If you’re a part of a business anywhere in the world right now, chances are high that you’re feeling the economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. The spread of coronavirus is forcing organizations across the world to adapt—and quickly.
While the doors of your practice may be temporarily closed to general appointments, now is not the time for you to withdraw support from your patients.
Amidst the chaos, your patients are still relying on you for education, updates, and solutions. Orthodontic practices are having to innovate in unprecedented ways with new features like virtual consultations and virtual check-ins.
Now is the time to strengthen relationships with patients, but doing so cautiously and considerately. Though you may be tempted to bombard current and prospective patients with offers and opportunities, the last thing you want to do is inundate your patients with inappropriately-timed messages and advertisements. Doing so will not work in your favor.
Open communication with your patients should be one of your top business priorities during a crisis. You don’t want your patients to feel forgotten-about, unsettled, or unsure of what to do in the event of an emergency.
Stay in constant communication with your patients so you aren’t three steps behind the curve when normal operations resume again.
Set your practice up for success and stay connected with these 7 communication tips during the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. Reassure patients of your precautions and guidelines.
Whether or not your practice is still open for emergency appointments, it’s a good idea to reassure patients that you follow strict sanitary guidelines and that you’re taking the necessary precautions to slow the spread of the virus.
Communicate your commitment to cleaning common areas and objects regularly throughout the day, the high sterility grade of your equipment, and the sanitary masks or gloves used during appointments. Tell patients that you’re requiring employees who exhibit any sickness symptoms to stay home, and ask patients with signs or symptoms to remain home and reschedule their appointments for a later date.
Patients want to know what you’ll be doing to practice good hygiene after the outbreak too. Reassure them that you’ll continue to sanitize equipment and require sick employees to stay home all the same.
2. Update your website with the user experience in mind.
Post updates and need-to-know information on your website with clear and concise communication. You don’t want your site to be a point of frustration for patients looking to contact you or find answers to their questions.
Add messaging to your website that highlights recent changes in procedures or hours of operation. An excellent way to spotlight announcements and updates on your website is a homepage banner. Whether patients are visiting your website on a desktop or mobile device, they’re sure to see a banner announcement as soon as they reach your site. The banner may link to a landing page or blog page that explains recent changes.
Along with social media and email blasts, your website messaging is another crucial way to communicate with patients throughout the process. Ensure that your website is up-to-date with current procedures for seeing patients and fulfilling appointments.
If your practice is only open for emergency visits, communicate this on your website. Your website information should not be static; website content should be dynamic to clearly reflect what your practice is doing now. Be sure to update contact information, like phone numbers, chat channels and email addresses. Communicate new processes for scheduling appointments, available appointment times, and the updated process for becoming a patient.
3. Be transparent and personal.
When tensions are high, people are bound to have questions. Patients want to know about changes to your practice and the steps you’re taking to adapt to the circumstances. You don’t want your patients to have any looming, unanswered questions.
Personalize messages to patients with honest, genuine communications. Consider offering one-on-one video chats, phone calls, or live message chats to show patients that you’re prioritizing their needs. Let patients know that you’re following the CDC’s guidelines to ensure their safety as well as the safety of employees.
Your patients don’t want to feel like they’re just a number. Show your patients that you value them personally and that their concerns, questions and preferences matter. New and existing patients will appreciate the special attention they’re given, and their satisfaction levels will reflect their appreciation.
4. Facilitate open communication.
Establish channels of communication that enable patients to ask questions and express concerns. Send out emails, post to social media accounts, post blogs or updated content to your website, and consider calling patients personally if they have appointments that need to be scheduled or questions that need to be answered.
Let your patients know the best ways to contact you. You don’t want your main office lines ringing with no one there to pick up the phone. If your office is closed, redirect the office main lines to a team member’s cell phone, or provide a new phone number altogether.
Patients want to know who to contact in the case of an emergency, who to contact to schedule or reschedule appointments, and who to contact with questions about treatment.
5. Anticipate FAQs and provide answers.
Anticipate frequently asked questions from patients before they’re asked. Patients in active treatment are bound to wonder common questions, such as:
“What do I do if a braces bracket or wire pops loose?”
“What do I do if I run out of rubber bands before I can visit my orthodontist again?”
“What do I do if I lose an Invisalign® aligner or break my retainer?”
Take to social media and blog postings to answer these FAQs. Patients will likely feel reassured that these are common occurrences that don’t require urgent attention. Provide answers, tips, tricks or pieces of advice to guide patients through potential scenarios.
6. Advise patients on how to respond to potential emergencies.
Emergencies happen. While practices are closed for general appointments, many are open for emergency appointments. Advise patients on what to do in the case of an emergency, and how to contact the office regarding an emergency appointment if necessary.
Provide examples of situations that would be classified as emergencies, and advise patients on ways to mitigate complications. Provide an emergency phone number for patients to reach a team member, should a situation that requires immediate attention arise.
Differentiate between situations that would require a visit to the emergency room and situations that can be handled with an emergency visit to your practice.
7. Communicate with positivity.
The last thing your patients need is more fear or worry. Take it upon yourself to lighten your patients’ spirits with conversative social media postings, positive updates, contests or giveaways, and ideas of fun things to do in self-quarantine.
You don’t want to perpetuate patients’ panic with worrisome statistics, disheartening news updates, or saddening facts—they’re already getting enough of that. But it’s also important to remain considerate and mindful in your communications. You don’t want your messages coming across as tone-deaf or insensitive. Communicate with positivity, but don’t undermine the unfortunate reality of the virus.
During the COVID-19 crisis, your practice needs to strengthen its relationship with the community through strategic, honest, and proactive communication. Don’t leave your patients wondering what to do next, how to handle an emergency, or who to contact for FAQs and general information.
Provide solutions to common questions and concerns before they’re brought to your attention. Send out email blasts with pieces of advice, information, and resources to support your patients until they’re able to visit you again.
Implement virtual check-ins or virtual consultations to stay connected with your patients in a safe and healthy way. We have seen great success with our clients utilizing virtual features for exams with new patients and check-ins with existing patients!
If you are seeking modern, creative solutions for you to recover from losses and prepare your practice for growth in the near future, we would be happy to help. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions! We are also offering free online assessments for a limited time. Ready to claim yours? Let’s get started!