If one good thing was to come from COVID-19 in terms of its effect on the dental community, it’s been the good practise in patient communication shown by many.
Now is a critical time for dentists while moving through the returning to work phase. With diaries filling back up and a race to see as many priority patients as possible, it’s important not to let the lessons in communication slip.
Here are some key lockdown learnings in communication that are worth remembering as we move ever closer towards normality:
Keep your finger on the pulse
Understanding what’s going on with current events in the world of dentistry and which new changes impact your patients most is key. The general public’s interest in health services during this time has soared, with dentistry being no exception.
Tales of DIY dentistry, lack of resource to meet public demand and shortages on PPE stopping practices from reopening are rife. You may have heard of, or experienced first-hand, the frustrations patients are facing with misinformation on what capacity they can visit you and the services you will be able to provide.
You can easily nip these frustrations in the bud early by pre-empting any changes that will be cause for concern to your patients. Address them straight away by communicating on social media, through mailings or preparing crib sheets to tackle awkward questions over the phone.
The personal touch always has more impact
Feedback from patients has indicated how impressed they’ve been with dentists who’ve contacted them personally on the phone.
A recent blog from our very own Gary Nelson discusses the topic of communicating to plan patients directly. In it, one dentist shares a patient’s reaction to his personal call that, ‘People are at home frightened to death by all the news feeds and that it was nice to know that somebody cared about them’.
Going the extra mile and speaking human to human is an excellent way of connecting with your patient base, encouraging loyalty throughout a turbulent period and ensuring you’re held in high regard by your patients.
Now is the time to consider whether there is a way to create a more personal communication strategy going forwards in your practice and exceed your patients’ expectations.
The importance of clear team communication
With so much uncertainty throughout lockdown, there has been a clear need for strong leadership and compassionate communication when it comes to the practice team.
Difficult discussions have taken place around furlough, the return to work and the ‘new normal’ in the day-to-day running of the practice. An empathetic approach is pivotal in successfully communicating change with the team.
Understanding which individual team members may be struggling with certain changes more than others or may be facing completely different challenges can only be achieved through communication. If you find a team member is being particularly difficult, raising it with them in a calm and empathetic way helps you reduce resistance and come up with solutions to any problems.
Digital communication is an undervalued tool
A saviour throughout lockdown for dental practices has been the potential to reach, support and communicate to patients through digital means.
Practices have learnt throughout lockdown that Facebook is not just a tool to advertise the practice to potential customers. It has provided an excellent platform to update, inform and provide dental services to current patients that otherwise would have come to a halt during lockdown.
With its capabilities to show and provide multiple media from infographics, videos, pictures and direct messaging, practices have had all the tools needed to keep in touch.
Alongside Facebook, the ability to provide online consultations is one of the more futuristic approaches to dentistry that patients have been waiting for.
This newly utilised tool has a return benefit for the practice in that it has the potential to increase treatment uptake by removing barriers for patients. For example, patients may have been put off from enquiring about treatment due to having to complete a consultation at the practice first. However, they may be more inclined to go ahead if they can carry out the consultation from the comfort of their own home.
In times of hardship, we’re naturally inclined to find innovative solutions when new challenges are thrown our way. Seeing the potential of these solutions for the longer term, when those obstacles have been removed, gives you the potential to stand apart from your competition and exceed patient expectations.
You can find out in more detail about each of these communication lessons through our COVID-19 Resource Hub at https://covid.practiceplangroup.co.uk/resources.
Suki Singh has been a Regional Support Manager at Practice Plan, the UK’s leading provider of practice-branded patient membership plans for 10 years and has 14 years’ experience in the dental industry. Our team of experienced professionals has supported over 1,500 dental practices to transform the profitability of their business through the combination of a well-populated plan and personalised support including marketing, business advice, events and training. If you’re looking for more from your provider, call 01691 684165 or visit change.practiceplan.co.uk