Staffing Shortages & the Patient Experience: How DSOs Can Leverage Software

Patient engagement

The Patient Experience at the Dental Practice

First of all, what makes up the patient experience? And why does it matter?

Of course, the single most important task for every dental practice in your organization is to deliver great oral healthcare. However, the patient’s overall experience matters, too. Engaging with patients is healthcare’s version of good customer service. 

Patients report that they value respect and dedication from their dental care providers. Fostering a culture of trust and empathy is the foundation of the patient experience. A significant contributor to this is, simply, meeting your patients where they’re at. For example, if they’re anxious when they come into an appointment, create the kind of atmosphere in which they can discuss this. Another part of meeting your patients where they’re at is communicating with them in their preferred medium. Younger patients, for example, will prefer to communicate by text. 

Leveraging your communication to create successful appointment outcomes is a key part of the patient experience as well. Examples of this include:

  • Building appointment reminders into your communication, such as 5 days and then 24 hours before the appointment
  • Communicating consistently about pre-appointment instructions, if needed
  • Incorporating a follow-up that asks the patient for feedback

Providing a great patient experience matters, in part, because this is something patients are starting to expect healthcare to prioritize. As consumers, their time is always prioritized – with reminder texts when they book a trip to the barber’s, for example. They are unlikely to miss an appointment or get frustrated before they even walk through the door with these kinds of reminders. Healthcare professionals will need to meet these expectations, as well.

It matters also because this is why your patients keep coming back to your practice. Creating a practice where you respect both their feelings and their time will inspire a lot of loyalty.

Staffing Shortages Facing Your Organization

Let’s talk about staffing before we approach how the patient experience and staffing are related. Staffing shortages are a challenge anywhere, but this can be especially true for DSOs. This challenge has two parts:

  • Staffing shortages are still quite common at dental offices. A poll taken as recently as 2021 indicates about a third of dental practice owners are struggling to hire dental hygienists and dental assistants. This is an issue that DSOs will feel keenly, as they support 10+ dental offices that could be managing this issue. Office staff, too, are hard to retain in our current economy.
  • DSOs tend to experience high provider turnover. This is partly due to the fact that dental practices may join DSOs as the dentist nears the end of their career, or when they want to shift to part-time work.  

The reduction of staff, especially in the case of office managers and front office employees, means that each staff member must take on more work. Providing a positive work environment, or any semblance of work-life balance, to an overworked staff member is incredibly challenging. Giving them the tools to carry out their work is key to providing that positive work environment. And, a positive work environment is, in turn, a key way to retain staff.

But, what does this have to do with providing a good patient experience?

Putting the Pieces Together

Imagine that stressed staff worker or stressed dental provider. It is difficult to imagine them creating a great patient experience in that work environment.

This is where utilizing software can help manage both the issues of staffing shortages and provide great patient experiences.

Often, patient engagement software can fill in the gaps in a staffing shortage. But, more than that, it can make the practice a positive place to come to as both a staff member and a patient.

If your staff is still following up with patients manually – whether for appointment reminders, form completion, appointment follow-up, or asking for a review – it is worth considering a software that can automate many of these tasks. This software can reduce time spent on:

  • Phone calls for your staff, through the use of automated messaging by text, phone, email, or phone
  • Missed or unsuccessful appointments because information has come to the patient in their preferred medium – for example, pre-appointment instructions are attached to an email that they can refer back to
  • Inputting patient forms, if the software includes a digital forms option
  • Following up with patients about a review – another message that you can automate with the right software

Giving your staff the right tools to use their time efficiently allows them to spend time on what matters most: delivering an experience that will make patients feel safe and valued. 

Where Intiveo Fits In

Of course, at Intiveo, we know something about patient engagement software! Our tool offers dental practices of any size time-savings and efficiency, with fully customizable messaging and a central dashboard for multi-location practices. Indeed, our partnerships with DSOs have brought about positive results, such as:

  • A 75% reduction in missed appointments
  • 3 hours of time-savings per day
  • A 90% confirmation rate
  • A 70% form completion rate

We are also proud to provide our industry with a number of resources to help navigate the issues facing dentistry today, including guides, case studies, webinars, and more.

Interested in learning more? Book a meeting today!