How & Why Dentists Should Use Them to Affect Their Bottom Line
Introduction: Since routine care is usually only two times a year (every six months) it can be difficult for patients to remember dental appointments. As a practice, this can become frustrating.
Most patients may be stressed and not enjoy going to the dentist, therefore they are also likely to forget what is discussed during appointments, including scheduling follow-ups. They also may not want to remember to come back for any of those scary or painful follow-up procedures. Missed appointments and no-shows affect the practice’s bottom line.
That’s why it’s crucial for dentists to use appointment reminders.
Without reminder systems in place, patients are at a disadvantage and may miss important appointments altogether, which means the practice will miss out on that income.
Dental appointments are a common part of dental care.
Dental appointments are a necessary part of dental care but are often not thought of until something bad happens. Yet with routine care, including regular cleanings, most patients attend their appointments without any problem, so there really is no reason for patients to be concerned, to skip appointments, or to not even schedule in the first place.
How to get patients to schedule.
Outreach. Let’s face it, most people don’t want to go to the dentist and therefore, they need a little push to schedule their regular dental cleaning appointments. Of course, a postcard in the mail or a phone call from the office might do the trick, but more and more people don’t answer the phone and barely even look at their mail. Instead, you will have better luck texting patients.
Can I text my patients?
Yes! But… Generally, texting patients that you already have a relationship with is not considered marketing. Especially in the dental industry making this type of outreach is important. However, with the changes in telecom and the FCC and carriers along with legitimate businesses trying to stop spam texting, you need to make sure to get explicit patient opt-ins at their first (or next) appointment. In fact, in healthcare, it’s not uncommon to get this opt-in at every single visit. This will ensure that your outreach is expected and accepted by each dental patient, further ensuring that when you text your patient, your message won’t be blocked, and drastically increasing the likelihood of your dental patients scheduling and attending their appointments.
How to Get Patients to Show up.
Unfortunately, sending the text message and getting the patient scheduled isn’t going to be the end of your necessary outreach to patients. In addition to scheduling, you will need to send at least one reminder to your patients. We recommend at least two messages, however, and we’ll tell you why.
Reason #1 to send more than one text to dental patients.
Life changes. We already covered that dental appointments are often scheduled far in advance. A lot can happen between visits–patients can move, get a new job with a different insurance, become pregnant, have schedule changes, and more. There are many reasons a patient may need to cancel or reschedule a dental cleaning.
Sending a text message to patients well in advance of their appointments, therefore, is key in keeping the practice calendar full, further affecting the bottom line. Depending on your practice, you may want to reach out one or two weeks in advance in order to confirm patient dental appointments, which will give you enough time to check your call list and fill any empty slots.
Reason # 2 to send more than one text to dental patients.
Everyone is busy. Things often come up. People get sick, have accidents, and more. In fact, sometimes when confirming appointments, people don’t even check their calendar, and then later find out they are double-booked with some other important event, like parent-teacher conferences, going out of town, etc. People are more likely to actually review their calendars when something is more imminently impending upon them.
If you sent a message a week or two out, you will want to follow that message up with one closer to the appointment date. Best practice for sending appointment reminders is to send it one or two days before the appointment. This allows the patients 24-48 hours and one last chance to reschedule before any late cancellation fees kick in.
Reason # 3 to send more than one text to dental patients.
People Cancel. It’s important to the dental practice to keep track of people that cancel and work on rescheduling them. It’s also important to keep a call list of patients waiting to come in, to fill openings as they come along. Having the ability to receive a text cancelling an appointment and then quickly reaching out to text another patient to come in will keep the practice running smoothly. Not to mention, keep the valuable income flowing in.
Your calendar is the life of your practice! It’s ever-changing and it’s necessary to stay on top of these changes as they occur. The ability to receive a quick message from a patient and further reply from the front desk is crucial in today’s fast-paced, text-based world.
Benefits to texting patients about their dental appointments.
There are many benefits to text reminders for dental appointments. Some of these benefits include:
– Text messaging is the #1 method of communicating today.
– Patients can respond immediately, or when they are ready.
– Often reminder software integrates with your calendar to send the reminders.
– Appointment reminders can be sent when you want, a week or two out, a day or two before, and even the same morning as an afternoon appointment.
– Your patient text reminders can include helpful instructions on how to prepare for patient appointments, remind people what to bring, and send links to complete paperwork in advance.
– Text messages are rarely deleted, so patients can look back on instructions, links, or even reach out days after they receive their messages were received.
Best Practices for sending Dental Appointment Reminders to Patients.
– Confirm the scheduling of the appointment immediately
– Send a reminder a month, or 1-2 weeks before the appointment
– Send a reminder 1-2 days before the appointment
Keys to sending Dental Appointment Reminders
- Allow responses of more than “confirm” or “cancel”
- Set up automatic replies so the patients know that you received their responses
- Allow Operator text responses in real-time (during business hours) from the front desk computer
Have you ever texted something and not received a response? Or, wanted to text a business or respond to a text that says “DO NOT REPLY”? As a patient that can be very frustrating, which is why we strongly recommend remembering the above key points when setting up your messages.
Regular dental appointments are a common and important part of dental care. Sending postcards these days goes upon deaf ears, so to speak. Texting patients is the best way to reach anyone, let alone patients, to ensure that they are aware of the upcoming appointments. Using appointment reminders for dentists keeps patients coming and which further affects the practice’s bottom line.