FYI

Dentist blog from Delta Dental

Tag: practice

How to talk to patients about returning to your office

As a dentist, you know that regular office visits are essential for your patients’ oral health, but your patients might have questions and concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the American Dental Association, 98% of dental practices are open for business, but less than 50% are seeing the same number of patients as before the pandemic.

The ADA has also found that most people are ready to return to their dentist’s office (although some of them may need assurances that they’ll be safe) even if there are COVID-19 cases locally, and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the ADA are the two most trusted sources of information about whether or not it’s safe to go to the dentist. With all of that in mind, here are some tips on how to get patients back in the office, reassure them of their safety and keep them coming back.

1. Put new safety procedures and practices in place

Reassuring your patients of their safety is an essential first step in encouraging them to return. Dentists’ offices have long been kept meticulously clean to prevent the spread of bloodborne illnesses. The spread of COVID-19, though, has required new practices to address potential infection through saliva droplets. Highlighting these new practices is an excellent opportunity to make your patients feel safer.

For example, these practices may be worth implementing:

  • Have patients wait for their appointments inside their cars rather than inside your waiting room, even if you have the space for them to socially distance.
  • Put up a clear plastic screen between the front desk and the waiting area. This helps to prevent a stray cough or sneeze from spreading saliva droplets when patients are checking in or paying their bill.
  • Install equipment that helps remove germs from the office, such as medical-grade air purifiers.
  • Check patients’ temperature with an infrared thermometer upon their arrival. You’ll want to use a thermometer especially made for use as a wellness device (infrared thermometers that aren’t explicitly made for medical use may be inaccurate when used on the human body.)
  • Have patients do their part, too, such as by performing a peroxide rinse before getting into the chair.

2. Effectively communicate with and listen to your patients

One of the biggest contributors to feelings of fear and uncertainty is a lack of reliable information from a trusted source. When it comes to their oral health, you are your patients’ primary subject matter expert. Explain not just what changes you’re instituting at the office to keep patients safe, but also why you’re making those changes and how they keep patients safe.

It’s important to create opportunities to interact with your patients so that you can keep them informed of the latest changes and persuade them to return when they’re ready. The ADA has found that patients prefer to be communicated with via email, text and phone, in that order.

If you’re using software to communicate with your patients via email or text, let them know:

  • Your office is open for business
  • You’re following new procedures to ensure everyone’s safety
  • You’re available to talk if they have questions or concerns (offering teledentistry appointments is a great way to interact directly with your patients!)

If you’d rather emphasize a human touch, you could have office staff directly call your patients to remind them not to forget check-ups and see if there’s anything your office can do for them.

Also, don’t forget to be an active listener. If you ask your patients their concerns, make sure you indicate that you’re listening attentively and taking their words under consideration.

3. Think outside the box

Finally, when it comes to persuading patients to return and attracting new patients, don’t be afraid to think outside the box! Encourage patients to leave reviews and feedback on social media. A positive review and a description of safety protocols on Yelp or Google can go a long way towards assuring would-be patients that your office is a safe environment.

Similarly, consider updating your practice’s website if you haven’t done so recently. Adding customer testimonials is a good idea, and you can also add photos that highlight changes throughout your office. If you’re feeling especially ambitious, you could also create a video walkthrough of your practice to serve as a virtual tour of the office! Or, add videos that highlight new safety practices and equipment you’ve implemented, such as peroxide rinses or medical-grade air purifiers.

We also suggest updating your current office hours on the Delta Dental Provider Tools site to help your patients access care in your office. Patients often use the Provider Directory when looking for contact information, so making sure that your information is up to date and that it matches the info available in other locations (such as your website or Yelp) can help eliminate confusion. Fortunately, logging in to your profile in our Provider Tools and update your office hours is simple!

The ADA’s Health Policy Institute has also found that nearly three out of four people who visited the dentist in 2019 would be comfortable returning right now. Another 11% would be willing to return to the dentist if they had some kind of assurance that their visit would be safe while the remaining 15% are waiting for a vaccine. That means that if you’re seeing fewer than 85% of the patients you were before the pandemic, you might be able to bring more back to your practice. Follow the steps above, and you might get the extra bump in business you need to make the new normal a little more like the old one.

New loan options now available through Delta Dental and Lendeavor

A special loan program for network dentists has been expanded to offer you even more options.

The program, available in partnership with Lendeavor, now includes loans that you can use to acquire, refinance, expand or equip a practice. Also available are loans to acquire or refinance commercial real estate for a practice.

Delta Dental will cover the first 12 months of your loan’s interest, and Lendeavor will cover an additional month of interest.

To accommodate these new options, the program’s funding has been increased to $300 million. This program expires on December 31, 2020 or when funds run out. Terms and conditions apply. To find out more, visit the application page.

Upcoming webinars on Provider Tools and National Recovery Month

It’s back-to-school season. In the spirit of ongoing education, we’re announcing a series of webinars in September that will show you how to make the most of Provider Tools. The webinars will also show you how you can talk to your patients about returning to your practice safely and how you can help fight the opioid epidemic that continues to afflict the United States.

Attend a Provider Tools and National Recovery Month webinar to learn:

  • How to use Provider Tools to manage your patients
  • How to talk to your patients about teledentistry and safe in-office visits
  • How to help your patients manage pain without narcotics
  • How you can do your part to fight the opioid epidemic
  • And more!

Don’t miss out — register today!

September 9, 11 am PT / 2 pm ET

September 15, 10 am PT / 1 pm ET

September 24, 11 am PT / 2 pm ET

September 29, 9 am PT / noon ET

Upcoming webinars on Provider Tools and Return to Care

Have you already opened up your practice, but you’re seeing fewer patients than before? Want to learn more about the latest tools to help you run your business more easily and more efficiently?

Not only will our webinar series show you all the tips and tricks you need to get the most out of Provider Tools, it will also offer insight into running a reopened practice. Whether you’re a Provider Tools expert or a first-time user, whether reopening has gone more smoothly than you imagined or has been a bumpy ride, we’re here for you.

Attend a Provider Tools and Return to Care webinar to learn:

  • How to use Provider Tools to manage your patients
  • How to communicate with patients about coming back for dental visits
  • How to protect yourself, your staff and your patients against COVID-19
  • And more!

Don’t miss out — register today!

August 13, 11 am PT / 2 pm ET

August 21, noon PT / 3 pm ET

August 25, 9 am PT / noon ET

Dentists seen as indicator of economy’s health

As dentists go, so goes the economy. This according to a recent New York Times article, which describes dentists as “the perfect barometer” for the economy’s health during the coronavirus pandemic.

And the good news is that there’s cause for optimism.

Why dentists? According to some economists, dental practices are an ideal business model: The practices tend to be long lived, their dentists earn consistently high salaries, and the services they provide can’t be found elsewhere. If you need dental care, you need a dentist.

This stability makes dental practices a good indicator of how well — or if — the nation is rebounding from the ongoing pandemic. And so far, the signs are positive.

Initially among the hardest hit industries within the healthcare sector, the dental industry is staging a strong recovery. Almost 90% of dental practices are paying their employees fully as of the week of July 13, according to data from an American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute survey. That’s up from only 11% during the first week of April.

This rebound equates to 250,000 jobs gained — which is 10% of the jobs added to the entire U.S. economy — according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

While this is encouraging, the recovery is not complete. Employment with the industry is still down 30%, with almost 300,000 fewer people employed than were before the pandemic.

Perhaps more telling is patient volume. The Times article reports that patient volumes are currently half of what they were before the pandemic. And, fewer than half of practices report having patient volumes greater than 75% of their typical volume, according to the ADA survey for the week of July 13. So while you and your staff might be ready to return to work, your patients might be a bit more reluctant.

Still, patients are returning. For instance, in mid-April more than 85% of practices reported that their practice volumes were less than 5% of what they usually were. The current figures then, while down from pre-pandemic numbers, are a significant improvement and more importantly, part of a consistent upward trend.

Collections, too, are trending up. While in mid-April more than three-quarters of practices reported their volume of collections at less than 5% of normal, the most recent survey data reveals that more than 80% of practices have at least half of their usual collection volume, and more than half of those practices have more than 75%.

So while there are still significant challenges to overcome, the overall news is good. This data suggests not only a positive outlook for the American economy, but a particularly strong comeback for the dental industry.

How to protect your practice during COVID-19

The safety and continued success of our providers is of utmost importance to us. To that end, here are several ways you can better protect yourself, your staff, your business and your patients during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

For the latest updates, please visit our COVID-19 resources page for providers, which includes links to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 guidelines, as well as additional guidelines provided by the ADA. Thank you for supporting both individual health and public safety.

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