Seizing the PR initiative
Software of Excellence urges the profession to take back control of dentistry’s public image.
January has proved a long month for dentistry. A series of announcements, claims and tabloid stories have pushed dentistry to the top of the news agenda. This is resulting in a public perception that the sector is in the middle of a crisis.
Firstly, the Prime Minister claimed ‘record investment’ in NHS dentistry. This comment was met with a swift rebuff from BDA chair, Eddie Crouch.
It was swiftly followed by the news of countless cases of patients resorting to ‘DIY dentistry’ because of a lack of available appointments and the length of waiting lists.
And finally, a series of announcements from Healthwatch highlighted the shortage of NHS dental services in various parts of the country.
All-in-all it’s been a testing start to 2022.
The issue for dentists is that these reports lead to the public believing that dentistry as a whole is in a dire state. Rather than accepting the good news that dentistry has to talk about.
Positive stories about new advances in technology, improving materials, faster and better treatments are lost in the mire of negativity.
What is needed to counteract the negative perceptions is constructive and consistent messaging about the progressive aspects of dentistry.
Some may call this a charm offensive. But we prefer to think of it as a coordinated communications strategy. A strategy that explains the challenges and difficulties that dentistry faces. As well as describing how individual practices are working to overcome them.
Digital technology makes communication easier, providing everyone with a voice.
Everybody can make private opinions public and amplify them using digital communications and social media platforms. We are urging dentists to take control of their public image.
In a survey conducted in 2021 (Software of Excellence data on file), Software of Excellence found that over 20% of respondents felt that public perception of the profession was adversely affected by the pandemic. This is a figure that dropped dramatically to less than 5% when asked about public perception of their specific practice.
This statistic suggests that dentists can exploit the trust and respect that patients have for individual practices to overcome the negative media-led narrative.
In practical terms, dental software enables fast, easy communication with patients. In today’s difficult environment it provides a perfect platform for dentists to explain why there is a squeeze on appointments.
Email marketing is now a common method of communication for dental practices. But we should not limit it to promoting new treatments.
We can also use the platform to create and schedule an information campaign in just the same way.
Creating and scheduling emails is very straightforward. We can send either en-masse to the whole patient base. Or, if time and motivation permits, we can tailor messages to different patient groups.
For instance, you might choose to target NHS and private patients with slightly different messages that speak to their particular circumstances.
In general, people are highly receptive to this sort of information. Particularly when received from a trusted source.
It’s an opportunity for dentists to deliver a more realistic, positive and reassuring message.
Reminding patients of appointments and asking them to cancel in good time, if non-attendance is unavoidable, is crucial to maintaining and ensuring the practice is running at optimal efficiency.
FTAs are a drain on resources at any time. But at this juncture, when practices are stretched, an empty chair is even more frustrating than usual.
With Covid isolation regulations still in force, short notice cancellations are an ongoing issue.
In such cases tools in your dental software are able to send automatic notifications to patients on a short notice list. This enables you to do everything possible to fill appointment gaps.
Reclaiming the positive
Patient communication, in all its forms, is one of the fundamental necessities of practice life. Now more than ever, as dentistry begins to re-normalise and look to its future.
Patient understanding and empathy with challenges faced by the profession needs engendering by dentists themselves.
Make full use of digital platforms to get your voice heard. Especially amidst the cacophony of sensationalist stories brokered by the mainstream media.
Taking control of public perception is within the capability of all dentists. Now is the moment to seize the opportunity.
With the help of software tools, effective communication is quite literally, at your fingertips