Trying times give us the chance to discover our strengths and weaknesses and reevaluate our practices. In dental care, it’s a good idea to reevaluate how you’re doing from time to time. When you make an extra effort to show compassion toward your patients and their individual concerns, not only will they be grateful for your empathy, but it can also secure their long-term support. The steps you take to reshape your approach to dental treatment and patient communication post-COVID can work in your favor and help your patients see you as a healthcare provider who’s willing to adapt and work with them no matter the circumstances.
When you decide to list your dental office for sale, your financial “value” is measured in numbers. But no number can truly quantify the positive impact you can have on your community and your patients. Be an influence for good during this unpredictable time! Vow to give your patients the care they need and provide them with a sense of safety.
Dr. Jessica Meeske, vice chair of the ADA Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention, said, “My advice is not to practice in fear . . . patients need dental care and we have the responsibility and privilege to provide it.” In a time when patients are worrying about so many other aspects of their lives, you can help lessen some of their fears by offering safe, reliable, compassionate care.
How to Practice Compassionate Care
Your goal as an established dental professional should be to provide patients the best possible treatment while prioritizing their safety.
Maybe you’ve never taken advantage of technology in the past, but now’s a great time to start. Utilize tele-dentist visits and electronic communication with patients to show you’re willing to take extra precautions. Sometimes patients simply have questions that can be answered over the phone or over the Internet, so let them choose that option if it’s appropriate. You can save time and money with virtual visits because you won’t have to worry about sterilizing equipment and finding staff to be in the office.
Surveys can also be a helpful tool in determining what exactly your patients need from you at this time. You can give your patients the opportunity to rate their experience at your office or simply ask them after the visit if there’s anything that could have been done differently. Promote the idea of patient-centered care by implementing patient feedback in your daily practices. Many patients are concerned about infection control, so do everything you can to fulfill their safety expectations.
With so much information available with the click of a button, patients may question your practices and want to know what measures you are taking to protect them. Don’t shy away from their questions. Take the time to discuss your new safety protocols and explain why you feel these measures are necessary and effective. Talk to your staff and be sure everyone is on the same page and knows what these measures are. In short, continue to provide your patients with a higher standard of dental care while increasing the amount of time spent disinfecting patient rooms and equipment between appointments.
Be Understanding in Your Patient Communication
What do you want your dental practice to be known for? The first time a patient sees a sign on your building, you are communicating with them. What kind of message do you want to convey? Marketing plays an important role in patient communication. Be sure your brand is known for the right reasons.
Many factors will come into play when you place your dental office for sale. Patients and other dentists will want to know just what you did post-COVID to establish more effective practices. Patients will want their questions and concerns answered, even if to you they may seem repetitive or mundane. Be upfront with your patients and share your protocols for infection control, treatment, PPE, etc so they can feel confident in your processes. To establish empathetic patient communication, strive to do the following:
- Don’t act too casual about any topic a patient brings up. There is a lot of misinformation out there and patients want to know you take their concerns seriously.
- Listen to what your patients are saying to you and respond to their questions. Be interested in what’s interesting to them.
- Share your professional observations about the situation and explain the steps you and your staff are taking to address their issues.
- Try to stay upbeat and positive and don’t dismiss a patient question or concern.
You should always try to be empathetic with your patients, but go the extra mile to alleviate fears and concerns that may crop up due to the pandemic. Patients are already a little nervous and uneasy about going to the dentist, and may appear even more so post-COVID. If you can’t personally address their concerns, work with your staff to develop a more effective patient outreach program where patients can be heard and express their fears.
Think about your marketing goals and if they need to change. If your patients are primarily considered with equipment sterilization, trying to market your practice by emphasizing your background and experience as a dentist may not be enough. A simple message on Facebook like, “At our practice we protect you and your family with our thorough equipment sterilization procedures” can go a long way toward making patients feel comfortable with choosing your office for their dental procedure. If Twitter has been effective for you in the past, use that social media platform to connect with your patients. Engaging with your patients through social media is a great way to receive feedback to help guide your marketing.
If your business has declined dramatically since the pandemic, reach out to local news organizations to see if your office can be featured. In a news article or TV spotlight you’ll have the opportunity to talk about your health protocols and safety measures and ease the minds of your patients and potential patients.
How to Find Out if Your Brand is Working For You
Just like the McDonald’s golden arches are recognized worldwide, your brand says a lot about what your practice stands for. If your brand is not a great reflection of your practice, now is the perfect time to adjust it. Your brand includes your name, the name of your practice, and any other terms, designs, symbols, or marks that identifies your dental practice as distinct from all of the others. You want your brand to be recognizable and earn the confidence of patients everywhere.
Ask yourself if your brand is who you want to be, and spend time reflecting on the values and services you want people to associate with your office.
If you’re struggling to create an effective brand, write down words to describe your practice. Are you patient-focused? Do you create a friendly environment? What do patients feel when they walk into your office? This exercise will help you determine what your brand should look like.
To have an authentic brand, you have to be honest and accurate. You want your branding to be a reflection of your core values as an organization. You want to build trust among your patients. Trust is essential in fostering goodwill when it comes time to list your dental office for sale. Inaccurate branding can cause you to lose business, turning patients away from your practice before they even meet you or your staff.
Now that you’ve established a reliable brand, look at your marketing to see if you’re presenting the kind of image you want others to associate with you. Your Facebook page, for example, should not be at odds with your website. Both platforms should highlight the positive qualities of your practice and your staff and maintain a consistent theme throughout. If you want to be seen as involved in your community, engage in community activities that promote your brand identity. Share pictures of you and your staff at the local food bank or whatever it is so your patients will know that you practice what you preach.
Helping Patients Find Financial Solutions
Currently in the United States, 11% of people are unemployed. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits over the last four months is worse than any other time in modern history.” from CNBC.com
Many people who have lost their jobs recently have also lost their health insurance coverage, meaning they’ll likely postpone dental cleanings and appointments for the time being. During this unprecedented time, you should be extra sensitive to your patients’ financial needs and be willing to offer financial assistance if possible. Some things you can do to help ease their financial burdens include:
- Offering incentives beyond the usual past promotions, such as dental cleanings at a set cost without insurance for a limited time. Encourage your patients not to put off their exams and remind them you care about their dental health.
- Third-party financing can help patients in some cases. Find out which third-party financing options will work with your clinic and offer them as an option. Be aware of payback periods and interest requirements. Take time to do your own research and only pick a company you feel comfortable working with.
- Membership plans or in-house financing can offset the cost of major procedures such as root canals or fillings. Allow your patients to make smaller payments so they can get the needed treatment without stressing about the cost.
For the past few months many dental practices have operated at a loss, and the financial solutions offered above take this into account. When you work with your patients to help them find the right financing options, you show them you’re invested in a long-term dental-patient relationship.
Easier Scheduling Options
With people out of work and kids home for the longest summer ever, some patients may have difficulty figuring out a time to see the dentist that works with their new schedule. Giving your patients a variety of options for their appointments will definitely be appreciated.
Many dentists have made the decision to only see patients one at a time to prevent a crowded waiting room. Some have patients wait in their car until their temperatures have been taken and their face masks are in place. Be sensitive to your patients’ concerns and do all you can to make them feel safe while in your office.
Consider the following options:
- Offer early morning, evening, or even weekend appointments
- Allow more of a time gap between appointments to limit the number of patients in your reception area. This will also give you adequate time to disinfect and sterilize your necessary supplies.
- Use teledentistry if you need to pre-screen or diagnose patients. This option provides physical distancing and the opportunity to schedule their treatment when it fits their schedule (and yours).
Though the above-mentioned practices will require extensive time and planning, reinforcing great relationships with your patients is worth it. You want patients to leave your office feeling like you have their health and safety as your number one priority. They’ll be more likely to come back and see you for their next dental procedure if they feel you’re doing all you can to earn and keep their trust.
Want to List Your Dental Office for Sale? DDSmatch Southwest Can Help
DDSmatch Southwest are dental practice transition specialists focused on assisting dentists in the Texas and New Mexico areas. For buyers looking for a dental office for sale, you can view our available practices here. Our specialty is making your dental practice transition as smooth and rewarding as possible. Our benchmarks for success are your unique, individual goals being fulfilled. We are here to work for you. Contact us today.