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How to shift patient communication due to COVID-19

July 10, 2020
The shutdown and reopening of dental practices have patients wondering when they should return. That's why communicating with them is critical right now. Dr. Rajan Sharma explains how you should adjust your communications to regain patients' trust.

By Rajan Sharma, DDS

Dental practices around the world are adjusting how they communicate with their patients after returning to practice following the shutdown. Dentists need to be sensitive to the emerging concerns of patients and emphasize that they’re addressing safety concerns.

Consider how you’re altering your daily operations and what your customers need to know about the changes in your practice. What are patients’ asking about these days? Work on specific messaging to address their questions and concerns, including how you’re changing the way you serve them.

How to develop messaging

Select a person within your practice, or hire a professional marketer, to develop communication about how your practice will treat patients moving forward. When that communication is in writing, your team needs to learn what they’ll be saying to customers so that staff can be on the same page. This process should also include channels that share your practice updates externally. 

Planning your communication strategy

When patients consider booking an appointment, there are many paths where they can discover or rediscover your brand. These include Google, social media, emails, ads, and your website.  Each of these channels should communicate how your practice is now serving patients in the wake of the pandemic. However, the information that’s immediately relevant to each channel can be different.

For example, with GoogleMyBusiness, the listing includes your practice hours, which may have changed due to the pandemic. When someone’s searching Google for a dental clinic near them for an immediate emergency, it will help if you have updated office hours listed.

Did you know that you can also add posts that are visible with your listing to provide specific COVID-19 updates? To do this, log into business.google.com and select “posts” to create an update. 

Review social media posts, emails, and advertisements that you scheduled before the shutdown to make sure they’re still appropriate. A day after air travel between the US and Europe was banned, Spirit Airlines sent out a promotional email with the subject line of “Never a better time to fly.” 

For new content that you share socially, inform followers about when you’ll be open and the precautions that you’re taking to serve them and take of them and your staff.

Most digital marketing strategies strive to guide readers to the practice’s website. Therefore, your website can be the central location for COVID-19 updates. Our website includes a link to COVID-19 updates at the top of the home page. Our COVID-19 update page shares how we’re incorporating guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Dental Association. 

We cover the social distancing guidelines we have in place within the waiting areas and treatment rooms, personal protective equipment we supply to patients and staff, and the steps patients can take if they need to reschedule due to illness. 

Listen to your patients

Being proactive and responsive is more important than ever as patients deal with all types of stresses and anxieties. Along with monitoring your response times for phone calls and emails, you can ask a team member to monitor review site and social media websites such as Facebook, Google, and Yelp for feedback. 

Guidelines to respond to online reviews should ideally include greeting a reviewer by name, acknowledging someone’s issue and why they may be upset, providing an explanation if there is a reason that may have caused the issue, and giving them a path to resolve the issue and an opportunity to connect offline for further communication.

Updating your communication strategy ultimately helps protect anyone entering your clinic and the practice’s reputation. By closely monitoring how patients react to your content, you can refine how you serve customers. That way, you can provide further updates across digital channels. 

Rajan Sharma, DDS, of EON Clinics Dental Implants, is a board-eligible endodontist with over 24 years of experience in the dental field. He is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University, where he went on to obtain his master’s in endodontics in 1991. Dr. Sharma is a member of the Chicago Dental Society, the Illinois Dental Society, the American Dental Association, and the American Association of Endodontics.