Payments in the Era of Digital Dentistry

The term “digital dentistry” refers to the use of “any dental technology or device that incorporates digital or computer-controlled components in contrast to that of mechanical or electrical alone.” This includes the tools used for diagnoses and procedures in dental care, such as digital image tools, and extends to areas within dental practice management, such as scheduling, patient records, and payments.

With the emergence of the pandemic in early 2020, the use of digital dental technology increased with the shift to telehealth appointments. An August 2020 survey of dental providers found that 75% of providers who use telehealth services expected telehealth encounter volume to stay the same or even increase during the next 12 months.

With this shift to telehealth, ISVs need to offer dental practices a practice management software that can handle not only dental payments, but also all those digital practice management tasks. Here are some of the latest trends in digital dentistry that ISVs should ensure they offer within their software solution.

Online Appointment Booking

When it comes to booking appointments, patients don’t want to be limited to only doing so during office hours. Online appointment booking allows them 24/7 access to making an appointment. In fact, a recent survey of dental patients showed that 79% of respondents felt online appointment booking was better than booking over the phone. Patients say they prefer online booking because it saves time and is easy to use.

Further, 51% of the survey respondents said they had already booked a dental appointment online. Of those who had not, 37% said the reason why was that online booking was not offered by their dentist. This statistic further illustrates the need for dental practice management software to include online appointment booking functionality.

Online Forms Management

Having new patients fill out forms when they come in for their appointment can leave appointments running behind schedule if the patient doesn’t arrive at the practice early enough. Putting forms online alleviates this problem – practices can text or email patients a link where the patients can fill out the forms online prior to their appointment. Practices can even provide this functionality in conjunction with online appointment booking.

Another method of online forms management is for dental practices to provide an option for patients to complete forms electronically upon arrival at a designated device such as a tablet.

In either option, online forms are automatically submitted to the business software application and tied to the customer record. This improves office efficiency as well as preventing possible errors due to manual data entry.

Streamlined Check-In

Digital dentistry can now even extend to patient check-in. Patients can self check-in via either a QR code or an “I’m Here” button sent to their mobile phone before their appointment. This creates greater efficiency in the office and less crowding in the waiting room as patients don’t have to wait for the dental office staff, who may be busy helping other patients at the time of check-in.

Versatile Payment Methods

The pandemic and the shift to telehealth necessitated new dental payment options. An August 2020 survey found that telehealth users are 34% more likely to be familiar with alternative payment models and 45% more likely to have an increased interest in learning about them.

Many dental practices began to offer contactless payments for in-person appointments. For telehealth appointments, practices can now request credit card payments with a simple link sent via text or email. They can send outstanding balances anytime or automate the process completely. They can also set up automatic reminders to customers of unpaid balances by sending another statement on a configurable schedule.

Some patients prefer to pay for larger dental treatments or procedures on dental payment plans, so practices also need the ability to offer alternative financing options that allow their patients to pay in installments, such as monthly payments.

Analytics and Reputation Management

In this era of digital dentistry, dentists need to have an online presence. One survey noted that for 40% of respondents, a recommendation is the most important factor for choosing a dentist. However, research also shows that 53% of survey respondents have never been asked to write an online review of their dentist.

Dental offices can now easily send a quick text to patients after their appointment, with a direct link to a site where they can leave an online review.

Innovative Phone & Text Communication

Dental office staff members have to juggle a lot of tasks, a feat that is often made more difficult by having to switch through multiple software applications at once. Phone intelligence software now provides front desk employees with detailed information about incoming callers – before the receptionist even picks up the phone.

They can see patients’ appointments, history, insurance details, outstanding balances, and more, all in one place, making their job easier and more efficient, and allowing for more personalization of the patient experience.

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