The year 2019 was full of firsts for the Fetsch family. Dr. James Fetsch went back into private practice with the purchase of St. Louis-based South County Complete Dental Care in August. Jennifer, his wife, went from a 20-plus-year career in teaching to helping in the practice office.
The two would lead the team at the 40-year-old practice – with its thousands of paper charts and a patient base that’s primarily 55 years and older – in going paperless for the first time.
“We’ve thrown a lot at the staff in a short time, but it’s an awesome team that is really flexible, adaptive and excited for the change,” Jennifer says. “I started out scanning charts from six to eight hours a day, just getting everything downloaded to use Eaglesoft to its full potential and transition to Solutionreach.”
By winter, the one-dentist practice was using its newly purchased Solutionreach patient engagement solution to send automated reminders and recalls, and Jennifer was diving into the software’s newsletter and communication features, she says.
Solutionreach to the rescue during COVID-19
While 2019 brought changes, 2020 would bring even more. “When COVID-19 hit and the country shut down, my family was on spring break. The office was closed while we were in Salt Lake City, and Solutionreach came to the rescue,” she said.
Jennifer was able to access the software remotely and start communicating with patients, she says. “At the time, everything was changing on an hourly basis as far as guidelines and recommendations. Solutionreach was great. I could send a mass newsletter to our patient base and say this is what we know now, this is what is happening, and we will keep you up to date.”
When the family returned to St. Louis on the Sunday just before the office would shut down, Jennifer used Solutionreach to text and email patient communications, and could easily shut down all the automatic recall and appointment reminders, she says.
Preparing for a successful reopening
During the six-week office closure for COVID-19, Jennifer and another employee were constantly reworking the schedule for the practice, which sees 30 to 35 patients a day, Jennifer says.
“We didn’t just blanket cancel appointments. We were contacting patients throughout the six weeks. When the office was back full force with all our protocols in place, our schedule was full because we had used Solutionreach and Eaglesoft during that time to communicate with patients, let them know what was going on and scheduling them,” she says. “I can’t even tell you how busy we’ve been since we reopened.”
Supporting a full schedule, safety and strong communications
One of the challenges the pandemic posed was increased cancellations due to illness or exposure to COVID-19. The practice’s schedule had to be extremely fluid, and Solutionreach shone again, she says. “Between Solutionreach’s immediate communication options and a separate call list we keep, we never had down time in keeping our schedule and our office running.”
The practice also implemented electronic intake packets that are sent to patients, filled out by them, sent back and automatically downloaded into Eaglesoft ahead of the visit. This saves the staff time and means less time in the waiting room for patients.
The ability to send texts outlining new COVID-19 procedures and expectations ahead of appointments also helped, she says. “It’s not just a reminder system. It’s really a communication system. And communication is key in the world today. The information you have is power to take care of yourself and others.”
Time back to focus on what matters most
More than a year and a half after South County Complete Dental Care implemented Solutionreach, employees and patients have embraced it.
Patients like the ease of scheduling, cancelling appointments and avoiding paperwork in the waiting room. They also appreciate the automated text appointment reminders, she says. “We have patients who say they would have forgotten their appointment if they hadn’t been reminded an hour beforehand. Our no-show rate is very, very low for people completely forgetting to show up.” And the staff loves it. Text and email appointment confirmations from patients that automatically update the Eaglesoft schedule are time savers, she says. “That’s eliminating so much phone time for us.”
The end result is more face time with patients, Jennifer says. “That’s huge. The bottom line in any dental office is patient care. It’s so important to give patients face time whether it’s on a treatment plan, finances or working with the clinical side. We never want patients to feel like we’re rushing them. We want them to feel like we’re giving them our time, attention and very best care.”
Visit pattersondental.com to see how Solutionreach can enhance your practice.
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