schedule on tooth with contactless icon

6 Schedule-Filling Ways to Create a Contactless Dental Office

So, you’ve instituted all the ADA and CDC guidelines for dental offices and optimistically opened your practice doors expecting operatories to fill and… nothing. Aside from emergencies and occasional routine appointments, your phone isn’t ringing. What gives?

More than 52 percent of dental offices are still experiencing lower patient volumes due to COVID-19 according to the latest ADA poll. Understandably, people are a bit hesitant to return to their normal routines amid a pandemic. That doesn’t mean you need to accept the downturn though. ADA research shows that a huge swath of the population is willing to come back now if you can give them assurances it’s safe to do so.

Adopting more contact-free processes is an easy and very visible way to build their confidence, giving patients the nudge they need to return your practice. Below, we’ll go over six easy ways you can transition to contactless patient care, so you can fill your operatories again.

1) Use Digital Patient Forms

Minimalizing patient contact with pens, clipboards, and paper is an easy way to prevent the spread of germs and reduce the total amount of time in office. If you’re using Practice-Web, online patient forms are one of the many powerful features integrated in the base-level software that are active with your regular support subscription. Simply send your patient a link to the form in advance of the appointment and they can fill it out on any device anywhere. The data will be automatically sent to Practice-Web for your review, streamlining intake and minimizing contact in the process. You can see how it works in the replay of our Mobile Forms webinar. Consider digitizing your:

  • New patient forms
  • Health history updates
  • Consent forms
  • COVID screening forms

Pro Tip: When your patient forms are completely digital, you can edit them and create new ones on the fly. Consider adding more questions about stress-related dental issues, as the latest ADA report shows issues like bruxism, TMD, and broken or chipped teeth are on the rise due to COVID-19. It’s a great opportunity to show your patients that you deliver top-notch care and increase practice revenue.

2) Create a Virtual Waiting Room

Virtual waiting rooms have surged in popularity since COVID-19 emerged. When patients can skip the waiting room, you:

  • Reduce the risk COVID-19 transmission
  • Spend less time disinfecting
  • Increase efficiency through streamlined workflows
  • Improve patient comfort and satisfaction

As a bare-bones option, have your patients wait in their cars and phone your office to check in. If you’re using Practice-Web, you can still handle check-in through the software as you normally would—each person you check in will automatically be placed in your digital waiting room. You can also stack this with pwConnect, our comprehensive email and text messaging tool that will enable you to process check-ins via text, send form links, and communicate when the doctor or hygienist is ready. You can learn more about how it works and additional ways it can make your life easier in our pwConnect webinar replay.

3) Leverage Online Scheduling

Prior to COVID-19, 77 percent of patients indicated they wanted the ability to schedule online. Although they haven’t been polled since, the number is no doubt much higher these days. Moreover, integrating self-scheduling tools is easier than ever. Practice-Web leverages PatientXpress for online scheduling. Not only is it contact-free, but you can use it in conjunction with other tools, such as pwConnect, to send out notices to patients and your schedule in Practice-Web will automatically fill as patients self-appoint. You’re also in total control of:

  • Which appointment types can be booked online
  • How much time to set aside for appointments
  • Other details to ensure each visit goes smoothly

The sky’s the limit when it comes to online scheduling. Send notices to patients who have unscheduled treatment or who are due for recall when there are cancellations or leverage it as a proactive strategy, giving patients the opportunity to schedule treatment when it’s convenient for them. Many of our clients have also integrated online scheduling into their COVID response plans, sending “welcome back” messages to their patients and inviting them to appoint. You can see PatientXpress in action and learn more about its various applications and benefits in our Online Scheduling webinar replay.

Pro Tip: Consider requiring a small deposit from patients when they book online to reduce no-shows. You can apply their deposit to any treatment they receive.

4) Provide Digital Treatment Plans

Two of the biggest components of treatment plan acceptance are rapport and knowledge. These are things you can’t rush and will continue to be a major focal point, especially when patients are reluctant to venture out. For this reason, you’ll still want to spend time going over treatment plans one-on-one in person but bear in mind this doesn’t mean you need to be printing out papers and passing them around.

If you’re using dental practice management software like Practice-Web that provides easy-to-understand treatment plans, complete with 3-D tooth charts, pull it up on your operatory computer or send a digital copy directly to the patient so he or she may follow along as you go. Ideally, you’ll get their next appointment booked right away to increase follow-through, but if they’re unprepared to schedule, you can always give them the opportunity to appoint online later.

Pro Tip: Create a task, tickler, or reminder to follow up with patients who don’t schedule their treatment right away and leverage digital lists to touch base with those who have unscheduled treatment regularly. These processes can be automated for greater efficiency too.

5) Skip the Checkout Line

With tools like online scheduling and pwConnect for streamlined communications, it’s easy to eliminate the checkout process for most patients, but you’ll naturally have some who need to make payments. In a low-tech office, you may still need to process credit cards at checkout, but at the very least, you can email the receipt instead of providing a paper copy. However, for a truly contactless experience, you’ll want to avoid:

  • Passing cards, checks or cash
  • Using keypads for PINs and pens for signing
  • Providing paper receipts

If you’re using Practice-Web software, you can do this easily using our Pay-by-Text Smart Tool. It integrates directly with the software and allows you to send payment links to patients via text or email, so they can pay using their own device. The patient ledger automatically updates once a payment is processed, making collections easier for staff too. Get more details on it in our Pay-by-Text webinar replay.

Pro Tip: Try using Pay-by-Text as you process insurance payments, sending out quick reminders when patients have a balance remaining after reimbursement. This will increase payment speed, boosting cash flow for the office—a major boon during lean times.

Be Sure to Spread the Word

Integrating contactless processes into your daily workflow is a great start, but if you want to leverage them to fill your virtual waiting room, you’ll need to tell people what you’re doing and why.

  • Add online booking buttons to your website and social media profiles, including Facebook and Yelp!
  • Create a blog that outlines the changes you’re making and how they benefit patients
  • Share your blog on social media
  • Invite people to read your blog when they receive appointment reminders
  • Use blasts to notify patients how you’re addressing care during COVID
  • Include information about your new processes when you send out notices to leverage benefits before the year is up (more info on that here)

Get Help from the Practice-Web Team

If you’re using Practice-Web and are on a service contract, our team is standing by and ready to help walk you through how to set up and integrate these contactless processes if you get stuck. There is absolutely no charge for this service. Just shoot us a message at support@practice-web.com or call 800-845-9379 (select option 2).

If you’re not using Practice-Web, but want to learn more about the features and how it can benefit your practice, book a demo or call 800-845-9379 (select option 1).

Request a free Practice-Web demo and see all our contactless features for yourself!
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