The importance of phone calls to the patient experience
As cited by Dentistry.co.uk, a patient's first impression of your practice is incredibly important, and often the difference between a visit or them choosing to go elsewhere. But with so much of their journey taking place online, what role does the humble telephone have, and how can you use it to provide a first-class experience?
A phone call is still the best way to answer patient questions
New patients and those with upcoming treatments, will undoubtedly have questions, and while your website can likely field a significant proportion, it won't be able to provide specific answers that relate to an individual and their care. Indeed, the Patients Association recommends that patients ask a variety of questions before receiving treatment from their dentist, many of which will need a personal response. The key is finding a balance, between providing the answers to many of the most common questions via your website, and offering the patient an easy route to speak to someone if they need to.
Speaking to someone can help reduce patient anxiety
With some 10 million adults in the UK having some level of dental anxiety, and an estimated six million suffering from dental phobia, it's fair to say that it's a widespread issue, that affects both patients and the practices. While online resources can play a role, they can also exacerbate the issue, depending on the information the patient finds. This is perhaps one of the reasons why the Oral Health Foundation suggests that patients suffering from dental anxiety "talk and ask questions and get as much information as possible to help soothe their anxiety".
Missed calls are bad for patients and the practice
While you could most likely get away with a cheap analogue line, well, at least until BT Openreach turns off their PSTN network in 2025, you'll have no facility for call waiting or queuing. Being greeted by an engaged tone when calling your practice, only serves to reduce patient satisfaction and risk complaints and negative reviews. Of course, it doesn't have to be like that, and by putting a business phone system in place, like our cloud-hosted VoIP system, you can introduce sophisticated call routing and queueing to minimise missed calls, while at the same time, playing pre-recording messages to your patients as they wait. This is just one of the many benefits of VoIP for dentists, which we'll explore in a bit more detail later in this article.
How does VoIP work for a dental practice?
Almost all of the VoIP phone systems on the market today are cloud-hosted, so, while you may have IP phones and other devices to make and receive calls, you won't have a physical phone system in your practice.
A VoIP phone system for dental practices will usually be hosted in the cloud
In its simplest form, a VoIP phone system will allow your dental practice to make and receive phone calls over the internet as depicted below.
Of course, the ability to make receive calls is just the start of how a VoIP phone system can be used by dentists, with most services including a vast number of enterprise-grade features designed to help you reduce costs, improve customer service and operate as efficiently as possible. In the next section of this article, we'll focus on the system features we think offer the most benefit to dentists.
Key benefits of VoIP for dentists
As we've outlined, in addition to the ability to make and receive calls, a VoIP phone system brings a significant number of additional benefits to dentists. In this section, explain which features we think will give you and your patients the most benefits, along with explaining how our own VoIP system works.
VoIP phone services are future-proofed
In 2025, BT Openreach will switch off its PSTN and ISDN networks, which means everyone, be that businesses with traditional phone systems, or consumers with a single phone line, will need to move to VoIP. Yes, that's right, your current business telephone system, assuming it uses ISDN, will become obsolete in 2025. Fortunately, switching to VoIP yields many other benefits, so for most dental practice owners, making the move sooner rather than later makes a lot of sense.
Never miss patient phone calls
Arguably, one of the most prominent benefits of VoIP for a dental practice is the ability to route and manage calls based on your specific requirements. It could be that during working hours, you present patients with several options using an Auto Attendant menu system, getting them to the correct person as quickly as possible, and also perhaps prioritising some calls over others.
Time of day routing and call forwarding
With a VoIP phone system, you can specify how calls are routed based on when they are made using Time of Day Routing. During working hours, calls can go straight to your dental office, receptionist or into an Auto Attendant, but outside of working hours you may choose to play a recording giving people information about who to contact in an emergency and also allowing them to leave a voicemail if they wish.
Configure hunt groups across sites for maximum effect
Another way you could set your phone system up is that during busy periods, and if you have multiple locations, phones in other offices ring, rather than the caller hearing engaged tones. As you can see, there are a variety of ways you can configure things, effectively giving you the best phone system possible for your dental practice.
Inter-site call transfer and remote users with softphones
Being that your dental practice's phone system is hosted in the cloud, if you have multiple sites, or if you or someone in your team works from home or remotely, you can quickly and easily transfer calls without incurring any costs. With a VoIP phone system, you take calls using your computer and even your smartphone via a "Softphone". A Softphone is simply an app that's installed on your computer or smartphone that connects to your business phone system, so you can pick up calls to your landline, on your mobile phone, from anywhere. The same is true of call transfer, so if you're working from home one afternoon, someone in the office can transfer incoming calls to you and you can pick them up via a mobile app. You get lots more flexibility, but with the advantage of still providing a joined-up experience to your patients.
Can we bring our existing phone numbers?
For many dentists, your phone number is part of your brand, it's on your website, letterheads, perhaps even signage, so changing it isn't really an option. The good news is when you switch to VoIP, you'll almost certainly be able to bring your existing phone number with you. The process of moving it over is called "porting" and VoIP phone systems like ours are able to port numbers over from the vast majority of providers. Of course, before you get started on your migration to a new phone system for your dental practice, check with your chosen VoIP service provider that they can indeed port your numbers over.
Unlimited VoIP phone numbers
Another benefit of upgrading to VoIP in your practice is that you free yourself of the geographic restrictions usually associated with phone numbers. You can get a number in any town or city around the UK and also have as many non-geographic numbers, like 0845, 0333 etc. as you like too. Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of our own Horizon VoIP system is that you can have unlimited VoIP numbers for no additional cost*.
*Subject to fair usage.
Play music or messages while your patients wait
The best phone systems for dentists, give you the ability to play either music or pre-recorded messages to your patients while they wait for their call to be answered. The latter option, of playing pre-recorded announcements can be hugely valuable if you are perhaps trying to promote a specific service, or even if you want to advise patients calling of a change at the practice. As an example, you may wish to request that patients follow a certain procedure when they arrive at your dental offices. There are a lot of applications for this feature and you may well have your own ideas of what it could be used for to provide your patients with a top-quality service.
VoIP services will usually save your dental practice money
Despite being packed full of features that'll enhance your business communications, a hosted VoIP service will often save money too. Our Horizon phone system, for example, costs as little as £9.95 per user per month and includes 2,000 free minutes to UK landlines and 2,000 free minutes to UK mobiles, per user. There are no setup costs, you can get unlimited VoIP numbers and there's no maintenance fee as everything is taken care of by us, your VoIP provider. You can get rid of your traditional phone lines and current phone system, and run everything over your business broadband.
Improve patient acquisition and retention rates
By upgrading your business phone systems to VoIP, and configuring it carefully with your patients in mind, you're setting your dental practice up to provide the best first impression and ultimately improve the probability of enquiries converting to customers. You and your team can take patient calls from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection, be that on your desk phone, or via our mobile app while you're working from home. By effectively handling calls by using all of the built-in system features, you'll ensure that your patients receive the very best level of service and increase the chances of them staying with you for the long term.
Did you know VoIP phone systems offer improved call quality and reliability?
VoIP calls today, provide higher quality audio than traditional phone lines so you and your practice management team can enjoy crystal clear conversations with your patients. Added to that, as your dental practice phone system is hosted in multiple data centres, you have no single point of failure. In the very worst-case scenario, the internet connection at your dental offices goes down and you and your team can simply take patient calls using your softphones.
Professional voicemail with email notification
On the odd occasion where you can't get to the phone, your VoIP system will notify you of the missed call by email and deliver any associated voicemail to you as well, so that you and your other staff can quickly get back to patient care.
Built-in call recording
While in the past, you would need to invest in a separate server or system to record your calls, with VoIP phone systems like ours, it's built-in and is just one of the features you can opt to use. While not a legal necessity to record calls, doing so does offer some protection to your team from abuse. Equally, it's useful from an employee training perspective, giving you the ability to check on how well your team speak to patients.
Ease of management
Finally, as your system is web-based, you get access to a customer portal where you can log in and make adjustments to your phone system as or when you'd like to. Of course, we're here to help too, but for those of you who would like complete control, you've got it.
How to choose a business telephone system and VoIP provider?
There's a reasonable amount of choice when it comes to business telephone systems today and VoIP for that matter. What we'd say is that when choosing who you work with, look for a company that understands how VoIP can be best used for dentists and importantly is easily contactable. There are some very big companies in the market, and while their phone systems are all good, getting support when you need it can be difficult.
We're an independent VoIP service provider
As an independent VoIP provider, with nearly 30 years of experience working with businesses in the UK, we're more than just a supplier, we look to become your telecoms partner. Many of our staff have been with us decades, so not only do you get a first-class VoIP system, but also excellent customer service from a team who you will get to know.
Ok, so you've found out more about VoIP for dentists and how these phone systems can potentially transform your practice, but what now? If you're actively thinking about moving to VoIP, whether you have an existing system and phone lines or not, please get in touch, or build a quote and one of our team will come back to you. While the world of VoIP telephone systems can be somewhat daunting, our team have extensive experience working with businesses of all size, including dentists. We'll walk you through everything, from call recording, mobile apps and more, to help you configure your new phone systems perfectly for your dental practice.
Want to learn more about VoIP and how it can future-proof your business? Read this recent article titled "What is VoIP?" where we explain everything from caller ID, and call flow, to how IP (internet protocol) phones work.