Patient Communications – Safety Reassurances Only Part of It In 2022

Jennifer E. Engen

By the end of 2021, most dental practices knew what studies had found months earlier. People were avoiding dental practices over fears of contracting COVID. To reduce fears, many practices took a logical approach to rebuilding patient confidence and informed patients about practice safety protocols. Yet such communications had nominal effect. For nervous patients, reservations were more of an emotional dilemma, which trumps logic. They were only going to visit their dental practice when they felt ready. So, to keep their practice top of mind until that time came, many practices reframed their focus on dental patient communications in 2022 (exampled at the end of this article).

Emulating the person-centered care concept endorsed by the British Dental Journal as being more important than ever for dental practice growth in 2022, practices took a wider approach toward more effective dental patient communications. Focusing on empathy, understanding, and serving patients where they are, practices have begun moving into 2022 with more holistic patient communications aimed at keeping patients engaged and practice-patient relationships strong until they’re ready to walk back in the door.

Don’t misunderstand. Dental patients are still concerned about practice safety protocols.

For example, in a recent survey published by Dentistry Today, 78% respondents said they were more concerned about a practice’s hygiene practices than they were before the pandemic, and practices have certainly risen to the concerns.

In a 2022 dental practice survey by ProSites, 60% of respondents named added safety precautions as COVID’s biggest impact. Yet despite added precautions, 55% of respondents named nervous patients as COVID’s second biggest impact. As a result:

  • 5% of respondents said practice revenue decreased by 11-25% in 2021
  • 3% of respondents said revenue remained the same

The Good News

Before the appearance of Omicron, patients were equally nervous about visiting their dental practice. Yet as vaccines rolled out and fears abated, they eventually did. As reported by Fortune, many dental practices saw “a surge of patients” in the spring of 2021. Omicron may have again elevated fears and derailed dental appointments. Yet fears will inevitably subside again, and confidence will return, aided by small lights now reaching people at the end of the COVID tunnel:

  • In December 2021, CNBC reported, “By the end of [2022], the COVID pandemic could be over,” meaning classified as endemic like influenza and chicken pox.
  • The same month, WHO Director-General announced the acute phase of the pandemic could end by July 2022.
  • In a January 2022 interview with Reuters, former WHO official Rafael Bengoa was optimistic that the Omicron variant might signal the end of the pandemic.

In other words, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of dental appointments and your practice.

There’s simply an element of time, and practices are using this time as an investment through dental patient communications focused on serving patients where they are, strengthening relationships, and ultimately reactivating dental appointments as soon as people feel ready.

Five Communication Examples

  1. Remind patients that good oral care at home reduces the need for trips to the dentist. This assures patients that you have both their oral health and COVID fears in mind.
  2. Show them the “how” to good oral care at home: tips about toothbrush selection, brushing and flossing techniques, dietary considerations, etc. In an uncontrollable situation like COVID, this reminds patients of what they can control, which includes choosing to visit your practice.
  3. Explain to patients how good oral health is connected to immune health and remind them how dental visits play a key role in evaluating and preventing oral diseases that can affect overall health.
  4. Dispel social media myths about dental care. In a saturated information environment, dispelling myths provides a service to patients by cutting through the clutter.
  5. Reinforce the value of investments made in their past dental care. Gently remind patients that delaying or postponing dental care can lead to bigger issues and dental costs that you want to help them avoid.

Most Important of All

Let people know in your patient communications that you’re there for them to answer any oral care questions or concerns. If you offer tele-consultations, remind them of this. Keeping the conversation alive and door open in your patient communications helps alleviate fears, strengthen patient loyalty, and reactivate dental appointments.

For additional tips on more efficient patient communication tips in 2022, click here


FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

Safety Reassurances Are Only Part of Dental Patient Communications in 2022

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