How Peters Family Dentistry Avoided The Pandemic Slump
By Josh Weiner, CEO, Solutionreach.
Families at Dr. Deb Peters’ practice, Peters Family Dentistry in Grand Rapids, Mich., became used to receiving emails from Dr. Peters. Sometimes she’d send updates about changes in the practice and other times she’d pass along some of her favorite recipes. In fact, the ability to send personalized newsletters was one of the reasons that Peters adopted Solutionreach for her practice within the last decade.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, suddenly Peters and her staff found that these emails were an even better way to keep in touch with families and clients about how to contact a dentist in an emergency, how a telehealth appointment would work and what the office would look like once it was allowed to reopen.
The staff realized that relying on social media didn’t necessarily mean they’d reach the entirety of the clientele. Instead, finding the option to include video in the newsletters opened a new portal to the patient experience.
“I think initially, people were being overrun by everything on social media. I knew how many followers we had, but it was well short of my patient families, so we wanted to reach them all where we knew they’d see us,” Peters says. “We utilized the newsletters, again, to tell them we were opening but also to share with them a video clip that we had made about the changes in our office. So they can look at it, but also read about it so we’re trying to come at our patients from whatever way they want to get the information. The thing we liked about Solutionreach is when you put it into the format, it looks professional.”
What Peters wasn’t counting on was how many of her clients would forward those newsletters to their friends. While many practices saw at least a 6% drop in revenue during the pandemic, Peters Family Dentistry saw more patients in 2020 than it had in 2019. By embracing the patient relationship management technology that the practice already enjoyed through Solutionreach, the office was fully booked when Michigan reopened after a 10-week closure.
“Probably one of the greatest compliments was when one of our newsletters would be forwarded to a non-patient and then that person would become a patient,” Peters says, “So I would say that that was a great form of validation that our patients were feeling cared for.”
Keeping up with state mandates
To reopen, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services required that offices attempt to limit contact as much as possible and include a COVID-19 screening among the records kept for patients that were seen after reopening. The office pivoted quickly so that the forms could be emailed and sent by text to patients at least two days before their appointment. Patients are also able to text the practice from their car when they arrive, omitting a busy waiting room and allowing office staff throughout the building — including the hygienist in the back office— to know that a patient has arrived and is waiting.
The ease and stability of the online forms is a keeper for Peters, who says that now that the state has finally reopened, it’ll be the pandemic adjustment her practice plans to keep.
“By far, that’s my favorite because that really speeds up efficiency in the office and then we can upload that into our software for our dental patient record,” Peters says. “I’m always saying to my appointment coordinator or my other business partner: Allow Solutionreach to work for you.”
Creating a stable platform for dentists and patients
As the pandemic continued, so had the increased use and adoption of telehealth.
Peters says she started by using FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or any platform that a patient had available to diagnose emergency cases at the start of the pandemic. But by switching to SR Telehealth, she was able to triage clients and maintain compliance.
“We would utilize SR Telehealth to help keep the proper appointment in the book,” Peters says. “You know, so much emergency care can sometimes be just listening to a patient going over their signs and their symptoms, which we were diagnosing through a digital connection.”
Solutionreach also gave the practice the ability to fill holes in the schedule after cancellations, which kept the practice fully booked immediately after the state reopened. Peters kept a list of patients who had unscheduled crown repairs and when a last-minute hole opened, she would immediately use the texting and emailing technology to send available openings to the list. The message could be sent in bulk, easing the burden on the scheduler to work the phones to try to fill the empty chair.
Leaving a legacy
Though Peters has pivoted to retirement, by jumping on the digital wagon early, she set the practice up for success through Solutionreach. With a website that leaves a lasting impression and technology that can immediately contact patients, the practice is in good hands for their hybrid care model. As she says goodbye through her newsletters, sharing information about her retirement party and welcoming her replacement and other new staff members, she can confidently lend one last piece of advice.
“It’s important to meet our patients where they are,” Peters says.