The patient experience is a critical factor in the success of any dental practice. Patients who have positive experiences are more likely to return for future appointments, refer friends and family, and leave positive reviews.
In contrast, patients who have negative experiences may not return and can potentially harm the reputation of the practice. Here are some strategies that dental professionals can use to improve the patient experience in their practice.
1. Focus On Communication
Clear and effective communication is key to ensuring a positive patient experience. Dental professionals should take the time to listen to their patient’s concerns and explain procedures and treatments in a way that patients can understand. Providing patients with clear instructions after treatment can also help improve the patient experience.
- Listen: Dental professionals can demonstrate active listening by repeating patients’ concerns back to them and asking intentional follow-up questions to ensure that they understand the issue.
- Use plain language: Avoid using technical jargon that patients may not understand.
- Provide written instructions: After a procedure or treatment, provide patients with written or text instructions on what to expect and how to continue care at home.
2. Improve The Welcome/Reception Experience
Waiting rooms can be a source of anxiety for patients, so it’s important to make them as comfortable and welcoming as possible. A Reception Area is a much more appealing name. Offer amenities such as video loops, relaxing music, magazines, comfortable seating, complimentary beverages, and fresh flowers (be careful of strong scents), and diverse artwork.
Keeping patients informed about wait times and updating them on any delays can also help reduce anxiety. Use technology such as text messaging or a digital display to keep patients informed.
Smile, be personable, and check in frequently to keep the patient in the know.
3. Personalize The Experience
Every patient is unique and has different needs and preferences. Dental professionals can improve the patient experience by taking the time to build relationships with their patients and tailor their care accordingly.
- Offer sedation for anxious patients or provide special accommodations for patients with disabilities.
- For patients with disabilities, provide accommodations such as a wheelchair ramp, accessible restroom, or sign language interpreter.
- Ask patients about their preferences and needs, such as whether they prefer a certain type of music or would like a blanket during treatment.
4. Use Technology To Enhance The Patient Experience
Technology can be a powerful tool for improving the patient journey. For example, online appointment scheduling can make it easier for patients to book appointments at their convenience, and digital patient portals can allow patients to access and update their health information and communicate with their dental team.
- Allowing patients to schedule appointments online at their convenience means you’ll never miss an opportunity.
- Offering patients a secure digital portal helps keep patient records and information secure and up to date.
5. Solicit Feedback From Patients
The best way to understand the patient experience is to ask patients directly. Dental professionals can use surveys, feedback forms, or focus groups to gather input from patients and identify areas where they can improve.
- Send patients a survey after their appointment to gather feedback on their experience and identify areas for improvement.
- Invite patients to participate in focus groups where they can share their experiences and provide feedback on how the practice can improve.
- Always reply to ALL patient comments. The interaction provides one more touchpoint to keep your practice top of mind.
Improving the patient journey requires a commitment to ongoing communication, personalization, and continuous improvement. By focusing on these 5 strategies, dental professionals can create a welcoming and supportive environment that encourages patients to prioritize their oral health and return for future appointments.