As the coronavirus progresses throughout the United States, dental practices across the country are looking for ways to keep their practices open during and after the COVID-19 crisis. Here at VivioSites, our mission remains to help independent dentists grow their practices by increasing the number of patients in their care. Now more than ever, that mission is critical to the livelihoods and future success of the independent dentist. Below, we’ve compiled several resources to help you keep your doors open during the pandemic & grow your new patient numbers when your office fully reopens.
Treating Dental Patients During the Pandemic
In these unprecedented times, it may feel as though your only option is to shutter your doors and wait out the crisis, but there are options available that will allow you to continue to treat patients.
Teledentistry is “the use of electronic information, imaging and communication technologies, including interactive audio, video, data communications as well as store and forward technologies, to provide and support dental care delivery, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, transfer of dental information and education.
It can include virtual consultations and high-tech monitoring of patients which offer less expensive and more convenient care options for patients.” [i]
Teledentistry is a new concept to many dentists and medical practitioners but it can be a great way to stay open during this time as well to connect with current patients. You can, and should, use Teledentistry to assess your patients for non-emergency consults, as well as for diagnosing emergency situations, before they come into the office.
Teledentistry can even be used for problem-focused evaluations with new patients which will build a connection and loyalty with patients you haven’t yet met! Learn more from the ADA here.
While many Dentists are worried these claims won’t be accepted, Delta Dental, as well as a number of other insurance providers, have confirmed they will accept claims for services delivered via teledentistry. Read more from Delta Dental here.
If you are looking for more information and resources on incorporating teledentistry into your practice, the American TeleDentistry Association has a number of great resources on their website as well.
Once you’ve chosen a platform for teledentistry, be sure to add the information to your website, it is the first-place patients will look for new information and services during this time.
In many states, Dentists can remain open to treat emergency patients including cracked teeth, knocked out teeth and root canals. You may want to keep your office open and available for these patients. You can also use teledentistry, described earlier, to screen these patients before they come into the office.
You will also want to update your website and social media profiles to show that your office is still open and accepting emergency patients.
Dental Patient Communication During COVID-19
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we understand the urgency of communicating your schedule changes and new protocols to your patients. We’ve compiled a list of best practices to help you best communicate your message in these ever-changing times.
Schedule Changes: If you are temporarily closing, try NOT to use the word closed as it can leave patients with the impression you are closing for good & emotionally it closes you off from them. Instead, try “modified schedule or modified hours.”
Be Available: Even if you are unable to physically meet with your patients, make it clear in your messaging that you are available via phone during normal business hours. Consider offering text messages and tele-consultations as well to answer any questions that your patients may have. The most important thing during this crisis is to let your patients know that you care and are available.
Keep It Simple: The situation is changing rapidly. Instead of posting ALL of your new protocols for ALL of your patients, consider communicating it to just those who have appointments or are most at risk.
Keep In Touch: Staying active on your social media platforms during this time is important not only for communication but to reassure your patients that yes, you ARE still open. Text messaging, emails, website updates and even personal phone calls to patients who were mid-treatment before the pandemic will all go a long way to keep your patients connected to you during this time.
During this down time, there are several ways you can set yourself and your team up for success once your dental practice reopens.
One of the ways to plan ahead and to stay up to date is to use this time to earn continuing education (CE) credits. Many Dentists and their teams rely on in-person tradeshows or seminars for their continuing education credits, but for the time being, those options are unavailable. Companies like DentalLearning.net are offering deep discounts on webinars, courses, and more to help you and your staff continue to learn and stay up to date on your CE requirements. Online CE will also ensure that you and the team are trained and ready to return to work!
Evaluate Your Website & Branding
Another way to take advantage of this time at home is to evaluate your brand and update your website. For many dental practices “branding” is an afterthought. Take some time to evaluate your dental practice “pre-crisis” and how you envision the future. Now is a great time to take steps and begin planning the dental practice of your dreams.
Once you’ve considered your brand and how you envision it in the future, take some time to consider your dental practice website as well.
Your website should be more than an information hub for patients. You should view your website as a true extension of your brand that is working for you day & night. Take a minute to pull up your current website and really look at it. Does it reflect who you are as a person? Does it reflect how you want patients to view your practice and brand?
These questions may be easy to answer, or they may be very difficult. You may have included these questions when thinking about your business plan many years ago, but have you sat down to consider who you are as a dentist today?
Here are a few additional resources on identifying your brand and redesigning your dental practice
Now Is the Time
If you have an old or outdated website, or have identified a brand mismatch between your practice and your website, now is the time to design a new, state-of-the-art, mobile-friendly website so you are positioned in the best way possible when your state or county allows your dental practice to reopen for routine and cosmetic appointments. If you are interested in starting a new website, VivioSites is offering a free website and free hosting until September. Contact us today to learn more.
Getting to the top of a Google Search During COVID-19
It may feel counterproductive to market your dental practice during COVID-19, but one day soon, your dental practice will reopen and begin seeing patients again. To be sure patients can find your dental practice at the top of a Google search once you reopen, NOW is the time to work on your website design, marketing and Google rankings. Getting to the top of a Google search can sometimes take 2-6 months so by starting now you are investing in the future health of your practice and patient numbers.
If you aren’t on the first page of a search query, you’re missing out on 94% of the patients in your market. Don’t let your competition outshine you. VivioSites will help you develop an SEO plan for your practice that incorporates on-page and off-page optimizations, dynamic keyword strategies, and a fresh pipeline of unique content that Google loves and people want to read. Our goal is to have your practice rank higher during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
VivioSites wants to help the independent dentist attract more patients and grow their bottom line. Everything we do is with your best interest in mind, and we will work with you personally to help you achieve your professional goals. Whether you would like to see more patients for a specific service, or if you would like to advertise a unique procedure that only you provide, we want to market what makes your practice special.
To help Dentists redesign their websites during this time, VivioSites is offering a free website and free hosting until September. Contact us today to learn more.
Returning to Normal
One day soon this pandemic will be behind us and we will all resume normal business practices. Here are some best practices in the first days back to work:
Advertise early: As soon as you know the practice will be reopening, make sure to communicate this to your patients not only on your website but via email, text, and social media channels.
Extend Your Hours: Many patients, including those that may have been rescheduled, will now be looking to schedule appointments. Many of your patients may have been out of work during this time and cannot afford to take time off work for a dental appointment. Consider adding additional hours and / or days to your schedule in the short-term.
Offer Flexible Payment Options: Once you reopen, patients may hesitate to schedule much needed hygiene appointments due to a lack of funds. Consider creating an in-house payment plan for all patients.
Offer Discounts: It may seem counter-intuitive to lower your rates when your practice has been closed, but patients will appreciate your understanding in this time and will likely become patients for life.
Make Your Practice Safer: During this downtime consider ways to make your practice more efficient and safer. Proper attention to maintenance and functioning of your air compressor unit, delivery unit, and handpieces can help mitigate the transmission of infection for both patients and providers. Learn more from DENTALEZ’s COVID-19 resources.
Using the tips and resources above will help your practice be ready for the influx of new and returning patients once the COVID-19 crisis has passed.
We have been building beautiful, award-winning dental websites since 2009. We accommodate all price points to best suit your practice’s needs. Whether you need guidance on how to properly optimize or want a completely new and custom site, we are here to help grow your business. VivioSites has earned the prestigious Best Product rating from Dental Product Shopper for excellence in website design. If you are looking to increase your new patient numbers or improve your online image, click here to contact us today.