In what seems like a heartbeat, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of medical care. The CDC, American Dental Association and American Dental Hygienists’ Association have all recommended dental offices postpone any non-emergency or elective procedures. If you’re like most dentists, your office is closed for all but emergency services. How can you market your practice during this time—and should you be doing so?
Although you may not have many patients during the pandemic, it’s important to continue marketing your business so patients will know you’re there for them, both now and in the future when coronavirus-related restrictions ease. Here are five ways you can market your business that will help your patients—and your business.
Explain the new rules and how your office is handling them.
Let patients know your office is still open, but only for emergency care, and explain why. Create content explaining to patients what constitutes a dental emergency, tips for self-diagnosing, and what they should do if they think they are having an emergency. The American Dental Association has issued guidelines to define dental emergencies, and the CDC has issued guidelines for providing dental care during the coronavirus pandemic. Share this guidance via email, on your practice website and on your social media accounts. If you have tele-dentistry technology in place, now is the time to use it. Be aware that non-health-care-specific video conferencing tools such as FaceTime are not designed to meet HIPAA regulations for security and privacy.
Share tips for maintaining good dental health during shelter-in-place rules.
During times of stress, patients’ normal hygiene habits may fall by the wayside. Patients who were due for a hygiene appointment or had a scheduled non-emergency procedure planned may need help on how to keep their teeth in good shape until they can visit your office again. Use email, your website and social media to share advice for how to maintain good dental health. It’s a good idea to create different tips for patients with different needs. For example, patients with gum disease can get one type of advice, and patients with young children can get another. If you use Lighthouse 360, you can also text back-and-forth directly with patients to offer advice.
Explain the protections your office has put in place.
Telling patients how your office is handling emergency dental procedures will reduce any fears they may have about coming in for treatment. Explain what type of personal protective equipment (PPE) you are using, how your office is sanitized and disinfected, and what steps you are taking to reduce physical contact. Do you have a new patient coming in with an emergency? Lighthouse 360 has a paperless registration feature, Patient FastTrack, that allows them to fill out and even sign registration forms online on their phones, so they don’t need to touch your office tablet, pens or clipboards. Henry Schein has created sample scripts you can use to explain your COVID-19 related policies to patients.
Adjust your patient communication system.
If you haven’t already done so, you can use the Cancellation Messaging feature of Lighthouse 360 to alert patients that your office is closed for all but emergency appointments. Make sure automated treatment and appointment reminders for patients are turned off. If your website allows patients to schedule their own appointments, disable that feature, and update your website to explain what treatment you’re offering and how to make an appointment. Designate one staff member to regularly check the office voice mail and returns calls.
Provide dental care tips for patients who contract COVID-19.
Chances are good that some of your patients or their family members may become sick with COVID-19. Even if the illness is mild, it can cause vomiting, and common cold and flu medications can cause side effects such as dry mouth that affect dental health. Use your email newsletter, website and social media to offer advice on what patients can do to maintain good dental health during this time, as well as tips to protect other family members from infection. The CDC’s Health Alert Network is a good resource for healthcare professionals; sign up to get alerts about public health developments, including coronavirus.
While now is not the time for a hard sell, dental practices that stay in touch with their patients and serve as a resource during the COVID-19 crisis will strengthen bonds of patient loyalty long after the pandemic has passed.