We’re living in unprecedented times. In just a few short weeks our lives have been completely turned upside down. Over that short time, we have come to understand just how much the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is changing our world by how it has affected our personal lives and our businesses. Understandably, we are not only experiencing anxiety over our current reality, but we are also concerned about what that means for the future.
Running your dental practice may be difficult to navigate given our current situation. In order to keep your patients and employees happy and healthy, consider these suggestions for getting through this tough time, and best practices for staying in touch with your patients.
- Be proactive in response to COVID-19.
Your office should follow the CDC’s recommendations of postponing elective surgeries, procedures, and non-essential visits to limit the exposure of your patients. According to Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake, M.D., “one of the best ways to prevent the spread of viral illness is to minimize the circumstances in which individuals may interact and transmit disease.”
- Train your front desk staff on how to handle your patients when they call.
Most of your patients who are calling will likely be cancelling and trying to reschedule their appointment, or worried about a dental emergency they are experiencing. Ensure your team is attentive and remains calm when talking with your patients. Your front desk staff should be trained in what is considered a dental emergency in order to offer the best help possible under current restrictions. They should continue to alleviate any concerns your patient has about contracting the coronavirus if treatment is necessary.Some pain points to watch out for during this time are high call volumes, lost productivity, and stress. Adopting a phone script may be beneficial to both your patients and front desk workers. By learning and understanding a script for this specific situation, your front desk staff can help to answer questions faster, more consistently, and improve the overall customer experience.
- Community participation and outreach
With everyone feeling a little helpless, take some time to engage with your community in any way that your practice can. Donate supplies that aren’t needed to local hospitals and nursing homes. Offer any extra gloves, masks, or preventative supplies that may help to stop the spread of the virus. Even consider offering members of your community – who can’t afford dental care – affordable dental options once this is all over. Unfortunately, a large number of your patients will come out of this situation unemployed or financially unable to afford dental care.
As we are now learning, it is more important than ever that we stay at home and follow our local shelter-in-place orders — for the safety of ourselves and others we come into contact with. With limited and restrictive patient contact, you will need to rely more heavily on social media platforms for communicating and keeping in touch with your patients.
Each state has issued their own form of protective measures to keep their citizens safe from the coronavirus and slow it’s progression. Colorado for example has issued a state-wide stay-at-home order and allows members to leave their homes only for crucial activities. Their governor, Jared Polis, states that citizens “have the chance to be a hero and save thousands of lives by staying at home.” So as many other states follow suit, your patients will be better reached through media outlets. Some ways for you to keep in touch with your patients as they stay inside include:
- Send a letter to inform your patients. Describe the current status of your business operations during the outbreak.
- Share educational resources on your website. These will help them better understand the gravity of the pandemic and your limited business operations.
- Keep in touch using email. Create an email campaign that educates patients about preventative care, good hygiene, and at-home treatments. Don’t be salesy! This is a time for compassion.
- Create content for your social media to stay in touch. Be proactive on social media. By having a comfortable and familiar platform to keep up with what you are doing, your patients are more likely to stay engaged and be committed to your practice well beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
Following these tips can help you stay in communication with your patients, while building trust and loyalty (and promoting good hygiene!). It’s going to take everyone’s collective effort to combat the virus and maintain the safety of our local communities. Stay safe and well!