Using Texting to Influence Patient Behavior

Better Patient Outcomes–Just a Text Away!

When I consider the patient benefits of teledentistry, one patient story always comes to mind. A young patient visited my office with her mother for an initial exam. After the exam, we determined that she had a large anterior open bite caused by thumbsucking. Our post-exam discussion with the patient revealed the thumbsucking only occurred at night while the patient slept, but never during the day.

Having seen and treated a number of similar patients over the years, I immediately instructed the parents to have the young lady wear arm casts made out of newspaper and duct tape on both arms for 10 nights in a row to break the habit. Normally, I wouldn’t know if this inexpensive fix changed the patient’s behavior until months later at her follow-up visit. But this time was different.

The next morning, I received a text message and a picture from the patient’s mother. The photo was her daughter proudly sporting the arm casts the image was accompanied by a quick message that read, “Night one was a little rough, but we made it. Only nine more nights to go.”

And then it hit me. What if all my patients could text me like this? How easy would that be, not just for them, but for me?

Introducing Rhinogram

For months, I’ve been using Rhinogram, a HIPAA-compliant teledentistry platform I helped create that makes my office number textable. I knew Rhinogram was a game changer, but not even I first imagined how useful it could be. How much could texting do to help me grow my practice and provide more effective care? The answer, it turns out, is a lot.

Rhinogram allows patients to text my office phone number, send pictures, and basically handle just about any type of transaction that might traditionally be conducted via phone calls or email.

Since implementing Rhinogram, I’ve used the tool to capture new patients who initially text me three selfie images that I use to conduct a cursory exam. Based on these images, before we proceed with care, I am able to determine what treatment modality works best for them, answer any questions, complete necessary forms and schedule their same-day start appointment, all through text.

Patient Engagement Makes a Positive Impact

So, back to my patient. I immediately responded to the mother’s text with an encouraging message and a few fun emojis to reinforce the patient’s positive behavior. I also decided I would send a similar message each day to keep the family on track and increase the chances of overall success.

At the end of the 10-day period, I sent my young patient a gift certificate to Baskin-Robbins with a note reminding her of our upcoming appointment. I also mentioned how much I was looking forward to continue working with her and that all her hard work would be worth it once she saw her beautiful smile.

I’ve been using these types of encouraging texts with other cases and I’m seeing similar responses from patients, as well as better outcomes. It’s amazing how far a properly-timed text message will go to encourage patients and help modify their behavior.

Had it not been for the ability to easily text my office, I might never have had the opportunity to fully engage with my patient and her mom, which only built trust and loyalty. What started as a desire to provide a better patient experience, by communicating with text, Facebook Messenger, or through pictures, has now become an essential and transformative part of my process.

Not only is Rhinogram changing the way I run my practice, it’s also transforming patient behavior to create better outcomes. And that’s the most important part of this work, isn’t it?


by Dr. Keith Dressler, as seen in The Progressive Orthodontist

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