist in Silicon Valley in 1984. Whenever he wasn’t at the office, he always had his pager with him. Remember, the old 2 x 3 inch black pagers? That pager was his lifeline—he used it to receive a page from the answering service anytime a patient had an emergency. Anyone else remember those days of old-school patient communication?
Let’s break down the 1980s communication process between a practitioner and a patient during off-hours. The patient calls the practice and hears a voicemail stating the office is closed. However, the answering service phone number is given if the patient is in pain and feels the need to speak to a practitioner. The patient then hangs up the phone and calls the answering service working for the practice. The answering service collects the patient's name, phone number and records the details of the patient’s condition. The answering service then pages the practitioner (Are you getting tired yet?). The practitioner receives a page and finds a pay phone to call the answering service to collect the patient’s information and condition. The practitioner finally calls the patient to hear their concerns and decide on a course of action. Of course, that’s assuming the practitioner could find a phone and the patient was home when they received the call. That’s a messy and complex communication process with lots of room for error.
Fast-forward to 2018. In the U.S., 77 percent of the population owns a smartphone. According to Gallup, texting became the most used form of communication in 2007. Communicating has never been easier. Practitioners can “carry their practice in their pocket.” They can easily communicate with patients with their smartphone and patient relationship management software. Patients can text the practices landline any time and practitioners and their staff can text back using their computer or smartphone. The best part is texting is the preferred form of communication for 79 percent of patients. Practices can send a personalized, warm text quickly and easily to their patients. Thankfully for everyone, the days of beepers, pay phones and playing “phone tag” are over. Communicating with your patients has never been simpler with the right technology.
Many elements to a dental, vision or medical practice have increased in complexity. No longer can they buy an ad in the yellow pages or send a direct mailer and expect to get more patients. In 2018, practices have to consider SEO, PPC, social media, newsletters, website design, etc. Each digital marketing channel changes almost daily. Medical insurance is always changing and evolving. It's more complex than ever before for practice staff members and patients. Working with insurance companies and solving coverage questions can be time consuming for your practice. Unfortunately, this isn’t likely to change any time soon. Treatment best practices and technology continue to change rapidly. Although advancements may save your practice time in the long run, it still takes resources to stay educated and keep up with industry changes. These are just three examples of complexities practices are facing, but communicating with patients is not one of them.
Practices should be armed with simple tools to communicate with patients. It’s one less thing practitioners and staff members need to worry about. Patient relationship management technology can increase patient satisfaction while decreasing gray hairs when used appropriately. Time saved using the right communication tools can be used on more complex areas. Take advantage of text messaging and communication automation. Simplify life for practices and patients.
For some additional tips on making life easier in your practice read "30 Awesome Patient Communication Tips from Practices Like Yours."