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You have been busy planning for re-opening, acquiring PPE and preparing your team to return to work. While individual timetables vary by state and practice, you may be ready to let patients know about your reopening plans.

Many orthodontists and their teams excel at preparing personalized, practice-specific messaging for patients and parents, and may wish to do so in reopening communications. In this instance, however, it may be helpful to view examples and points to cover to ensure that all important information is communicated.

Mary Beth Kirkpatrick has developed two sample messages about reopening which she provided to share with AAO members. Ms. Kirkpatrick, who is managing partner of Impact360 Consulting and founder and president of Gaidge, a cloud-based business analytics dashboard for orthodontists, divided her sample patient correspondence into two parts:

Reopening Soon: A message conveying that a practice is preparing to reopen;
Welcome Back: A message announcing a practice’s reopening.

Reopening Soon: Recommended Points to Cover When Communicating with Patients 
If possible, the AAO recommends that members inform patients and parents when reopening is approximately two weeks away. Key purposes of this communication include:

● Conveying how much you and your team are looking forward to seeing everyone – and to re-initiating work toward the healthy, beautiful smiles that patients want;
● Reassuring them with information about what you’re doing in your office to help make it a safe place to be when sheltering-in-place ends in your community.
● Covering the basics of how your office and procedures will be different, possibly from the moment they arrive in your parking lot.
(See examples in the Reopening Soon sample message).

Additional information to consider including in this message:
● Your target reopening date, if known;
● Contact for scheduling appointments if you are prepared to begin scheduling – or, inform them your team will be contacting them;
● Request to complete the Supplemental Informed Consent Form*, if you plan to use it;
● Encouragement to follow your reopening preparations on social media (see below).

To reach as many patients and parents as possible, send your reopening message via email. Then, post it on your practice social media pages and website.

Build Excitement for Reopening on Social Media
Many orthodontic practices have been doing a great job of staying in touch with patients via social media and/or phone calls during the past few weeks. Now it may be time to transition your social content to help prepare patients for reopening.

Between the initial reopening message and your reopening date, social media posts can help reinforce information and develop positive expectations of what it will be like to visit your COVID-19-updated office. Social media posts may help increase comfort levels with what will be a new and possibly uncomfortable situation for some, given that a visit to your office may feel more like a medical situation vs. your previous patient experience.

Social media content possibilities include:

● Photograph or videotape your work on “re-decorating” your office. Examples may include installing a “sneeze guard” partition at your reception desk, placing physical distancing (aka social distancing) decals on the floor, etc. When possible, use humor in describing what you are doing, while emphasizing the serious purpose of keeping everyone safe.

● Re-connect your team with patients. As team members return to work in preparation for re-opening, photograph or videotape each individual with an “I’m back” sign and a personalized message to patients;

● Show patients and parents the new process. As reopening day approaches, videotape or photograph your team walking through each stage of your planned arrival/check-in/temperature taking processes, to familiarize patients with how the process works and what it will look like;

● Post reminders about key changes. For example, photograph your toothbrushing station and Photoshop over the image a red circle with a line through it. Or, have your photo taken in front of the station, hands up in the “STOP” position. In the post, remind patients that as part of your COVID-19 changes, you would like for everyone to brush at home before coming to their appointments.

The Reopening Announcement: Welcome Back! 
Your reopening is imminent and you want patients and parents to know.

In this correspondence, it is especially important to cover all aspects of pre-arrival steps, check-in and entrance to the office, as well as dismissal procedures.
(See examples on page 2, “The New Normal” in the Welcome Back message.

If your practice is going to offer virtual options for some check-up visits going forward once you have seen each returning patient, this may also be a good time to introduce those options and how they will work.

As with the initial reopening message, reach as many people as possible by emailing the message, then posting it on your social media pages and website. Consider supplementing social posts with a video or group of you and your team holding a “welcome back” sign – possibly with the message: “We’re smiling behind our masks!”

* In addition to the Supplemental Informed Consent Form, prepared by the AAO and the AAO Insurance Company, the AAO also has a new Supplemental Health Questionnaire that patients may be asked to complete just prior to their visits. Both documents are fillable PDFs.