Boosting Patient Confidence

Boosting Patient Confidence

Back-To-Work Dental Marketing Initiatives

Whilst we are still uncertain with regard to when dental practices will be able to re-open and indeed which procedures can be performed, we appear to be progressing towards that sometime reasonably soon. Our dental clients have progressed through their phased lock-down marketing initiatives including regular e-newsletter updates, video consultation etc and are now preparing their “re-opening” marketing strategies. These are primarily designed to re-build patient confidence so that they feel safe when dental treatments begin again.

How are dentists preparing?

There is quite a wide range of preparedness initiatives we are seeing, from very little, to complete re-engineering of the patient journey, including the inclusion of many new safety steps and techniques. A few dentists have adopted the view that they are already keeping to strict cross-contamination and decontamination protocols (e.g. HTM 01-05) and hence feel they don’t need to do much more. However, many more have decided to take significant proactive steps to ensure that they are best placed to protect themselves and their patients when practices finally re-open. Here’s a quick look at what we are seeing.

Protecting the dental team

Clearly a lot of attention has been placed on protecting the clinical staff within the surgery environment. We’ve seen quite a few social media campaigns for dentists demonstrating various different forms of PPE, often ending up looking like spacemen. Whether this is actually required or not is still subject to validation and we would not attempt to comment here, only to say that posting these types of activities on social media may actually be counter-productive in terms of confidence building. From the patient’s perspective, it may come over as quite scary if you have to attend a facility where the staff are decked-out in enhanced levels of PPE, even though our TVs have been inundated with similar images recently.

Many people will understand why this is happening but plenty won’t. So you may wish to consider carefully before showing lots of images of the clinical staff in full PPE – even though some/all of it will be required in practice.

Just on this, it is essential that the practice principle and management do all they can to protect their workforce and instil confidence. I’m sure this is a “no brainer” for most but I’m also aware that there are many differing opinions about the virus, from seemingly blase to hyper-sensitive. Irrespective of your views, if you are a business leader, you need to be confident that your team feels safe to go to work and not under significant duress.

Renewing patient confidence

So how do dentists prepare their patients for attending the surgery again? Understandably confidence will have been severely knocked for many and justifiably so. The dental environment is one where operation is at extreme close-quarters and this is something which has become alien to us over the last few months. Indeed we are told to stand at least 2m away from anyone other than our close families. So how then do we overcome the potential anxiety of a patient who is within a few inches of the dentist undertaking complex activities within their mouths?

This is clearly not easy and requires plenty of pre-planning and communication – at least if you’re going to attempt to do it properly. So what types of activities are we seeing taking place in preparation for patient returns? The level of activity varies from practice to practice but here are the main ones:

  • social distancing with clearly demarcated holding areas
  • on-line payments and/or contactless payments
  • demarcated surgeries – AGP versus non-AGP
  • one-way progress through the facility – including separate entry/exit doors
  • hand cleansing and temperature checking on entry
  • appropriate PPE
  • enhanced decontamination of surgeries including fogging disinfection
  • enhanced air handling and filtration techniques
  • high-tech anti-viral surface coatings applied in all clinical areas

There is also widespread commentary on whether those practices which have the scope to invest in the full range of new decontamination tools and systems are actually behaving ethically, given that many practices don’t have the scope. Some dentists appear to be suggesting that if the science is still vague on the efficacy of such devices, is it fair to use them as a marketing differentiator? Discussion of that is beyond the scope of this blog but suffice to say that the topic is being widely discussed in the dental community, so please be aware.

Getting the message out

So you’ve prepared to re-open but how do you now get the message out to your existing patients and to potential new patients in the general public? There are three key vehicles:

  • update your website – include photographs and clear descriptions
  • send e-newsletters – land a targeted email in the inboxes of your subscribed audience
  • create targeted social media campaigns

Remember that your primary goal is to build confidence in your audience and to let them see that you have been striving to make your practice as safe as possible for their re-attendance. Try not to confuse this with the regular dentistry marketing you will also be looking to re-launch soon.

Summary

Dentists UK-wide have been preparing their teams and facilities for re-opening as the UK starts to move out of lock-down. Now is the time to tell your patients (existing and new) what you have been doing to make their experience as safe and comfortable as possible. Update your website, send e-newsletters are prepare targeted e-newsletter campaigns to make sure all of your hard work is broadcast and that the positive message gets out. It is key to ensure that the messages are not mixed with the usual marketing initiatives you will also be preparing; this is all about building confidence so that your patients will feel secure and safe when your doors open.

If you need help to set up any of the channels mentioned, from updating your website to configuring suitable social media campaigns, please get in touch with the Dental Media team on 01332 672548. Our team is working and providing our full range of services for the dental community.