10 Best Practices for Texting Patients

In today’s digital age, everybody who has a phone texts with it—you don’t need a statistic to see it, just look around the waiting room. But did you know that text messages have a near-99% open rate?

With an increasingly tech-savvy and digitally native patient base, and the general prevalence of phones, two-way messaging has practically become an expectation. Implementing texting in a dental office setting might seem like it would just add new work, but it can actually save time and add productivity—not to mention the benefits for patients. So…  

Why Text Dental Patients?

Texting offers staff and patients a convenient way to communicate outside of calling the front desk. Why does this matter? For your administrative staff, cutting down on call time can allow them to focus on higher-value tasks and patient interactions, adding efficiency and improving satisfaction. You can also automate certain texts like appointment reminders and follow-ups to further streamline operations.

Altogether, integrating a two-way texting system into your practice offers numerous benefits, including:

Minimizing Late or Canceled Appointments

Missed or canceled appointments have been the No. 1 factor holding dental practices back from reaching their full capacity, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Automated appointment reminders and traffic notifications can minimize these no-shows, helping practices keep their seats filled and maintain a steady cash flow.

Improving the Patient Experience

Aside from helpful reminders, dental professionals can also text patients about important care information, treatment follow-ups, dental emergencies and more. This level of personalized service and care can have a dramatic effect on patient satisfaction, improving their overall experience.

Building Long-lasting Relationships

Over time, dentists can use this convenient communication channel to build trust and develop long-lasting, loyal patient relationships. Not only will this boost retention, but it could also help increase referral rates as new leads hear the positive experiences by word of mouth.

Top 10 Tips for Texting Patients

To help your practice unlock these benefits and more, here are 10 best practices you and your staff can use for texting patients:

1. Ensure Your Texts Are HIPAA-Compliant

First, it’s essential to follow the law and maintain HIPAA compliance. This means dental practices need written consent before they can text a patient—otherwise, they could be violating HIPAA and FCC regulations. Additionally, there should be monitoring and reporting policies and procedures in place to ensure safety and security. In general, it’s best to avoid sending any personal health information through text messages whenever possible.

2. Be Mindful of Timing

When texting patients, be mindful of timing. While a patient might text you late at night for an emergency, they likely don’t need an appointment reminder at 9:00 pm for the next day. Instead, try to keep texts within normal business hours or send a message on the morning of the appointment.

3. Stay Brief and Professional

Remember to keep texts short, concise and professional. These messages are representing your practice, so it’s best to use a consistent tone across all channels, such as email or customer service phone calls. Also, avoid emojis—with the exception, perhaps, of patient birthdays and exciting announcements—and shorthand.

4. Include a Call to Action

Every text message is an opportunity to elicit some type of action on the patient’s part, so provide them with a clear call to action (CTA). For example, an appointment reminder can have the option of replying to confirm or cancel. If your dental practice has a new announcement, direct them to the web page to learn more.

5. Provide Updates and Announcements

Speaking of announcements, text messages offer a great way to keep patients informed about everything going on at your practice, from general updates to promotional deals and discounts. These messages can keep them engaged and act as cheap marketing tools for existing patients—just remember to get consent by having them sign up for these types of notifications.

6. Automate Appointment Reminders

Reminding patients about upcoming appointments through text is an excellent way to cut down on late arrivals, cancellations and no-shows, but doing this manually can be tedious. Using a digital solution, dental practices can automate appointment reminders to save time for staff, improve schedule consistency and maximize capacity. Plus, busy patients will appreciate the heads-up in case they forgot about the appointment or lost track of time.

7. Send Traffic Notifications

In addition to appointment reminders, dental staff can use texting to send traffic information to patients before they leave. For instance, if the weather conditions are bad or there’s an accident blocking a major roadway, traffic notifications will inform the patient beforehand, giving them time to make a plan and get to their appointment on time.

8. Follow Up on Appointments and Treatment

After an exam or operation, patients can receive texts with detailed follow-up instructions and care information. This direct communication ensures patients stay informed about their treatment or post-treatment care, reducing the likelihood of complications. And the personalized touch enhances their overall experience with the practice, encouraging loyalty, retention and (potentially) referrals.

9. Respond to Dental Emergencies

In dental emergencies, quick communication is crucial. With two-way messaging, patients can send messages describing their issues, allowing dentists to assess the situation, respond promptly with guidance and schedule emergency appointments to ensure they get the urgent care they need. This rapid response enhances the patient’s safety and satisfaction, building trust with each interaction.

10. Request Feedback and Reviews

Finally, dental practices can leverage texting to solicit feedback and online reviews. These can be automated or more personalized, but the messages should ask to rate their experience in a survey or submit an online review. Building these testimonies can help elevate your practice’s reputation, attracting more referrals over time.

Are you looking for a two-way messaging solution to connect with your patients? Patient Manager is an innovative integration for Sensei Cloud. Combined, they help your practice unlock instant, automated two-way SMS messaging for exceptional patient communication.

Request a demo today.