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Virtual communication in the post-pandemic era

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  Posted by: The Probe      26th September 2020

Millions of people worldwide are still trying to adjust to a new pace of life. Given the current health climate and the invasive nature of dentistry, some patients are understandably concerned about seeking treatment. Therefore, reaching out is more important than ever in order to rebuild trust and increase patients’ confidence about returning to the practice. What many dental professionals have come to realise since lockdown is just how beneficial virtual communication tools can be.

Website and email

As dental professionals, we need to be sensitive to the emerging concerns of patients if we are to nurture positive relationships with them in the post-pandemic era. We can help patients feel more comfortable about visiting the practice by advising them on what to expect. This should begin with your practice website and email communications, which you can use to continue reassuring patients about the additional infection control protocols that you have put in place to ensure their health and safety.   

A live online chat platform – where you can engage with patients in real-time – is another method of virtual communication you could take advantage of via your practice website. Providing such a service, makes it extremely convenient for existing and prospective patients to make enquiries or even schedule future appointments between, for instance, working hours or looking after children at home. The practice team can then respond quickly and easily amidst calls or when engaging with other patients directly in practice.

Live chat could even be supported by a dedicated patient portal that is built into the practice website. This provides a convenient and secure platform for patients to communicate with the dental team, where they can submit information prior to any appointments. As a result, patients are likely to feel more connected to your practice even when it is closed. Furthermore, a patient portal could help streamline check-ins or appointment rescheduling when patients can eventually return to the practice for treatment. An online billing service through the patient portal can further ensure convenience by making it easier for patients to pay for treatment, thereby eliminating the stress of doing so in practice on the day.

Social media

Through social media, dental professionals can take patient engagement a step further by providing a glimpse into the practice’s daily operations. In addition to informing patients about your health and safety protocols via your practice website and email channels, you can utilise engaging photos and videos across your social media networks to emphasise the preparedness of your practice team. For instance, you could post short videos of cleaning processes before and after each appointment so that patients can see exactly what measures you are taking to protect them. You could also film a walk-through to demonstrate to patients what steps they need to follow during their visit to the practice.

Furthermore, you could ask existing patients to provide testimonials on their treatment experience with you, which could then be uploaded to social media to promote your services. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram also offer the ideal platform for you and your team to offer oral health advice to the wider community, including how to minimise the burden of infection through an effective oral care regime. At the same time, you can seize this chance to remind patients of the importance of visiting the practice regularly so that you can assess the condition of their teeth and gums, and provide professional cleaning and/or treatment if necessary. 

Video conferencing

Teledentistry – especially video conferencing – can help patients and dental professionals stay connected from anywhere. Virtual consultations, in particular, enable dentists to engage with patients without them having to actually be in the practice, thus putting patients at ease with regard to non-urgent matters and offering a more convenient mode of communication. This has been particularly advantageous during the global COVID-19 pandemic, but video conferencing can offer benefits in the course of normal, everyday life too. For patients who have physical limitations, for instance, video conferencing enables them to conveniently seek initial treatment advice from the comfort of their own home. 

Beyond this, video conferencing can enhance the treatment journey – virtual consultations provide patients the space and time to digest the information their dentist has provided about their oral health, and identify the problems that they are most concerned about solving. As a result, the patient can feel more in control of the overall process, thereby helping to improve treatment acceptance rates. Even if you lack the facilities to offer more complex or specialist treatment, you can extend your virtual services by referring your patients to a trusted and like-minded partnering clinic. As a referral partner of Ten Dental+Facial, for example, your patients can attend a virtual consultation for the advanced treatment they need before benefiting from the best possible clinical care.

It is important for dental professionals to remain understanding of patients’ concerns during this extended period of uncertainty. Now is the time to assess how you can better utilise virtual communication tools going forward in order to encourage patients to seek treatment, whilst reassuring them that you are able to provide exceptional care within a safe environment.


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