The path to creating an experience patients want must pass through the experiences that your patients have had in the past. Many patients have anxiety or even PTSD that stems from a bad experience in a dental office. Some of the methods of the past were much more painful and the standards of care have improved by leaps and bounds.
In an effort to continue that momentum forward while still checking in with the reality of past experiences, we feel that dedicating your efforts to offering the best patient experience possible will help mend old psychological wounds faster than anything else.
Every patient is different, so how can we possibly offer a great experience to everyone? Well, there are some universal things we know about our patients. Here are some things you can do to improve the patient experience in your practice.
Let’s start with limiting time spent in the office. No one wants to spend their PTO or pay for a babysitter and end up sitting in a waiting room. First rule: Respect your patients' time. It’s the responsibility of your practice to keep your procedures efficient and stay on schedule.
Once in your office, a friendly, understanding and welcoming staff is very important. A visit to the dentist is often going to be as uncomfortable on the wallet as it is when the drill comes out. Your staff needs to be concerned with upfront honesty with pricing. They should know how each insurance company will cover treatments. Don’t come off as a business looking for payments. We all know that’s where things end up, don’t push.
Creating a comfortable environment has many components. Try to limit waiting, but get creative for those times when a patient has to wait to be seen. Some suggestions: plugs for smart phones, magazines that people enjoy, movies or a tv. Comfortable chairs and the waiting room layout should also receive attention, maybe consider an area specifically for kids.
Next (and the Dr. shares in this responsibility), sit down with each patient and explain the treatment plan and what exactly is going to happen to help your patient to understand each procedure and what it will do for them. This seems simple but often a patient may not even know what a root canal is or what carries are. Get good at simple explanations that don’t go over their head or dumb it down. Use visual aids. Let the client ask questions and whenever possible let them know what you are doing before you do it.
Beyond being welcoming and comfortable, your practice must also be properly cleaned and the overall office environment healthy. Patients can see how your practice and staff support this through workplace hygiene and following proper protocols. It’s ok for your patients to see these actions, as we are all now hyper-aware of PPE and safety when it comes to the spread of viruses and bacteria.
Lastly, create an authentic experience. Have a consistent, warm and inclusive chair-side manner. Be the expert and be confident, speak gently but with clear authority. You can reduce fear with tone and confidence, and making your patients feel like they are in control of their treatment. Your patients want to be treated like patients, not customers.
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