Two essential tools you can adopt NOW
By Dr. Greg Grillo
Our teams show up every day focused on giving their best to serve patients. Without them, we’re like performers without a supporting cast: We simply can’t deliver the skills that change lives.
But we also know that it hasn’t become easier to find trained, compassionate staff members in 2020. Respondents to ongoing surveys by the American Dental Association show that hiring qualified hygienists and assistants is currently very or extremely challenging.
We may never understand the complexities of this year, including the struggle to find and keep qualified dental personnel. This challenge, like COVID-19, may not even go away in the year ahead. But the people around us have always been “essential workers” to us. We know they’re our first customers, and some of them feel just as anxious as our patients. We must do everything in our power to attract, engage, and serve our teams as we navigate more uncharted waters.
Steps we take to reassure our patients can reassure our staff, too. Every effort to protect our teams helps them stay healthy and reminds them how much we value their wellbeing. Besides, absentee staff members add more stress to the practice. With COVID-19 quarantine rules still in effect and cold and flu season upon us, we must do everything we can to protect our collective health.
Consider contactless communications. Your patients already have.
In 2020, we follow the strictest protocols ever adopted in healthcare. Dentistry’s diligence shows: there’s not a single reported COVID-19 outbreak attributed to a dental office in the U.S. to date–not ONE. With an estimated 189,000 offices in the country, we’re protecting and serving our communities at the highest level.
But today, we can do even better.
Technology gives us opportunities to streamline communication and remove touchpoints throughout the patient journey. Patients love it, and your staff wins, too. Efficiency increases and cash flow improves. Above all, your team enjoys enhanced protection and less stress. Taking care of our “first customers” ensures our patients receive first-class service.
The unprecedented rate of change in our practices can be overwhelming to all of us. We juggle a careful balancing act between many pieces. But inertia can be more dangerous. If we’re standing still, someone down the street is moving ahead. With fewer qualified dental personnel in the market, patients may not be the only ones that notice.
Look for a balance between adoption and implementation. Choose the most impactful tools, put them into action, then move to the next piece. If you’re unsure where to start, pick those components that protect your staff and your patients the most. Here are two manageable pieces that deserve your attention now: 1. Teledentistry : The virtual healthcare train left the station in 2019, but it’s reaching full-speed in 2020. While just 8% of people had tried a virtual visit last August, over 50% had attended one a year later. Furthermore, 83% of people report they plan to utilize virtual visits in the future. Dentistry’s hands-on approach ensures a screen won’t replace us any time soon. But teledentistry deserves a place on your team. The possibilities are endless, and the contactless feature is self-evident. Consider this situation: Mrs. Jones lives an hour away and can’t get a ride to your office today. But she has facial swelling and a sore tooth. She also indicates she has a pending COVID test. You jump on a virtual visit, talk face-to-face, ask her a few questions, observe her appearance, and decide to send an antibiotic prescription to her pharmacy. You also schedule her for a day later in the week. You’ve served your patient and removed one more risk for your team. 2. Paperless Forms : Paper charting continues to fade, but many offices still use traditional forms. And physical documents create unexpected inefficiencies throughout the delivery of care. For example, admin personnel can’t locate paper health charts at 30% of medical visits. Electronic records help eliminate problems from start to finish. But a hybrid model of paper and digital still defines the mode of operation in most dental practices. Patients may take a clipboard and pen from a staff member to fill out intake paperwork. The clipboard and pen go back to the team, and forms are handed off to other staff members for scanning or transport into the operatory. The touchpoints that occur dozens of times each day raise disease transmission risk, including for the common cold. Consider this alternative scenario: Brian schedules his first appointment and receives a link to a patient portal for quick, easy setup through a welcome email. He finds online forms customized by your team, and he fills out his medical history, insurance information, and signs electronically. When he arrives at the office, all those physical touchpoints are unnecessary–that’s efficient, safe, and convenient.
It’s time. And we can’t afford to wait.
Many other digital services can impact your practice and uncover benefits for your team. But focus on taking steps that everyone finds manageable and impactful. Teledentistry and paperless solutions are a solid starting point. Both fit the expectations of consumers and help you stand out from the crowd. Plus, these innovations take care of your team, and that’s critical today.
Single-platform solutions offer a stress-free way to implement the barrage of changes our small businesses must manage. But juggling multiple vendors for every new service leaves practices frustrated and ends up costing more than necessary.
Legwork gives our practices a long list of resources that we simply can’t be without in 2021. Their talented programmers, designers, account managers, and copywriters integrate an unparalleled resource for our profession. If our practices will survive and thrive, we must incorporate the best patient experience tools, and we must do it soon. With a proactive approach, our teams benefit, our patients appreciate it, and our bottom line shows it!
Want to learn how you can design a touchless communication plan for your dental practice that both staff and patients love? Watch our free on-demand webinar, “ Safety First! How to Design a Touchless Communications Plan That Patients And Staff Love. ”