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You’d be hard-pressed to find a patient who isn’t at least a little nervous about sitting in the dentist’s chair. But if a person’s anxiety level is high enough it can mean they delay returning for necessary treatment.

We highlight 5 reasons why nervous patients may not commit to booking an appointment and how you can overcome their fears to ensure return visits at your practice.

1) They can’t book outside business hours

Anxious patients will do whatever they can to get out of going to the dentist. Picture this situation:

It’s after business hours when an anxious patient builds up the courage to visit your website to book an appointment. (HealthEngine research shows that 62% of online bookings are made outside of business hours so this situation is occurring regularly across Australia). The patient is unable to call you as your practice is closed. If they also can’t book online, what are they to do?

Unfortunately they’re likely to back out of making the appointment.

Enabling online bookings will turn your website into a 24/7 receptionist and you’ll never miss an opportunity like this again. Best of all, HealthEngine’s Online Booking System comes with appointment confirmation and appointment reminder emails built in, so you can be confident that patients who book online will attend their appointment.

96% of patients who book dental appointments via HealthEngine attend their appointment.

2) They can’t easily navigate your website

Simply having a website is a good start, but in this new world of mobile internet and smartphones, that’s not enough. You need to be mobile optimised! This means that when patients visit your website from their smartphone it needs to be easy to navigate and, more importantly, easy to book.

Put your practice website through Google’s simple Mobile-Friendly Test and see if your website is optimised for mobile screens.

It hardly takes any time to embed HealthEngine’s Online Booking System into your practice website and Facebook page. Plus it’s already mobile optimised – so your patients will find selecting their appointment time quick and easy.

3) Lack of transparency on pricing

There is a lot of discussion in the dental industry around whether dentists should display their pricing.

One side argues that this promotes price shopping, while the other argues that patients deserve to be able to make informed decisions about their healthcare – with cost being a key consideration.

Providing basic pricing on common treatments to anxious patients will reduce their worry and encourage them to come in to see you, allowing you to present the various treatment options to them.

With a HealthEngine Professional Profile, you have the ability to choose which information you would like to display to patients. Want to publish a full breakdown of all your treatment costs? Great. Or maybe you just want to display the prices of the most common treatments such as 011, 022 and 114. You can do that too. Test out what works best for your practice.

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4) Poor or no online reputation

Your online reputation can have a major impact on your practice.

With social media and review sites now dominating the digital landscape, it’s common for people to widely share their feedback about a service experience online.

This means that when considering a dentist, many patients will jump online first to check other people’s opinions about their experience before committing to a booking.

In an ideal world you want to ensure all of your patients are having a positive experience when they visit or contact your practice. The only way to find out, is by asking them. Patients will love that you value their opinion and feedback. If they value particular aspects of your service or practice, encourage them to let other people know by posting an online review. If you’d like to learn more about navigating online patient reviews, check out our Practitioner’s Guide to Online Patient Reviews.

5) The practice staff are too busy to spend time with patients

Once a nervous patient plucks up the courage to attend their appointment, sitting in your reception area can be an arduous wait.

Try to make your waiting room as calm, welcoming and distracting as possible. Avoid the posters of tooth decay! Offer a range of recent magazine titles, or even consider putting a TV on the wall (if you’re concerned about noise levels, you can have it muted with closed captions). A dedicated child’s area with toys and books also helps keep the little ones quiet, which all your patients will thank you for.

To an anxious patient, nothing beats empathetic personal contact. Yet if your front desk staff are too busy answering calls then they won’t be able to engage in any level of conversation to help set the person’s mind at ease.  Allowing your patients to book online will free up your front desk staff to focus on providing a welcoming and positive experience to the people in your waiting room. 

In Summary

You’re not going to be able to convince every anxious patient to take the steps they should to maintain their oral health, but by keeping these 5 roadblocks in mind when considering the journey that your patients take when booking an appointment at your practice, you’ll be well on the way to taking the stress out of dental care.

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