How Text Messaging Improves Dental Patient Relationships
Every relationship thrives on clear, direct, and regular communication. The same goes for your relationship with your patients. The better your communication with patients, the better their overall experience with you and your practice. And if you’re curious about how you can improve your patient communication, you should consider text messaging.
Although it can’t really be considered novel technology anymore, text messaging is one of the most effective ways of engaging and communicating with patients. 65% of the world’s population use text messaging, and in North America, that percentage is higher at 80%. These percentages are projected to keep growing, and they are an indication of how important text messages are to people, including your patients.
Beyond the statistics, there are many more reasons you should be using text messages in your communication with patients. So, this article will explore those reasons and share some insights on how you can take advantage of text messaging to improve your dental patient experience.
To get started, here are six benefits of using text messaging to communicate with dental patients:
Six Benefits of Text Messaging for Dentists
- Encourages Rapid Communication
82% of text messages are read within 5 minutes. In other words, it takes less than five minutes for your patients to receive, be notified, and read your text messages. And in an age where rapid communication matters, being able to notify or provide updates to a patient is so vital. On the other hand, patients will feel more comfortable or satisfied knowing that if they send your dental office text messages, someone in your team will definitely receive and read them within five minutes.
- Keeps Patients Updated
Speaking of rapid communication, you can’t deny the fact that, every now and then, your office would need to send a somewhat last-minute update to patients. Whether the message’s to remind them about an item they need to bring to an appointment or let them know that you have to close the office due to a looming weather situation, you need a means of getting the word across to patients quickly and effectively. Text messaging can do just that for you.
- Reduces Patient No Show
Life happens, and once in a while, patients need to reschedule their appointment or even forget that they had one in the first place. With text messaging, you can reduce the chances of patients not showing up for an appointment by sending them reminders or allowing them to send text messages to let your team know when they can’t make it. This saves you time and helps you work effectively by scheduling other patients into the newly available slots.
- Text Messaging is an Accessible Means of Communication for Patients
Some patients can’t make phone calls or speak on the phone, and some patients even don’t have access to emails. And while the chances of meeting such patients might seem slim to you, it is essential to at least have an option in place that accommodates them. Text messaging is an accessible option for many people living with disabilities.
With a growing number of voice-activated and speech recognition programs out there, there are more opportunities for people to listen to software read out their text messages so they can respond without actually typing. By sending text messages to patients and allowing them to communicate that way with you, you’re giving them an accessible option to keep in touch with you.
- Provides an Affordable Dental Communication Option
While text messaging is an accessible option for your patients, it is an affordable option for you. Several text messaging services, such as Connect the Doc’s Live Chat, allow you to communicate with your patients, send mass updates and reminders, record and review messages and send automatic responses at a reasonable cost. These services are more affordable than their email marketing counterparts, and in many cases, they require less work on your end too.
- Develops Dentist-Patient Relationships
Above all, text messaging gives room for growth in your relationship with patients. Patients want to know that they reach you or your team when they need to or in the case of emergencies. And on your end, you can feel better knowing that patients are receiving your updates, reminders, and notes of gratitudes or seasonal greetings in a convenient and less intrusive way for them.
How Dentists Can Leverage Text Messaging
We’ve discussed six benefits of text messaging benefits for you. Next, we’ll explore four ways you can use text messaging in your dental practice.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about rules.
Remember that several means of dental patient communication—including text messaging—are regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the USA and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) in Canada. These Acts include specific guidelines that help protect the privacy of patients and their records.
You should take some time to review them, and as much as possible, you should avoid disclosing any information about your patient’s healthcare via text messages. Privacy aside, you should also be conscious of the timing of your text messages. Limit the timing of messages to within office hours.
You can discuss these rules and more with your team. Create a communication policy for your office so that everyone on your team knows the best practices for interacting with your patients. The more aligned your team is about dental patient communication, the better and more consistent your patients’ experience with your practice.
Now that you know the rules, here are four ways to leverage text messaging in your dental practice.
- Send Appointment Reminders
You can use text messages to remind patients about upcoming dental appointments and follow up with them after the appointment is complete. Sending timely reminders is helpful because it reduces no-shows, and you can use follow-up text messages to share post-appointment surveys or ask patients for feedback.
- Ask for Patient Feedback and Reviews
Speaking asking of patient feedback, you can also use text messages to ask and gather patient reviews. It’s best to ask patients for reviews while still in your office, i.e., after their appointment but before leaving the premises. But if you’re unable to do that for one reason or the other (e.g., because the appointment is virtual and not in-person), you can still gather patients’ reviews via text messages.
- Share Updates and Promotional Discounts
We talked about the importance of sending timely updates to patients via text messages and having open communication with them. But you can also use text messages to share announcements about promotional discounts. Such messages could be an excellent way to engage your patients and keep them interested in your dental services.
The discounts could be seasonal or simply rewards to patients who refer people in their network to your dental practice. In the case that it’s a reward for referrals, you can send a unique, trackable referral link to patients using Connect the Doc’s referral tool. This tool was designed with dentists and patients in mind; it allows dentists to execute their reputation management strategy and makes it easy for patients to spread the word about their favorite dentists.
- Use Connect the Doc’s Live Chat tool
If you truly want to take advantage of text messaging technology for your dental practice, you should use Connect the Doc’s Live Chat (also referred to as Walter). Walter is an intelligent virtual assistant that helps your patients stay connected to your dental team or office at any time.
Using this Live Chat tool, patients can send in requests, book appointments, and share updates online or via text messages. On your end, you can send office statuses, respond to patients’ requests, and send appointment reminders and follow-up messages instantly and automatically.
Walter is powered by artificial intelligence, so it can answer questions and send replies on its own. But it can also revert to you when it’s unsure what to say next. It can also remember conversations and understand patterns in messaging to provide better responses next time. And if the conversation starts online, but you or the patient has to be on the move, Walter can transfer the conversation from a website chat to a text message chat.
What’s more? Walter can help you capture new patient leads, i.e., prospective patients who visit your website. As a Live Chat, this tool lives on your website, and it is one of the first things your website’s visitors notice as they check out your website. It will prompt them to make inquiries, and when they do so, it gathers their queries and phone number so they can become part of your call log for phone calls or, better yet, your contact list for text messages.
To learn more about Walter, Connect the Doc’s live chat tool; you can request a free demo here.
Remember, text messaging is still a vibrant and effective means of communicating with dental patients. Don’t ignore it; instead, you should embrace and leverage it to keep growing your dental practice. Your patients may thank you for it.