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How the Medical and Dental Industry is Responding to COVID-19

June 24, 2020 • Covid-19 Resources • Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team

How the Medical and Dental Industry is Responding to COVID-19

As a medical professional, you know the importance of health. And as COVID-19 continues, the measures you take to protect your patients will impact your entire community. That’s why your patients look to you for guidance to navigate these uncertain times. 

But with changing rules and regulations, how can you keep up-to-date on safety protocols and keep your patient base thriving?

The answer comes down to effective communication

This guide will walk you through the ways in which medical and dental professionals are responding to COVID-19 to keep their patients safe and their doors open. 

 

Putting New Practices in Place

Your state has instituted important safety protocols to help you care for your patients. From extensive sanitation policies to face mask and social distance requirements, your medical or dental practice may operate very differently than usual. Health professionals have found ways to implement these processes smoothly while providing patients with the highest quality care.

Here are just a few ways medical and dental practices are streamlining the new practices for a safer patient and staff experience:

Helpful Signage

As a result of COVID-19 safety measures, even the most mundane parts of visiting a doctor's office will look very different to your patients and staff. Your waiting room may be sectioned off to maintain social distancing, or your waiting area may even extend to your patients’ cars.

These new changes can be difficult to navigate for everyone. But with a few clearly displayed signs and guides, staff and patients can experience a seamless transition into the “new normal” of care.

If you’re designing your own signs, be sure to:

  • Instruct in direct, understandable language
  • Use large print
  • Add helpful, eye-catching graphics 
  • Offer multiple translations for your community

If you’re looking for inspiration, the CDC offers excellent signage you can print for free and laminate.

Where you put these signs is as important as what’s on them. Help everyone manage new safety protocols by placing guides and directions in prominent places. Here are a few ideas for sign placement:

  • Front door 
  • Bathrooms
  • Reception
  • Waiting rooms
  • Exam rooms
  • Break areas

Creative Tip: To help make social distancing a little less clinical, tap into your creative side. Instead of blocking off seating areas with “Maintain Social Distancing” signs, fill seats with large stuffed animals, paper cutouts of celebrities or characters, or even houseplants wearing hats, sunglasses, and reading magazines. Your patients will get the message loud and clear, and enjoy your humor.  

Supporting Staff

Your team is the foundation of patient care and connection—the gatekeepers of patient experience. Give your staff the best tools possible to support your practice and keep patients well. 

  • Keep information within reach – Create a shared digital folder to keep organized notes and guides on new safety procedures and office policies that can be updated and checked regularly. 
  • Be open to their ideas – There will be some trial and error as you implement these new systems. Listen to your staff’s ideas on how to streamline and simplify protocols.
  • Show your appreciation – Dealing with restrictive regulations, the stress of the current health crisis, and not being able to see patients’ smiles can take a toll on your staff’s morale. Tokens of appreciation for your team’s hard work will go a long way toward sustaining camaraderie and preventing burnout. Consider ways in which your team can receive:
    • Gift cards
    • Bonuses
    • Personalized thank you notes

Staying Up-to-Date

Sometimes, it may feel like health advisements for COVID-19 change every other week—and in some cases, they have. As researchers and scientists learn more about the disease, staying in the loop is critical to maintaining your practice and your community’s health. Keep yourself informed by checking trustworthy medical and health websites for COVID-19 updates. 

Here are just a few to get you started:

Although, following the large organizations may not provide total protection according to your local county health guidelines (as these often take precedence over state and federal guidelines). Be sure to consult your county’s business center and chamber of commerce, and the local county’s department of health to confirm additional requirements.

Communicating with Patients

Your patients are the lifeblood of your practice. And in these times of crisis, your patients trust you to be there for them. That’s why it’s so important to communicate your new safety implementations and vital COVID-19 information to your patient base.

But the first time your patients learn about your new systems and protocols shouldn’t be when they arrive for their appointment.

Here are a few ways to let your patients know how you’re responding to COVID-19: 

Updating Your Website

Your website is the digital hub of your medical or dental practice. It’s where your patients find relevant information about your services. Be sure to update your website with COVID-19 content, including new safety procedures. You can even add an entirely new section of your website that’s dedicated to COVID-19 information. 

Below are just a few things you should adjust on your site in light of COVID-19:

  • Hours – If you’ve changed your hours of operation in light of COVID-19, make sure that information is front and center on your website. 
  • New rules and procedures – Prepare your patients for your office’s new safety system by clearly describing your new patient and visitor protocols.
  • COVID-19 resources – Add a page to your website that provides visitors with current information about COVID-19 health concerns and links to trustworthy resource sites. 

Tip: Whether you’re shopping online or ordering groceries, you’ve probably noticed many websites have added “COVID-19 banners” to their websites. These banners hang unobtrusively at the top of many pages and say things like “To learn how we’re responding to COVID-19, click here.” Talk to your web designer about adding a universal banner to your website that directs users to important COVID-19 content. 

Social Media

The best communication strategy is a multi-pronged approach. That’s why it’s important to communicate with patients about your response to COVID-19 on social media. You’ll ensure the majority of your patients get the message about the new changes and safety measures in your office and increase your office’s digital visibility.

Note: Businesses don’t need to use all of these platforms. Use the ones that are easiest for you and most convenient for your customers.

  • Instagram – Use your Instagram for pictures and infographics of your new safety protocols, PPE-wearing staff, and your COVID-19 updated office. Users can be directed to your site easily from your business’s Instagram bio.
  • Facebook – Just like your website, Facebook Business Pages allow you to update hours, services, and “About” information to help your Facebook followers learn about your COVID-19 response.
  • Twitter – While you may only have a few characters to work with, you can direct visitors to your website to learn more about your COVID-19 response.
  • Google My Business – When looking for a trustworthy medical or dental business, many people turn to the Google My Business page. Keep those pages current and fill your “About” sections with your COVID-19 response measures. Be sure to answer any questions users leave in the “Questions and Answers” section. 

Email

Another way to reach out to patients is through an email campaign. This email should contain vital information about your new safety procedures and response to COVID-19. 

But to set your email apart from the dozens of other COVID-19 response emails businesses are sending, check out these tips for a professional, compassionate, and informative email from Forbes

  • Acknowledge the situation – COVID-19 has been difficult for everyone in your community—so don’t gloss over the seriousness of the situation. Instead, acknowledge the crisis, without being flippant or overly-optimistic.
  • Stay human – Unlike a faceless corporation sending out COVID-19 response emails, this email will come from you. Be empathetic to what your patients have gone through and speak to them like you would in your office—with kindness, professionalism, and your unique personality. 
  • Offer value – You (and probably everyone you know) has received a thousand and one COVID-19 emails. To keep your readers’ eyes from glazing over, offer insightful information that’s valuable to your patients. That can include:
    • Your updated safety measures
    • Health resources you trust
    • Local tips for safe and fun activities
  • Don’t be salesy – Communities are struggling with health anxiety more than ever. The last thing they want to hear is a sales pitch. Instead, save your marketing tactics for another time and stay focused on providing relevant information. Remember, this email isn’t about your business, but what your business is doing for your patients’ health. 

Phone Calls

Your office staff are champion patient cold-callers when it comes to appointment reminders. Have your staff gently remind patients of upcoming appointments (or overdue physicals or cleanings) while also informing patients of your safety measures. 

Additionally, your staff might be experiencing an influx of calls now that shelter-in-place mandates are loosening. It might be helpful to adjust your voicemail message to outline the reopening plan and redirecting them to the website to book future appointments. You can also direct them to your social platforms or Nextdoor page, wherever your most current updates live.

 

Making Connections

As a medical or dental professional, you’re a valued part of the community. You have a direct impact on the quality of life for your neighborhood. But with health restrictions and regulations, you may feel like you’ve lost contact with your local community.

Your neighbors aren’t gone—they’re just online. And they’ve missed you too. To reconnect with them, you need to meet them where they are.

Reaching Out To Your Neighborhood through Nextdoor

Through your neighborhood hub, Nextdoor, you can connect with your neighbors and fellow business owners by using Nextdoor’s tools for local businesses:

  • Build out a Business Page with photos, descriptions, contact information, and health resources
  • Start health-related discussions in the news feed with free Business Posts
  • Make connections with your patients and other businesses through 1:1 interactions

Every member on Nextdoor had to verify their address to get started, which means everyone you’re in touch with is part of the local fabric. 

So, if you’re ready to reconnect with your community, create your Business Page today. From there, you just need one recommendation to be searchable by the entire neighborhood. There’s no “building a following” like you have to do on social media platforms. 

Supporting Health for The Whole Community

As a medical or dental professional, your community looks to you in these concerning times. And you’re ready to offer them the support and care only you can provide. 

Once your office is set up, your staff knows the new protocols backward-and-forwards, and your patients are informed of your new and improved safety measures, the only thing left to do is open your doors and bring health to your community.

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Additional sources: 

Stat News. 9 ways Covid-19 may forever upend the U.S. health care industry https://www.statnews.com/2020/05/19/9-ways-covid-19-forever-upend-health-care/

Oral Health Group. Impact of the Current COVID-19 Pandemic on Dental Practice Valuations and Sales. https://www.oralhealthgroup.com/features/impact-of-the-current-covid-19-pandemic-on-dental-practice-valuations-and-sales/

Forbes. 16 Things to Avoid in Customer Communications During Sensitive Times. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2020/05/14/16-things-to-avoid-in-customer-communications-during-sensitive-times/#7d06ca9e1219

CDC. Information for Healthcare Professionals about Coronavirus (COVID-19). https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/hcp/index.html

CDC. CDC Releases Interim Reopening Guidance for Dental Settings. https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/infectioncontrol/statement-COVID.html

American Dental Association News. Current data on COVID-19. https://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2020-archive/march/current-data-on-covid-19

American Dental Association. ADA Coronavirus (COVID-19) Center for Dentists. https://success.ada.org/en/practice-management/patients/infectious-diseases-2019-novel-coronavirus

American Medical Association. A Physician’s Guide to COVID-19. https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/physicians-guide-covid-19

For updates on regulations & business relief resources available by state, see our Small Business Relief State Guides: 

 


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