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Washington State Dental Association

Online Patient Portal Increases Communication

Reprinted from the July 2012 WSDA News · Pictured: Kristin Leavitt of Sesame Communications

By leveraging online technologies like an online patient portal, your practice can elevate the patient experience and quality of care, while effectively staying in touch with them at all the crucial moments in their lifecycle with the practice. From ensuring they remember to show up to an appointment, to reminding them to pay their bill, automated systems drive consistent, reliable execution of otherwise time consuming administrative duties. In an economy where limited budgets and resources have become the norm, it’s imperative to make the most of what you have, and to discover ways to consistently achieve your practice’s production and collection goals through more efficient methods. Click here to learn more from the WSDA endorsed Sesame Communications.

Making Patient Portals Work For You 

The Internet affords consumers incredible benefits — from online banking to ordering books, and plays an increasingly larger role in our lives. With 98 percent of those with a household income of $75,000 or above using the Internet, can you afford to have a website that doesn’t have expanded capabilities? Sesame Communications wants to help you harness to full capability of the medium to make the most of the patient experience. Today, 97 percent of dental patients would rather click than call the practice for information, saying that “online access is much more convenient” than calling the office. When you can make their experience with your practice hassle-free and accommodate their preferences, they are going to respond by increasing their loyalty and commitment to the practice.
Automation is the key
Automating certain administrative functions like past due A/R collections and appointment reminders gives your team the opportunity to focus on more important tasks such as establishing relationships with your patients, tracking treatment acceptance and completion, re-activating patients, and other tasks critical to ensure your office runs smoothly.

Keep your schedule full
According to Medical Group Management Association data, the average missed appointment rate of dental practices is between 18 and 22 percent, which translates into an average annual loss of $138,000 in revenue. An effective, customized appointment reminder system decreases your no-show rate, helps staff be more efficient, and strengthens patient commitment. 
The most significant patient benefit of an automated communication system is the patient’s ability to customize communications to their preferences — specifically email, text, or voicemail appointment reminders. In a 2010 survey, 79.5 percent of Sesame Members’ patients preferred text and email reminders over phone reminders. What’s more, 85 percent of surveyed Sesame Members agreed that using reminders reduced outbound calls from their team.
Unlike manual systems, which require daily scheduling, an effective online patient portal requires that your staff only set up the reminder once—the system takes care of the rest. Appointment reminders are automatically sent when you want, including one-hour pre-appointment text messages to gently remind patients about their appointments. By using an automated process, doctors have the peace of mind in knowing all reminders were executed properly and on time, every time.
The result? Fewer missed appointments and more productive days. Without an online portal to communicate with your patients about their upcoming appointments, remaining insurance benefits, treatment images, and financial data, your staff must spend time personally responding to every request for information.

Financial reminders – improve collections
Online bill pay is becoming more of an expectation in today’s digital world, with the total number of households transacting online growing by 53 percent in the past 10 years, and check payment volume dropping by 57 percent.
The convenience of being able to pay online not only means a quicker turnaround for payments, but the ability to collect payment outside office hours. Sesame members receive more than 46 percent of payments outside of normal business hours, meaning the money is in their account and waiting for them by morning. More significantly, 90.5 percent of Sesame member patients surveyed stated they are comfortable paying their dental bill online. Clearly, emailed financial reminders and the ability to discretely pay balances via credit card 24-7 is a convenience patients both expect and endorse.
Automated past-due financial reminders also present an opportunity for increased effectiveness and efficiency on the part of the practice. In 2010, a comprehensive study by TransFirst found that 32 percent of online payments to practices were made the day the patient received their past due financial reminder. An impressive 50 percent of payments were made by the end of the second day (within 48 hours). 
Past-due balances dramatically impact the practice cash flow and profitability. Implementing a system that seamlessly and effortlessly collects half of those outstanding balances without administrative time required to manage collection calls is an important benefit. More significantly, collection calls are not only time-consuming, but can damage the relationship between the practice and the patient. Automated effective online collection systems reduce the need for that activity and minimize such a risk.

Build brand trust
Regular communication with your patients not only builds a sense of familiarity with your practice, but over time it builds brand trust as well. E-newsletters, customized personal emails, and other greetings are an effective way to deliver practice information and engage with your patients. The average dentist has 1,871 active patients, making the ability to have one-to-many conversations crucial to patient retention and the success of their practice. It’s difficult to make a personal connection with every patient regularly, but by reaching out electronically, you can close the time gap between conversations, and increase patient recognition and awareness of your brand. 

Patient portals - measuring success
Practices are hectic environments, and you may fail to ask your most valued patients for feedback and guidance on how to better serve them. It is imperative to regularly assess your patients’ level of satisfaction. 
A complete online patient portal functionality needs to include post appointment feedback surveys that can easily be filled out by patients after an appointment, while the visit is still fresh. In addition, it should include a survey form any visitor may complete to provide feedback to the practice. Use this valuable information to continually improve the experience of patients in your practice and keep them returning. Take it one step further and post positive testimonials and reviews to your practice blog, Facebook, Twitter and Google+pages to attract new patients. 
Lastly, the continued success of your practice requires patients who refer their friends and family. Allowing your patients to conveniently input this information online and send your practice information directly to their referral, means you will have the contact data on hand to reach out directly to prospective patients right away and that referral will have already received a positive evaluation of your practice.
With the right online patient portal, your practice can elevate the patient experience. From appointment notices to billing reminders, automated systems ensure consistent execution of time consuming duties. In an economy where limited budgets and resources have become the norm, it’s imperative to make the most of what you have, and to discover ways to consistently achieve your practice’s production and collection goals through more efficient methods.

WSDA endorsed company Sesame Communications is running a promotional offer through July 31, 2012 on their Patient Login and Reminder Solution, for just $249 per month. To learn more contact or call 866.602.9671.



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