7 Simple Ways Your Practice Can Improve Patient Care
By Drew Crawford
How many dentists leave money on the table by not meeting their patients’ expectations? Patients don’t know how to examine X-rays, cure a filling, or use a diode laser, but they know how they want to be treated.
As an expert in any field, it’s easy to lose track of what the end recipient of a service cares about. Providing top-notch patient care goes beyond performing procedures; it entails creating a comprehensive customer experience for your patient.
- Always Have Somebody on the Phones
These days, quick service is table stakes for running a reputable business, yet so many companies fall short of responding promptly to their clientele.
People expect answers from businesses fast. 82% of customers expect a response within 10 minutes of their call. If you don’t contact your leads quickly, prospective patients will call other dentists that respond faster.
Even an incremental improvement in your response time can turn more leads into patients. A survey conducted by Velocify found that if you shave your response time down to one minute, a lead is 391% more likely to become a patient. Just think about how many patient conversions you are missing out on if your receptionist doesn’t respond quickly.
A quick response time helps you meets your prospect in a “buying” situation; your prospects are already thinking about finding a dentist and in this mindset, you are much more likely to schedule them.
- Somebody should always be on the phones. They should strive to answer a call immediately, but if this isn’t possible, they should return every call as quickly as possible. For the best patient conversion rate, return a lead’s call in ten minutes or less.
- Your receptionist is a prospect’s first point of contact. Don’t leave these important interactions to chance. Make sure to train anyone that fields phone calls on best practices:
- The conversation should not be a hard sales pitch.
- Your receptionist should have a friendly, engaging conversation with your patient, listen to their concerns and answer questions. If your practice offers a free consultation (see point number 2 below), this is the perfect time to schedule the patient.
- Use automation software to schedule new patients when you are out of office. Patients are familiar with scheduling on automation software, but you need to ensure that these tools can reliably capture patient information and schedule an appointment.
- Offer a Free Consultation
It can be easy to write off a free consultation as wasted revenue and chair time. What if your prospect schedules a consultation and chooses not to proceed with a service? While this is always a possibility, increased reliance on post-Covid tele dentistry has made dental consultations more accessible and convenient for everyone. Tele dentistry offers unprecedented flexibility for you to schedule a consultation around your other appointments.
Free consultations are a great way to build trust. A free consultation is an ideal opportunity to collaborate on an oral health treatment plan. It’s less likely that a prospect will not choose to go forward with a plan that you have created together.
- Offer free consultations. By offering a consultation for free, you lower the perceived risk that your client takes on by choosing you as their dentist; you’re essentially giving your prospect the opportunity to try out your service.
- Offer tele dentistry consultations to make free consultations convenient and accessible.
- Address any concerns that your patients have about their oral health. You should use it as an opportunity to get to know your prospect and get them to open up about the issues that they want to address.
- After your prospective client has identified the results that they want, you should carefully address how your practice can take care of their needs.
- At the end of your consultation, extend an invitation to the patient to schedule their first appointment.
- Talk with Patients about their Expectations
Expectations and reality don’t align when you and your patient are on different pages. As a dentist, you have years of education, experience, and scientific knowledge that your patients don’t have. Your patients have their own expectations about how they want to be treated.
Any problems or roadblocks that arise during the patient journey can be addressed by proper communication at the beginning of each appointment.
- Explain to your patients the procedure that you will perform and why you are performing it in terms that are easy to understand.
- Don’t use overly technical words, graphic imagery, or jargon that patients won’t understand when describing the work that you will perform.
- Use this formula to communicate clearly:
- I am performing x procedure, so that y can happen, and you will have z result.
- You should ask your patients if they have any questions about your work. Recognize that the patient might not be able to articulate what they want or recognize which questions they should ask.
- To overcome this obstacle, you can write a list of frequently asked questions that addresses common concerns that patients have about a procedure. You can print out this list for patients to reference.
- Always provide aftercare instructions after each procedure. A printed list of instructions is best because patients might be experiencing the effects of sedation after a procedure and not remember the instructions that you give. Be honest with patients about their expected recovery time.
- Offer the latest technology
The latest technology increases your efficiency and revenue. When you use technology like laser curing, your available chair time will increase because you cure faster. The time that you save can be optimized to spend more time interacting with your patients and serving additional clients.
The Monet laser curing light provides a complete cure in just one second, and the high irradiance output produces faster and deeper polymerization than other light sources. This will help give you and your patients confidence that they have a complete cure.
- Ask yourself: Where can I improve efficiency and results in my procedures by implementing technology?
- For example: If you frequently whiten your patient’s teeth and it takes two hours of chair time, both you and your patient are spending time that you don’t have, when you could be doing something else. You can use an in-office whitening strip like Sheer White! to whiten your patient’s teeth and save valuable chair time.
- View technology as investment. The best products cost money but earn more revenue for your practice.
- Use your marketing materials to discuss the benefits of the technology that you use.
- Consider using a diode laser to save time and offer additional procedures.
- In recent studies, lasers have been shown to significantly increase revenue.
- Offer a Comprehensive Suite of In-House Services
You’ve heard the joke drill, fill, and bill. If you aren’t filling as many cavities as possible, you’re wasting chair time and missing out on additional revenue, right? Actually, with this mentality, you are passing up other valuable revenue streams. Patient acquisition costs money, time, and trust.
It only takes a few minutes for patients to search Google and get feedback about your practice’s reputation.
- Patients like convenience and value the ability to go to one office that provides all the services they need.
- Repeat patients grow to trust the dentist they frequently visit. By offering all the services that a potential patient might need such as wisdom tooth extractions, root canals, or dental implants, you are investing in the relationships you have with your existing patients which leads to increased revenue.
- Offer as many in-house services as you can to build trust with your patients
- Make a point of communicating to your patients on your website and in other marketing communications that you offer a comprehensive suite of services.
- Provide education about services your patients can benefit from and let them know about additional services you provide.
- Always have Clean Restrooms
I’m a firm believer that you can tell how much a business respects its customers by how clean they keep their restrooms. Dentistry is no exception. How clean is the restroom at your practice?
Many patients feel intimidated when they visit the dentist. Fueled by anxiety, their minds conjure vivid scenarios of everything that can go wrong. Restrooms are the only place that people can be alone in a public setting. A clean restroom sets patients’ minds at ease because clean environments are relaxing. What dentist doesn’t want their patients to feel more relaxed?
- Make sure to check your restrooms every hour and have products available to clean up for any spills or accidents that occur.
- Assign a restroom maintenance schedule to your staff. Make sure to adhere to the schedule, this way, when things get overwhelming, there won’t be any doubt about who is in charge.
- Always keep products in the restroom fully stocked.
- If possible, play relaxing music in the restroom.
- Send Reminder Postcards for Appointments
Smart phones. Emails. Social media. We all swim in a sea full of constant information that is too much to process, and we tune out most of it. By default, we focus our attention on information that is relevant to us and stands out. What can we do to cut through the noise and stay relevant?
In 2023, fewer people than ever receive personalized mail.
If I open my mailbox and I see a postcard with my name on it, it instantly calls my attention. Who is this from, I wonder? Who took the time out of their busy schedule to write me?
Direct mail is a nice personal touch, but there are more effective ways write a postcard that I will discuss below.
- Include your patients name at the top of every postcard.
- Write a personal message to your patient. Don’t sound formal or stuffy, talk like you are having a conversation.
- Personalize the body of your message by including a reminder about the date of their next procedure and what the procedure is for.
- The end of the postcard should be signed by whoever is treating the patient.
- The little details that go a long way. Make sure to send out a postcard for patient’s birthdays.
- Be consistent with sending postcards. If you send a postcard for a patient’s first follow-up visit, continue to send them for future visits.
Here is an example of what your postcard can look like:
I hope that this postcard finds you well. Hopefully you got the opportunity to see your family and do something fun for the holidays. I just wanted to remind you about your upcoming appointment on 1/30. I’ll be cleaning your teeth and Dr. XXX will perform an examination once I’m finished to make sure to make sure that your oral health is in great shape.
If you need to reschedule your appointment, please make sure to provide our office with a 24-hour notice.
See you soon,
Gina Ashworth, Dental Hygienist
Conclusion: When You Improve Patient Care Everyone Wins
In the amount of time that it takes to complete a Google search, a prospect can find countless choices for their dental care. Put yourself in their shoes. What experience would you like to have?
In a world full of reliable services patients will choose the practice that offers the best customer experience.
As a dentist, the level of patient care you provide is just as important as the procedures you perform. As you provide your patients with a memorable customer experience:
Your revenue will increase
- When you build patient trust and patients continue to visit you, you generate more revenue from the additional services that you provide.
Patient retention increases
- Your patients will be less likely to look elsewhere for services because they will look forward to the care your practice provides.
Patient Referrals Increase
- Word of mouth spreads. Your patients will refer their friends and family members to your practice when they have an amazing experience and leave you attractive online reviews.
Patient acquisition cost decreases
- You won’t have to spend as much money on acquiring new clients when your patient reviews get you more clients. Plus, referrals are the most effective form of marketing.
When you improve patient care, everyone wins.