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5 ways to stay connected to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic

April 09, 2020 4644

From boosting the practice’s online presence to sending e-newsletters, here are the top five strategies McNickle recommends to stay virtually connected to patients and maintain their trust and confidence, which will be beneficial once business returns to normal.

With the COVID-19 crisis putting routine dental care on pause, dental offices have had to drastically change their daily operations in a short period of time. When in-person care is suspended, staying connected to patients is challenging and requires dentists to adopt new ways to communicate.

To help members manage this disruption, CDA invited WEO Media Co-founder and dental marketing expert Ian McNickle to share his advice on how member dentists can communicate with patients during this time of uncertainty. From boosting the practice’s online presence to sending e-newsletters, here are the top five strategies McNickle recommends to stay virtually connected to patients and maintain their trust and confidence, which will be beneficial once business returns to normal.

1. Keep your website active.

It is critical to maintain an online presence with a live, active website. Identify your patients’ concerns and let them know what steps your practice has taken to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Ensure your patients can find up-to-date office hours, contact information and guidance on how your practice is handing patients who need emergency care.

Consistently updating your website will also help to optimize your search engine rankings on search engines such as Google and Bing, which will not only make it for existing patients find to you online, but will also attract new patients who are looking for a dentist once business returns to normal. Be sure to maintain ongoing SEO activities so you don’t lose your Google rankings; you might even rise in rankings as others decrease their activity.

2. Increase your social media presence.

Now is a great time for small businesses to establish or maintain a social media presence, as people are checking social media more frequently for the latest on the coronavirus and looking for ways to keep in touch with community members.

If your practice is new to social media, it’s simple to get started:

  • Start a business page for free on Instagram and Facebook and encourage patients to follow you through your website.
  • Once your page is live, decide who will be allowed to post content. This person should be a trusted staff member who understands the HIPAA requirements and can maintain compliance with them so the practice avoids getting into clinical or nonsecure communications about treatments on public platforms.
  • Post content once or twice a week to establish a consistent presence in your patients’ newsfeed and be sure to add a picture or video to each post to boost engagement.

3. Share engaging content.

Whether you’re distributing content through your website, social media channels or email, you should be sharing information that your patients will find valuable and engaging. Ideas for content you might create and share could include:

  • A blog post with oral hygiene tips
  • A short demonstration video on proper flossing techniques
  • Advice for maintaining routine oral care

During this time of uncertainty, McNickle recommends sticking to content that’s positive, reassuring and forward-thinking.

4. Implement live chat.

Chat service is an effective way to respond to patients who may have questions or emergencies. You can make live chat available on your website and outsource it to a third party, but if you’re looking to keep the service in-house, social media is a good place to start.

Consider offering patients the option to chat with you and your staff via Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and other instant messaging platforms. The service is more likely to succeed if you keep your response times quick, and let patients know when they can expect a reply on these channels.

You can also offer video conferencing options through Skype or FaceTime so your patients can still talk to you face-to-face.

5. Send e-newsletters.

Stay in touch with your patients by sending regular e-newsletters that include the latest information about office closures and updates on how you and your staff are doing. Some good options for DIY newsletter platforms are Constant Contact and MailChimp. You can also use e-newsletters to share uplifting and inspiring news stories and generally be a positive presence for your patients.

For more marketing tips, watch McNickle’s recorded CDA webinar Communicating with Patients During COVID-19, plus find more marketing tips, financial management advice and information on other topics through CDA’s COVID-19 webinar series.

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