6 Tips to Avoid Losing Dental Appointments During COVID-19
Cancellations or skipped appointments can happen for any reason. As COVID-19 continues to impact business across the country, it’s important to have a process in place that will help eliminate appointment cancellations and encourage rescheduling. As you reach out to patients over the next few days, keep in mind these 6 tips that can help you build trust with your patients and remind them of the value of coming in for a future anointment.
1. Communicate Constantly
Don’t leave your patients in the dark. The less they know, the more hesitant they might become, and uncertainty leads to canceled or skipped appointments.
Be clear with your patients about the changes you are making to practice hours, sanitization efforts, waiting room regulations, etc. Let patients know what you are doing now and what they can expect in the coming weeks.
You may not have all the answers, but the more information you can provide, the more confidence your patients will have in your practice and your team.
- Reach out to patients with upcoming appointments and instruct them on what to expect or how to reschedule (if necessary)
- Greet patients as they come in for their appointment and give them an outline of what to expect during their visit
- Send out (via text, email or social media) notices about sterilization and sanitization efforts you are making in your practice to ensure their safety.
Please Note: At this time Swell, our automated reviews partner, is offering a free 60-day communication package through their Webchat expansion. Free tools in the package include pre-screenings online, remote waiting rooms and various options for keeping patients informed. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information!
2. Don’t “Cancel”, Just “Reschedule”
If your practice is limiting the number of appointments you are accepting — whether you’re reducing appointments, seeing emergencies only or closing your practice doors — avoid sending out a notice that states “appointments will be canceled.” Instead, let your patients know that their appointment time will be changing and you will be in touch to determine when the rescheduled appointment will take place.
If patients receive notice of a canceled appointment, they may not make it a priority to reschedule. A simple rephrasing can help avoid the loss of patient appointments and keep your busy schedule for your return to normal hours.
3. Remind Patients That Oral Health Is Still Important
As COVID-19 is impacting us all in different ways, we naturally all have a lot on our minds. Patients likely won’t feel that coming into the dentist is at the top of the priority list. Instead of trying to convince them of how essential dental care is, let your patients know that you care about their well-being and how their lives are being affected while also offering a soft reminder to keep up with daily hygiene and maintain routine checkups where possible. This could be done in the form of a social media post or automated text and look something like this:
We are thinking of you/our patients during this time and hope that you are staying safe and healthy! Keep those smiles shining bright and we hope to see you back in our office soon! We can make it through this together!
4. Keep Your Current Patients A Priority
If you’re closing your practice doors, the last thing you want is your patients to feel is closed off. Let your patients know they can still reach out during this time for emergencies, even if they can’t come in for a visit. Give them contact information where they can reach someone if the office will be closed and let them know what kind of help they can expect to receive.
This kind of information can also be communicated via automated text messages, emails or social media posts. Even if your patients won’t need to contact you over the next few weeks, letting them know you are there is the best way to show how much you truly care about their well-being.
5. Offer “Over-the-Phone Care” When Possible
If your office is still open, some patients may not feel comfortable coming in for an appointment. If your office is closed, patients can’t come in for an appointment. No matter your office’s current hours, a great way to keep your patients’ best interests at heart and keep them from looking for another practice to go to is to offer over-the-phone care for any non-emergency treatments, such as loose crowns, lost fillings, etc. Give advice on how to temporarily handle these situations until your patients can come into the office for treatment. You can even schedule a future checkup, if appropriate, on the call. Patients will want to know they can turn to you at all times. This will show them that they can and keep them from turning elsewhere.
6. Have A Plan For When Regular Business Resumes
The current state of things won’t last forever. Practices will reopen and business will resume as normal. Having a plan in place for how to resume regular business will give you a head start to filling up your schedule and getting things back to normal.
- Be Proactive in Scheduling Missed Appointments – If patients are having to cancel or miss appointments due to limited hours or practice closure, don’t hesitate to reach out and get those appointments moved to a later day. The sooner you start contacting your currently scheduled patients, the less forgotten they feel and the better chance you have of getting them to come back in.
- Schedule New Appointments – If patients call in with questions or concerns, offer as much help as you can but also schedule a future appointment when necessary. If you don’t feel comfortable setting an exact appointment date, let them know that you will reach out in a week or so to check in on how they are feeling and to schedule a future appointment if it is still needed.
- Consider Incentives – Just like you might for an overdue or inactive patient, offering incentives to bring your patients back through the doors might be a good idea. This could come in the form of special offers, open houses, or patient contests. For tips and ideas of how to offer incentives, reach out to your Ascent Account Strategist.
- Have a Future Marketing Plan in Place – In the coming weeks, it’s likely that a recession of some form will hit, impacting both patients and practices alike. The best way to navigate through a difficult time is to have a solid plan in place to boost marketing efforts and bring patients back into the practice. Marketing strategies that could be beneficial to your practice include: sending out postcards, creating a PPC campaign, Facebook advertising, and creating internal marketing tools to help build value with your patients coming back to the practice.
The actions you take right now will be vital to determining what happens to the growth of your practice in the coming months. Our team at Ascent Practice Growth Strategies can help your team navigate these difficult times and create a strategic marketing plan to retain patients now and grow your practice in the future. To learn more, visit AscentPGS.com or call 1-888-401-0650 to speak to a marketing representative.