What we all have to remember about the patient journey is that it’s the patient’s journey, not ours. We have to start thinking about what the patient wants and what the patient is likely to appreciate. My research within dental practices has proven that there are two key things that practices must get right; allowing patients to trust the dentist and the practice, and proving that the team is totally focused on helping patients stay healthy.
So how do we engender trust? During my training sessions with practices, I encourage teams to play a few games to uncover and identify improvements in relationships with patients. I also share ideas that other practices find make a huge difference. These range from finding reasons to make team members smile and making sure of appropriate eye contact with patients to making it easier for patients to actually contact the practice to make appointments. Practices need to be totally focused on continually improving the way the patient feels in the practice; it’s all about looking for the critical impress points and turning around the critical depress points. From first thoughts about contacting the practice, to deciding to commit to appropriate programmes of prevention and plaque control appointments (that’s hygienist appointments to dentists and teams).
If patients tell us that what they really want from dental practices, advice and treatment to ensure the health of their teeth and gums (and they do), then the practice must arrange to be obvious about delivering a clear focus on keeping patients healthy. Most practices do this almost naturally. But the organisation and language of dentistry prevents the patient tuning into this – practices must become more clever about delivering and boasting about what they do. My 16-point dental health check (where dentists check 16 different aspects of the mouth for health, gives a report on how healthy the patient is in each area and gives lots of advice on how to stay or get more dentally healthy) is a great start, but most practices can also make sure the language they use is more motivational and meaningful; it can give more support to patients who want to become healthier, and build much busier and profitable hygiene departments by encouraging more patients to visit hygienists regularly and appropriately (a hygienist is for life, not just for Christmas).
Overall, it’s safe to say, communication is key. Ensure you know exactly what your patient’s needs are by asking plenty of questions, they may have a clear vision of what they want and you need to nail down this information before you start offering them something they don’t want. It’s also key to remember that you shouldn’t overwhelm your patients with technical dental jargon ─ they won’t understand what you’re jabbering on about, so make sure you use terminology they’ll get.
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