A Practice Benefits From Office Technology Only When Its Patients Do
Having technology purely for the sake of having it is not a good enough reason to have it. Technology is usually expensive, so dental practices need a positive payback on their investment. The most important gauge a practice owner should use when considering new technology for the office is whether or not it will make the practice more patient-centric. That is, will it add convenience, eliminate stress, and/or improve the patient's dental experience, while making team members' jobs more efficient?
To maximize the advantages of a given technology, a practice needs to do more than just "install it." The following suggestions may help practices get the most out of their office technology assets.
The human touch.Regardless of how effective your high-end technology is, it is not a replacement for the human touch. It is important to establisha personal connection with patients. With many younger employees today used to texting or using an app rather than making phone calls, the people answering the telephones at your practice may need training in personal communication. The office leadership should set expectations for patient communications and perhaps role model the art of effective human interaction and conversation to help team members learn how to build authentic relationships. The "human touch" may be what differentiates your practice.
iPad® or kiosk-style check-in. Do not assume every patient knows how to use these types of check-in methods. When patients arrive, the front desk person needs to warmly greet them, and then continue to watch them as they go to the kiosk. If the patient isn't tapping or clicking away within just a few seconds, assistance needs to be offered. Of course, team members must know how to use and explain these devices extremely well.
Practice management system (PMS). The check-in/check-out process, including collection of any payment due, should be smooth and relatively quick. Most practices today function with a PMS and team members need to be well-trained in using it efficiently and accurately. The included training provided by the vendor should be utilized rather than relying on "buddy" training. In addition, as part of team training, the office's five most common checkout scenarios should be identified, and role playing with new employees should be implemented. They should practice on some of the office leadership-not on patients. An employee in front of a computer with a patient should already know what he or she is doing so as not to exasperate the patient.
Website. Every practice should have a professional-looking, well-functioning website patients can go to, if they want to. A practice's site should provide patients the opportunity to, for example, make or request an appointment online (but not require it), send an email with questions, submit new patient forms, and make online payments. However, protocols must be in place to ensure trained team members are monitoring and responding to communication done through the site, otherwise the practice is only hurting itself.
Web presence. COVID-19 forced just about everyone to get more comfortable with technology they might not have used before. This includes video messages on dental websites and in practice emails, recording of CDs or podcasts, and even participating in webcasts and teleseminars. Dental practices should continue to build on this experience. Team members should be given the opportunity to explore their creative side. They can help build the practice's online reputation through their own short video messages or blog posts that educate, inform, and show appreciation. Younger team members may relish the chance to help the practice boost its social media reach and reputation to attract new patients.
Phone system. Phones are the lifeline of a dental business. Even with options available to make appointments online or via email or text, only a small percentage of new patients will book a first appointment without talking to an actual person, and existing patients often have questions that require some discussion. As simple as it may sound, the front desk or call center team must be trained and experienced in using all of the phone system's features. No patient wants to-or should ever-get hung up on when being put on hold or transferred. Just as with the PMS, new team members should only be allowed to answer phones when they are trained and can demonstrate proficiency.
Remember, no form of technology can create a personal, lasting experience like a human can. A high referral rate is a good indicator that you are hitting the mark in terms of maximizing your technology to deliver a positive overall patient experience, not just treatment. In the end, experiences are what people talk about to their family and friends. You want them talking about positive experiences.
About the Author
Founder and Chief Executive Officer,
Scheduling Institute (schedulinginstitute.com),
a results-focused practice management firm that
specializes in team training and doctor coaching