12 Tips to Engage with Your Patients and Respond to Reviews Online

From your social media platforms to your online reviews, it’s important to keep a pulse on what your patients are saying and engage in positive dialogue. Proactively engaging with patients on your online platforms helps you keep your practice top of mind, highlight services and products, and get feedback from your patients. The following are best practices for engaging on your online platforms:

1. Check your social media platforms at least once a day and aim to respond to messages and questions within 12 hours. This shows your audiences that they are valued and ensures you are handling any issues quickly.

2. “Like” and respond to positive comments — even a simple “Thank you!” or “You’re welcome!” The commenter will appreciate it, and it keeps positive comments at the top of the thread.

3. Ensure that all posts and responses are on-brand, professional and respectful.

4. Hide or remove comments with inappropriate language, threats, HIPAA compromises (such as photos where individuals’ faces are shared without consent) or negative mentions of a specific doctor. Consider including these community guidelines in your “About” section.

Now, you might be wondering what to do when a patient or follower shares a negative review, comment or complaint. You may be tempted to delete the post, respond tersely or even fire back. But remember that the rest of the online community is “watching” your actions. It’s critical to show professionalism and respect and to take the time to think through the question and best response. While you can’t control every comment or review, your response may help prevent further negative feedback. The following are tips to keep in mind for negative reviews:

5. Identify sensitive questions or comments and determine the best course of response. This could include patient complaints and questions on cost, billing or office policies. A good practice is to take the conversation in private via direct message.

6. Decide whether it is worth it to respond on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, it may be best not to respond, depending on the content of the review, the volume of reviews for your practice, etc.

7. If you respond, do so in broad “all patient” terms and office policies versus getting into a direct dispute.

8. Do not get into an online debate over the incident that prompted the negative review. Doing so can look defensive or confrontational.

9. Invite the negative reviewer to contact you directly to discuss the issue further.

10. Make sure that any response represents you as a compassionate, concerned and understanding professional.

11. Consider this example response: “Our office strives to provide the best service to all patients. We would like to learn more about what happened and hope you will contact us as soon as possible.”

12. Negative reviews should not be removed, unless they include profanities or statements of hate, reference a specific provider or violate any privacy policies.

Consumers don’t expect businesses to have 100%, five-star reviews. Engaging with positive online comments and reviews, while thoughtfully handling any negative feedback, will help your practice strengthen your relationships, reputation and service to your patients.


Reprinted from Today’s FDA, Sept/Oct 2020. Visit floridadental.org/publications to view Today’s FDA archives.

Top 10 Things to Do Now to Increase Cash Flow During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Dr. Rick Huot

For Florida dentists, the idea of bracing ourselves and our staff for another national emergency is quite likely not the first, nor the last, given the number of hurricanes we’ve faced in the past decade. But the new coronavirus (COVID-19) is a little different breed of emergency, since unlike our past hurricanes, it is here already — and we don’t know how long it’s going to last. Fortunately, our offices are intact, and we will be able to quickly rebound once the outbreak dissipates, and our patients will come back slowly and surely as they always do. Despite that, cash flow management will be critical in this unknown period, and it is vital you take steps now to preserve cash flow, so that your office can be restored to normal as quickly as possible.

As you can see, the current flow of information is too fluid to predict how long this pandemic will last, but you can do these 10 things right away to assure you’ll receive an adequate cash flow during the outbreak and once patient care is resumed. At the time of this writing, 25% of America had “lockdown orders” imposed on its citizens, and all workers who do not have a critical job description are urged to stay home in place. Officials have literally imposed “emergency care only” advisories for all dentists, and some states have extended that condition into late May or even mid-June. Please visit floridadental.org/coronavirus for the latest Florida-specific information. The American Dental Association (ADA) and is continually evaluating and will update its recommendation on an ongoing basis as new information becomes available.

For cash flow preservation, here are 10 recommendations, in no particular order:

1. Don’t touch your face or your 401K unless you can afford to put 2019 fiscal year money into it. I found this out by accident in July 2008 when I sold my practice. I didn’t fund the 2008 contributions for myself and my family until late March 2009. By pure blind luck, the bottom of that bear market was in March, so the funds put in were at the market low and made great gains over the years. If you’re not taking a retirement distribution, avoid the stress of constantly checking your portfolio balance while the market gyrates wildly on each rumor.

The current Dow average is around where the 2008 low was, so if you do have extra cash on hand, the market is on sale and will eventually rebound. Ignore cold calls by stockbrokers who are peddling the latest great deal on bargain stocks, and your 401K should have a small group of well-diversified index funds that are low cost and well-balanced for any financial condition.

2. Take advantage of the governor’s Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program for an immediate injection of cash into your practice if you qualify. For more information on the program, visit floridadisasterloan.org. For questions regarding the Emergency Bridge Loan Program, contact the Florida Small Business Development Center Network at 866.737.7232 or email Disaster@FloridaSBDC.org(Source: Florida Trend Newsletter)

3. If you haven’t done so already, have a virtual staff meeting immediately to explain what your staffing will be in the immediate time period. The first thing you need to do is NOT guarantee your staff they will be made whole for the entire time of this pandemic. That is unrealistic, and threatens their future paychecks by putting you in a tight cash flow scenario. We all respect and take care of our staff, but you have to manage the business. Large companies are dealing with the same issue right now, and a friend who is a McDonald’s franchiser said they haven’t made up their minds on this yet.  You are not McDentist, and unlike McDonald’s, your patients aren’t going to make a beeline for your office once this is over.

The current Relief Package Bill that was passed by Congress just this past week guarantees 14 days sick leave to employees that have to stay home to take care of their children, or if they are quarantined. This bill will exempt businesses under 50 employees, which will likely apply to most Florida private practice dental staffs.

Liberal use of accumulated personal/vacation leave is a much better alternative to the small practice owner, and Florida dentists have likely used that route in the past in times of hurricanes. Salaried personnel such as an office manager (exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act) can be used for phone calls, triaging emergency calls and routine office work. If this shutdown lasts more than the mandated 60 days, contact your accountant/human resources consultant for guidance going forward.

4. Stop spending on personal “stuff.” Have a family meeting and honestly outline the impact of this crisis to your loved ones. They have probably heard it before, but it doesn’t hurt to talk about it again. We’re blessed as a profession to have a stable and considerable income, but as a small business owner, we are the providers to our staff members, and if your staff sees you’re taking this seriously, they will understand the measures taken in No. 3 above.

5. Stop automatic shipments of dental supplies. Except for personal protective equipment (PPE), you should stop any ongoing supply shipment of dental or office supplies. If you don’t do this routinely, have a staff member go through all of the cabinets and drawers, and assess what you have plenty of. Many offices buy supplies on sale, and large amounts gathering dust can be slowly depleted over the next year. Just in time, inventory practices should be implemented. This is the best time to schedule maintenance on any equipment you use, including small instruments that must be shipped for repair.

6. If you must go in for emergency appointments, set up multiple teams to work at the office in shifts to prevent mass spread of the virus. That way, if one or more of the team members get infected from outside or inside the office, everybody else figures out who can’t go in anymore, and you don’t knock the whole team out. If only one person feels sick, have them get tested and then figure out the quarantine protocol for the members of that team. Hospitals are adapting this protocol all over the country to prevent a mass depletion of their health care staff, and a dental staff also is particularly vulnerable to that. Dedicate a specific chair(s) and staff area for emergency treatment to limit the potential spread of the virus to other areas of the office, and make sure the areas you use are thoroughly disinfected after each use.

7. Delay making your tax payments on April 15 by filing your taxes and you can defer up to $1 million as an individual interest and penalty free for 90 days. Your other option is the right to file for an extension, and the tax return would be due on Oct. 15. Check with your accountant for details on payments and extensions to see if you qualify.

8. Instead of paying yourself with wages, pay distributions if you have a “S” corporation. Again, your accountant should be advised of your intent to do that.

9. Run an accounts receivable report. If you have a normal billing date to send your invoices to your patients, be sure to do that, and despite the fact that your patients may not pay you right away, it’s still part of a normal office routine. You may want to insert a notice of your intent to keep your employee’s wages as best as you can, and you appreciate it greatly if they can pay their outstanding balance.

10. Run an unfinished treatment report. This will be handy once you resume normal hours in your practice, and might provide some much-needed operating capital. All of us have more spare time these days, and if your dental software can be operated from home, you can review these treatment plans from the comfort of your home office.

Please continue to check the FDA and ADA sites for more updates as we go through this pandemic. With good planning and attention to cash flow management, your office will continue to be successful, and your staff and patients will be rewarded with your due diligence.

 

The Complete Guide to Starting a Dental Blog

Dog Looking at Laptop Screen

By Aimee Laurence

Nearly every business is creating a blog these days to engage with current customers and try to get new clients. How can your dental practice create a blog with content that will be SEO-friendly, engaging to clients and relevant? Read on for a full guide on getting started.

Change Your Mindset

To start, you have to change your mindset of thinking of communicating via posts, tweets and other messages as self-promotion that will annoy people or bore them. Instead, consider that you have years of experience and training and you can give people valuable information about oral health care and dental tips. This should be in the back of your mind as you start creating content.

Think of Patient Pain Points

Your ideas for content topics should come from your day-to-day experiences. Take note of the questions that patients ask frequently and the answers — all of this is material for blog posts. Any questions or concerns that are unusual also can make for interesting reading, although you need to be sure that it’s general enough to protect patient privacy. Speak with the rest of your team to get their ideas and the questions they frequently receive. Don’t worry about writing on a topic that’s already covered online; yours will have a unique perspective.

Tips for Writing the Content

At the end of the day, you do need to come up with the actual words for the content. This is the part that most people struggle with, because it’s hard to write well. Some tips are to start the introduction to the post by stating the problem. Describe the topic, problem or concern as briefly as possible. Then, give some steps that readers can take to address the problem in clear, actionable ways. Start with the best tip so that they are interested to keep reading. For help writing and editing the content, consult Boomessays and Academized.

Presenting the Content

It’s been proven many times over that a blog post, tweet or any content will get a lot more traffic when it comes with images. To get some good, relevant images for your dental blog, look at getting stock photos from a site like Unsplash. You also should be thinking outside the box to come up with creative and fun ways to showcase what you’re writing about, like animals smiling.

You also can create an infographic to show data or information in a more eye-catching and visual way. These tend to get liked and shared up to three times more than written content. You can use some easy sites to create your own infographics. As per Martin Ford, a dental blogger at Assignment Writers and Research Papers, “You can even take your own photos of your office, staff and exam rooms of the actual dental practice. This gives readers a real insight into the practice. Make sure you have signed consent from staff members before you use them in an image.”

Be SEO-friendly

Your content needs to be SEO-friendly so that it can rank higher on search results. That includes the optimal length for a title, meta descriptions and tags, and more. Laura Fields, a tech writer at Revieweal and Big Assignments, says to “Know the keywords you want and use them, by thinking about the keywords that your patients would be searching for. Include links to other websites, which will help Google rank you higher. Link within your own website as well.”

Share it

Once all of this is done, it’s time to release it and share it. You can schedule posts, so they’re released at certain times where they are more likely to be seen and read. You should be trying to get people to engage with it and share the content, so to do that, include a call to action. This can be as simple as asking people to share what they’ve read or ask for their thoughts. It’s especially helpful to end the post with a question.

Following these tips makes it easy to create a dental practice blog. Don’t forget to be consistent with your content creation so your audience knows what to expect. Happy blogging!

Aimee Laurence is a tutor who loves writing about content creation and blogging. She works for Elite Assignment Help and Essay Writing Services, where she shares with readers her top tips and tricks for SEO and boosting audience size. In her free time, she is a freelance editor at Top assignment writing.

When is a Computer Operating System Upgrade Really Necessary?

By Larry Darnell, FDA Director of Information Systems

The other day, I sat in a room at my doctor’s office waiting for him to appear. Since I am involved in technology, I quickly notice the computer in the room. It would be what I call a thin client computer with a basic computer operating system on it and a small footprint. All of a sudden, the power goes out at this office and as you might imagine, all things electrical shutdown, including this computer. When it boots back up after the power was restored, I am shocked and dismayed. The operating system is Windows XP! It has been five years since Windows XP reached what we call end of life. That means that the maker of the operating system, in this case, Microsoft, would no longer support, provide updates, or encourage you to use it. Perhaps you remember when they pulled Windows XP out of your cold, clutching hands and gave you Windows 7 or Windows 8. You cursed Microsoft like many others. Yet it is still being used five years later? The continued use of Windows XP is ill-advised, illogical and quite possibly illegal (in health care settings).

Well, in January 2020, Microsoft is doing it again. Windows 7 (which replaced Windows XP) will reach its end of life. There also will be a server operating system that has been super-dependable, Windows Server 2008 R2, reaching end of life, too. Here at the Florida Dental Association, we have been using Windows 10 for some time now on our workstation computers (the order goes Windows XP, 7, 8, 10, there was no 9). However, we do have three servers that use Windows 2008 and we’ve had to replace them with a newer server.

So, how do you know what operating system your computer is using? When your computer starts up, it should become clear:

xp
Windows XP = VERY BAD!

7
Windows 7 = Time to upgrade

8-10
Windows 8 or 10 = Ok for now

Understand that in most cases, it is likely possible to upgrade the computer operating system from Windows 7 to Windows 10 without buying a new computer. However, you would need to make sure that all software programs and hardware devices connected also are compatible with Windows 10.

Now is the time to do a checkup on your computer systems. Do not wait. This is not a Y2K-type concern, but it’s still important that you act now. If you have a third party supporting your computer systems, ask them now about this.

If you want more information on this, you can email me at ldarnell@floridadental.org or check Microsoft’s web pages specific to each event: