Advances in communications technology mean there are several ways to reach customers nowadays. SMS is one of the best, fastest and most impactful ways to get in touch.
Text messaging offers open and response rates of 98% and 45% respectively – this is substantially higher compared to corresponding figures for email at just 20% and 6%. Furthermore, 93% of consumers want to text with businesses, with many preferring SMS over other channels like phone calls and traditional mailed letters.
SMS works well across various industries and is particularly effective in healthcare. In this article, we explore the advantages SMS can bring to healthcare providers before diving into nine ways dental practices – an essential subset of healthcare – can use text messaging to enhance patient communications
The benefits of SMS marketing for health practitioners
Text messaging is highly convenient and efficient for both patients and clinic staff. Using an SMS platform allows you to create messages quickly and send them out individually or in bulk. You can even schedule texts to be sent at a certain time and see when they've been delivered and opened. And if you integrate SMS software into your CRM application, you can automate texts too.
Other benefits include:
SMS is wide-reaching – everyone with a mobile phone can send or receive text messages. SMS is available even on basic feature phones.
No WiFi needed for recipients – unlike some other communication channels, SMS relies only on a phone signal, not the internet.
SMS is affordable – texts are generally cheaper than direct mailers and phone calls (especially when you factor in the time staff need to spend making phone calls).
A great solution for mitigating no-shows – which can be very costly and damaging especially for smaller dental practices where it's vital to fill each slot.
How to use text messages for your dental practice
Text messaging can help improve patient engagement and overall satisfaction. There are numerous applications for SMS in dental practices, the main ones being as follows:
1. General announcements
Sometimes, it's necessary to send a blanket communication to all patients to inform them of a situation that affects normal service. For example, during the pandemic, many dental practices had to announce that patients needed to wear masks to appointments and prewarn them that their temperature would be taken on arrival.
General announcements, such as changes to business hours or appointment booking processes, can be communicated quickly and conveniently using a mass texting service.
Hi [Name], please note that we are closed for the Christmas break from [Date] to [Date] and will not be able to respond to messages during this time.
Hello, we have a new sign-in process for patients that requires additional health forms to be completed. Please arrive ten minutes before your appointment time.
2. Special offers and discounts
A text message is a great way to communicate special deals your clinic is running, such as reduced Invisalign treatment plans or teeth whitening solutions. Or if you're bundling together associated services to improve uptake, for example, you might want to offer a half-price hygiene clean with a routine checkup.
Not happy with your current smile? We offer a free consultation (worth $300) for teeth realignment treatment. Book an appointment today: [URL]
Hi [Name], be proactive about the health of your teeth and gums to avoid tooth decay. Get a half-price hygiene clean when you book a checkup: URL]
3. Appointment scheduling
Booking appointments is a continual task in any dental practice. Use text messaging to help patients book a new appointment, schedule a follow-up appointment or reschedule a slot they've already booked.
Hi [Name], our records show you're due for your routine checkup with [Dentist Name]. Please book your appointment online: [URL]
Hello [Name], further to your appointment today with [Dentist Name], please book a future visit to progress your [Treatment]. [URL]
4. Appointment confirmations
Once an appointment is booked, text the details over to the patient. How do you text a dental appointment? Text messaging software makes the process a breeze as this is one of the communications you can automate.
As soon as an appointment is booked, you can trigger a quick confirmation text to give the patient peace of mind. As well as including key information such as the date and time, you can use your message content to tell patients how to cancel or reschedule appointments.
Just to confirm your next appointment has been booked for [Date] at [Time] with [Dentist Name]. Need to cancel or reschedule? Call us on [Number].
5. Appointment reminders
As mentioned earlier, sending appointment reminders can help reduce no-shows and ensure your clinic isn't left with too many missed slots to fill. With integration into your CRM application, you should be able to automatically send appointment reminders (which is much more convenient and less time-consuming than attempting this process manually). Sending SMS reminders one or two days before scheduled appointments works best.
You can also use reminder texts to reiterate your cancellation policy or provide other useful information.
Hi [Name], just a reminder that your hygienist appointment is booked for [Date] at [Time]. While you're there, why not ask about our new interdental brushes?
Hello [Name], your appointment with [Dentist Name] is on [Date] at [Time]. Please note we must charge for last-minute cancellations. Read our policy: [URL]
6. Missed appointment notifications
Use text messaging to follow up with patients who miss their appointment to encourage them to rebook or request a cancellation fee to cover the cost of the missed slot.
Hello [Name], you missed your dental appointment yesterday. Please rebook at your earliest convenience to ensure optimal oral health. [URL]
Hi [Name], unfortunately we need to charge you a 50% missed appointment fee for [Date] at [Time]. This is to cover our costs in clinic. Please pay here: URL]
7. Phone check-in for online appointments
If your practice conducts online appointments, you can use dental office text messaging to send a videoconferencing link. With two-way messaging set up, patients can also text the clinic to let them know they're online and ready for their appointment. SMS is helpful for contactless check-ins – patients can simply text the reception desk to advise that they've arrived.
Two-way messaging enables patients to initiate a conversation or engage back and forth with members of staff. Since dental services are pretty personal, SMS provides a nice touch, helping to ensure communication is also personal and direct.
8. Feedback collection
Feedback is essential, especially for practices that offer orthodontic treatments. Getting implants or teeth alignment treatment is often a significant investment, so patients do their homework before choosing a clinic they feel meets all their requirements.
Reviews help convey transparency and trust. The more positive reviews you can gather, the more word-of-mouth referrals your practice will receive. With text messaging, you can send an automatic text after every patient visit, asking them to rate their experience by texting back a number from 1 to 5 or encouraging them to fill in an SMS survey (best if you need more detailed feedback).
Hi [Name], how was your experience today? Please reply 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, 4 good, 3 average, 2 below average, 1 poor.
Hi [Name], your feedback is important to us and will help other patients. Please take 2 mins to complete this quick survey about your visit today: [URL]
9. Answering FAQs
Finally, you can automate responses to FAQs (e.g. clinic opening hours, treatment pricing) by setting up and using an SMS chatbot. This can help free up time for reception staff who can focus on taking bookings or dealing with more complex enquiries.
Example chatbot conversation:
Customer: Hi, is the clinic open on Saturdays?
Chatbot: Hello, our opening times are 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays. Please call us for an appointment.
How to get started with texting your dental patients
The first step is to choose a good text messaging software solution. Messente's platform is ideal for both small-scale and larger healthcare settings, as it's easy to set up and start using for SMS campaigns. One of our healthcare clients left this review on Capterra:
"It's easy and fast. Every new user can handle it; no need for any specific guidelines."
Messente is heavily focused on compliance with the HIPAA and other global healthcare and privacy laws, like the UK's Data Protection Act 2018 and Europe's GDPR.
Getting started with Messente is quick and straightforward. Here's how to integrate it into your existing applications:
Receive your API keys (username and password)
Apply for a sender ID (phone number or branded name).
Add Messente to your application using your API keys.
Read our Quickstart guide for more information. Alternatively, you can use Messente with over 5,000 apps through Zapier.
Tap into the power of SMS for your dental practice
Like all healthcare settings, dental clinics can benefit from using SMS for marketing and communications. Using an SMS platform, you can text patients with general announcements, appointment confirmations, automated appointment reminders, review requests, answers to FAQs and more.
SMS can help reduce patient no-shows and increase engagement and overall satisfaction, helping to strengthen patient relationships in the process. And by automating specific communications, you can boost staff productivity, freeing up their time to work on other important tasks.
Take a look around Messente today - create an account to see how it works.