Texting triumph

01 July 2024

Mark Garner offers a guide to effective, efficient communication.

Time, resources, money – monitoring patient recalls can be a taxing process for every practice. As paper records shift to digital and communication ventures online, reliably engaging with your patients is essential to keep your practice flourishing and your patients smiling.

In 2023, the average UK resident spent two hours and 52 minutes daily on their phone. Despite seeing a reduction since the pandemic years, the figures for daily screentime depict a country that is constantly looking down. The phone is, therefore, the optimum gateway for practices to communicate better with their patients. It is hardly surprising that half of dentists have already incorporated teledentistry into their practices, sending texts to patients with a recall interval but no booked appointment.

Breaking barriers

The directness of SMS makes it a vital tool. An SMS gives the receiver clear information which can be instantly copied and saved or referred back to. SMS also limits misunderstandings so that the trust between patient and practice is strong.

SMS can be of great help to patients who have to overcome a communication barrier: blind, deaf, anxious and international patients can all benefit from a text service. Most phones, even less advanced ones, make reading, speaking and translating texts easy. This makes them a preferred communication method for many individuals. Other communication options, such as phone calls and paper letters, can be misheard, misremembered or lost, leading to misunderstandings and a risk of complaint.

Keeping patients in the loop

Effective communication has been found to help manage patient anxiety, with dental attendance often increasing with the quality of patient communication. Enhanced communication, such as SMS, can ease patient anxiety by sending early reminders for appointments and enabling patients to quickly reschedule if they do not feel ready, all without the confrontation of a phone call or a face-to-face meet.

Keeping patients notified on exclusive deals, discounted treatment plans and bundled services can increase the likelihood of patients booking their next appointment with your practice, whilst the speedy sharing of any updates around their appointments, or from within the practice itself, can reassure patients that they are in competent, supportive hands.

Speed and staffing

One of the biggest strengths of incorporating SMS, along with its cost-effectiveness, is its speed – electronic communication saves time. It is easy to prepare and send automated messages that are guaranteed to quickly reach patients, and it can be easy for patients to respond. Younger patients in particular prefer SMS, as 26 per cent of adults aged 18-24 actively avoid phone calls and 47 per cent prefer a text prior to receiving a call.

It feels like administrative staff spend a lot of time ringing up patients – a job that can be accomplished faster with automated texts. Giving patients the autonomy to book appointments through texts and extending digital tools to allow patients to pay online will further streamline your practice by reducing your administrative staff’s workload and minimising the risk of human error. Automated systems will ultimately better equip the practice to meet patient preferences and expectations by freeing up staff bandwidth.

No no-shows

No-shows are costly and detrimental to business. Using SMS can prevent this damage by getting patients to book new appointments with ease, minimising the risk of oral health problems or dental emergencies that can emerge from no-shows.

Patients can cancel and reschedule appointments quicker via SMS than through a phone call too. This allows your practice to fill in short-notice cancellations that otherwise may have been no-shows. Filling in these empty appointments can increase satisfaction among the patients who can be treated faster.

Cloudy with a chance of success

SMS as a practice recall tool is a proven success, with a 98 per cent open rate and a 45 per cent response rate. This is significantly higher than using email which has a 20 per cent open and a six per cent response rate, showing that SMS has a far greater reach that does not depend on Wi-Fi.

Texting patients is becoming the new normal. For a superb recall system, consider AeronaDental. Practices worldwide already use the innovative cloud-based system to streamline their patient journey and grow their business. With AeronaDental, your practice can organise automated appointment reminders and confirmations, as well as promotional messages to engage your patients, who can easily reply using a variety of texting options. The software’s Patient Portal will also improve attendance rates and increase revenue through encouraging enhanced engagement.

With the world constantly looking at their phones to read books, write blogs, binge boxsets and buy their bread, booking a dental appointment can be done in a heartbeat. Use SMS and let your practice thrive.

References available on request.