Driving Patient Engagement: How to Connect with Patients at Every Stage

Strong patient engagement is the heartbeat of any dental office, but it can often be difficult to achieve in a rapidly changing industry. As patient expectations shift and practices face increasing pressure to do more with less, there’s been a growing move toward digitalization to solve some of these challenges.

Modern dental practices use a variety of digital tools and software solutions to streamline both administrative and clinical workflows while improving patient engagement.

But how exactly does digital dentistry do all this? To answer that, we held a webinar with Kelly Zielinski, a nationally recognized speaker with over 15 years in healthcare and technology. Here’s a brief recap of some of the key points she discussed.

Patient Expectations Are Changing

Before diving into how dental practitioners can drive engagement with digital tools, it’s important to understand how patient expectations are changing.

In addition to advancing technology, the pandemic seems to be a driving force in changing demands. According to a survey from Dynata and Redpoint Global, 80% of healthcare consumers preferred using digital channels to communicate with providers in 2021. Compared to 2020, when only 58% said the same thing, we can see a significant increase in a single year.

Ultimately, Zielinski points out, the patient’s choice often comes down to convenience and ease of interaction. They want personalized healthcare solutions with on-demand, real-time support, and if they can’t find it in one provider they’ll quickly look for another.

So, how do practices keep patients engaged?

Patient Communication Is a Cycle

Many people think engaging and communicating with patients starts at the pre-visit stage, when they’re setting up an appointment. However, it actually begins when the patient searches for “dentists near me.”

This is the first stage of what Zielinski calls “The Patient Communication Wheel,” a five-step cycle that emphasizes the importance of engagement throughout the entire patient journey:

  1. Searching: Before a patient schedules an appointment, they’ll usually look at the website and online reviews. Not only should your site be visually appealing, but you should also take a proactive approach to gathering feedback.
  2. Pre-visit: Does your practice have automated text reminders? What about parking information and directions? Pre-visit engagement is all about ensuring an easy, hassle-free experience for your patients.
  3. In-office: Once a patient steps through the door, the best way to have a positive impact is through front-facing patient care. That means being available, attentive, positive and conversational.
  4. Post-visit: How do you connect with patients once they leave your office? Are you asking for feedback? Understanding the patient experience is a vital part of improving future visits and communication.
  5. Needs fulfilled: This is, perhaps, the most overlooked stage. Just because a treatment went well, doesn’t mean the patient’s journey is over. Follow up with email campaigns, events and community engagement.

After fulfilling patient needs and going above and beyond with follow-ups, the cycle repeats to engage more patients and grow your practice.

Ready to start rethinking your patient engagement efforts in a way that improves your bottom line and boosts your business? Watch the full webinar here.