Why Patient-Focused Messaging Cadences Matter

dental messaging

If you’ve been grappling with the challenge of crafting the ideal messaging sequence for your dental patients – you aren’t alone! You probably already have a good sense of how fine the line between thorough information and information overload really is. 

In the intricacies of dialogue, timing is everything. We wrote this blog to illuminate the path towards a messaging strategy that educates without overwhelming, ensuring your patients step into your practice fully prepared and at ease. Join us as we explore the pivotal role of message cadence and content in fostering a state of readiness and comfort for those in your care.

The Trouble with Appointment Reminders

Finding the balance in patient engagement, particularly when it comes to reminders for dental health appointments, is essential. An onslaught of reminders can overwhelm patients, leading to frustration and potential disregard for their dental health needs. On the other hand, insufficient reminders risk missed appointments and the neglect of important oral health care. Modern patient engagement software often overlooks the individual’s preference, contributing to a one-size-fits-all approach that does not cater to specific patient needs.

But there is a reason for this. In the world of oral healthcare, dentists and oral surgeons are often under significant pressure to ensure that their appointment slots are consistently filled, particularly when dealing with procedures that carry substantial financial value. This pressure is a driving force behind the frequent and sometimes excessive reminders sent to patients. 

The steady stream of appointment reminders serves a dual purpose: not only do they keep the appointment top of mind for the patient, ensuring they arrive prepared and on time, but they also act as a safeguard for the practice’s financial viability. Given the costs associated with unfilled slots and last-minute cancellations, one can comprehend the rationale behind this reminder system. 

The intensity of this reminder process, where phone calls, emails, and text messages are commonplace, can sometimes be overwhelming for patients; however, it reflects the genuine and reasonable urgency dental practices experience to maintain a full schedule and uphold their service commitments.

The Unintended Consequences

The results are ironic: patients are getting so overwhelmed that they’re missing appointments anyway.

Of course, dentists and oral surgeons know that the appointment reminder is an important touchpoint. And, as we’ve said, that urgency to fill appointment slots creates a culture of wanting to send a lot of appointment reminders – just to ensure the patient doesn’t miss it.

The thinking goes that with enough prompts, the likelihood of a patient’s punctual arrival inches closer to certainty. 

However, this well-intentioned barrage of notifications often collides with the reality of patient needs. Far from feeling assured, patients can find themselves overwhelmed by an excess of reminders. 

The result? Important details, such as pre-appointment instructions vital for an upcoming procedure, drown in a sea of alerts. This may lead to an ironic and unintended consequence where patients, overwhelmed, begin to understand these reminders as spam and disregard them, ending in exactly what the reminders sought to avoid—a missed appointment. The balance between necessary recall and informational overload becomes a tightrope that dental professionals must tread very carefully.

The reality is that healthcare providers frequently employ multiple notification systems—one for electronic medical records, another for prescription medications, and yet another from the marketing department—that often operate in silos, without synchronization. This approach can lead to an overwhelming number of reminders for patients, sometimes causing confusion and notification fatigue. Instead, the goal should be to integrate these disparate systems to create a seamless, efficient, and user-friendly reminder process, enhancing attendance rates for necessary dental appointments without inundating patients with messages.

What We See in the Field

At Intiveo, messaging cadences are something we discuss every day. A successful messaging cadence includes reframing its structure – including appointment reminders and instructions for procedures – around your patients’ needs.

You might be thinking something along the lines of, “But my patients don’t have one set of needs – each patient and each procedure probably has a different messaging cadence associated with it.” And, you are absolutely right.

That’s why we felt configurability mattered so much in our patient engagement software. The surest way to avoid the overwhelm that comes with multiple messages is to make sure every message counts. 

Some questions when configuring a messaging cadence might include:

  • What type of procedure or appointment is this for?
  • How does the patient like to communicate, i.e., by text, phone, or email?
  • Does the procedure or appointment require pre-medications?
  • What kind of paperwork does the patient need to fill out?
  • Do you need to be able to contact a patient caregiver or referral who is not in your contacts?

Fine-tuning this messaging cadence becomes possible with a platform like Intiveo’s. The advantage of patient engagement software is that it is built around the patient experience. It enables your dental practice or oral surgery practice to stop over-communication – to the benefit of both your patient and your practice.

Intiveo offers this level of configurability with all our plans. And, since the recent release of Intiveo Connect, you can message non-contacts, such as patient caregivers and new patients, with ease through our Chat feature.

Curious if Intiveo will work for your practice? Talk with a member of our team today!

Don’t Forget to Consider the Financial Aspect

As we’ve noted, one of the underlying reasons that dental practices are anxious to ensure successful appointments is to meet their bottom line. As we discussed in a guide earlier this year, the economic climate in 2024 will be challenging for dental practices and patients alike.

In addition to patient-focused messaging cadences, it’s also important to meet your patients where they’re at financially. One key way to do that is to offer highly personalized treatment and patient plans.  

Since many patients may consider postponing dental visits to prioritize other financial responsibilities, creating a personalized plan will show that your practice is committed to your patients’ oral health. Of course, dental health is a critical component of overall well-being, and delaying treatment can lead to more severe and costly issues down the line.

By offering tailored payment options, dental practices demonstrate understanding and adaptability to patient needs. This not only alleviates the immediate financial burden but also reassures patients that their oral health need not be compromised due to cost constraints. In turn, this approach encourages regular dental visits, contributing to the patient’s dental and general health and thus ensuring the dental practices reach their bottom line.

Plus, offering plans like these will do more to bring your patients to your practice than an inundation of texts ever will!

Need More Resources?

Intiveo offers several resources like this one to dental practices and oral surgery practices across Canada and the United States. Whether you want to check out messaging templates or learn more about the financial cost of miscommunication, check out our resources library. If you’d like to subscribe, click the link at the top right!