Dental Practice Reopening Guidelines Post COVID-19
COVID-19 has dramatically impacted dental practices throughout the country, and it can be daunting to think about how to move forward. Understanding the concerns of your patients and staff can help you be better prepared to get back to business post COVID-19, no matter how different that may look now. By taking steps to protect the patients in your care, you can help make this transition a little easier.
Every dental practice is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to reopening your practice. We have designed some guidelines to help you make this delicate transition back to normal business operations. Take these steps to help communicate with your patients that you are prioritizing their safety during this time and that it is safe for them to return to your office.
Understand the Concerns of Your Patients
Many dental patients may still feel uncomfortable physically being present in an office. Instead of only encouraging in-person appointments, offer patients the option of a virtual consultation. While you will not be able to treat them, it can be a simple and risk-free way to answer any questions they may have without them needing to leave the comfort of their home. This can improve patient satisfaction with your services because it lets them know that you are prioritizing their comfort and safety. It can also ensure that they come back when they do feel more comfortable coming in for a visit.
You know better than anyone that a healthy mouth is the key to a strong immune system. Patients are concerned about their overall health and immunity and by reminding them of the role their mouth plays in their overall health, you may be able to reactivate patients who are hesitant to return to the office.
You should also use social media and email marketing to remind patients of the same on a weekly basis. For many patients, their dental health is often not a concern unless they are in pain; by reminding patients of the mouth-body connection you can encourage more routine cleaning appointments. If your practice is unfamiliar with email marketing or social media, VivioSites can help you setup these profiles and even manage them for you!
Space Out Appointments & Prioritize Sanitation
Avoid scheduling back-to-back appointments to help minimize contact, and only use every other patient chair. Going forward, maintain a call-ahead only policy and do not accept drop-in appointments. This will help regulate a schedule that requires some extra time to clean and prepare the space for patients and staff. It also communicates to patients who are hesitant to return to your office that you are committed to their safety. By regulating the flow of patients, you will have ample time to clean the facilities and keep patient contact to an absolute minimum.
Patients should check in over the phone and tasks such as signing in and making follow-up appointments should be made contactless. Close the waiting area and advise patients not to bring guests so that there is as little exposure as possible. This extra step can help protect your space from unnecessary contact and minimize the number of people in the office.
Have all deliveries sanitized before they are brought into the office. If possible, leave disinfectant spray, wipes, and hand sanitizer at the entrance of the practice. Encourage patients to take proper precautions to ensure their safety and the safety of your staff. Cleaning all surfaces regularly, even hourly, can help to minimize any risk of exposure and can communicate to your patients that you are prioritizing their safety.
Communicating these additional measures to patients who are reluctant to return to your office can alleviate many concerns and reactivate your patients. Be sure to update your website, social media platforms, and email your patient base to communicate these changes. If you don’t have a website for your dental practice, now is the time as patients will be looking online for the most up-to-date information.
Many dental practices have lowered or paused their marketing efforts during the pandemic, which provides your practice with the perfect opportunity to advertise at an affordable rate. Within your ads, you can include new sanitary practices and introduce yourself to a larger audience.
Expanding your social media marketing and Google Ad spend during this time will allow you to reach more potential clients for the lowest price in years, as the cost of online advertising is currently at a low point.
Additionally, keeping your dental website at the top of Google is of the utmost importance at this time. As potential patients begin to feel more comfortable venturing out into the world, many may be in need of a new dentist and will look to the internet to help them find one.
Clear Communication is Key
If you weren’t already prioritizing social media, it is time to start. Communicate with your patients that you are taking every necessary measure to follow the current CDC guidelines. Let your patients know that you are consistently cleaning your facilities, wearing proper protective gear, and minimizing unnecessary patient contact as much as possible. Social media is the perfect tool to help you reach your patients directly.
Consider posting photos or videos of patients who have already returned to the office for treatment as this will communicate to hesitant patients that it is safe to return to your office.
You should also call any patient who has an upcoming appointment to let them know that you are making every effort to protect their health while also providing them with exceptional treatment. It may also be a good idea to offer them a chance to reschedule at a later date if it would make them more comfortable. While this may not be ideal, it communicates with your patient that you are prioritizing their health over business, which will truly help to maintain their trust in your services. These calls should be made personally, not by an automated message. A personal touch can help solidify your genuine interest in protecting your patients’ health.
To open back up in full capacity, it is going to take some real effort and attention to detail on your part. A successful transition will depend on how clearly you communicate with patients and what your messaging consists of. With some time and understanding, you can help your patients feel more at ease when it comes to maintaining their scheduled appointments.
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