Tips for Overcoming Common Hurdles in the Dental Patient Experience
How large your patient’s smile is after they visit your dental practice is hugely determined by the experience they have. The experience goes beyond the practical service, and expands into the interactions they have with patient facing staff, their deeper perceptions and feelings towards your brand. From the moment a patient walks in the door to their departure, every micro-interaction will shape their experience. However, navigating challenges in this realm is inevitable. Whether it's managing dental anxiety, addressing trust issues, or managing expectations, there are common hurdles that dental professionals face. In this blog, we'll explore strategies and tips for overcoming these obstacles to enhance the overall patient experience at your practice.
Understanding Dental Anxiety:
Dental anxiety is a prevalent hurdle that many patients face. The fear of dental procedures, pain, or even the clinical environment can significantly impact their experience. To address this, fostering a calming and supportive atmosphere is key. You can do things like use soothing décor and colors, provide informational pamphlets, and offer entertainment during care. However the most effective way to alleviate anxiety is through coaching your patient-facing staff to take an empathic approach to their experience. They should understand how to effectively listen to patients, recognize signs of anxiety, and provide reassurance and support throughout the visit. Your staff should also understand how they’re tracking through regular patient feedback. Creating a safe and non-judgmental space where patients feel heard and understood can significantly alleviate dental anxiety and improve the overall patient experience.
Unlike buying a new pair of socks or filling up with gas, the dental patient experience is one that requires high levels of trust. However, trust is to be earned, and many dental practices experience struggles with gaining it and retaining it. The golden key to unlocking high levels of trust is in consistency. Consistently delivering high-quality care, providing excellent customer service, and following through on promises helps establish credibility and reliability. If patients know that they can come to your practice and have their expectations met, or better yet exceeded, they’ll likely return and refer their friends and family. To achieve consistently, start with the following 5 quick improvements;
- Make it easy for your patients to provide you with feedback more often (this helps you understand where you are, and where you need to be).
- Share your patient feedback with everyone in your practice (this helps your patient-facing staff deliver on what matters most to your patients).
- Act on feedback as soon as you receive it (this helps de-escalate issues and shows your commitment to your customers).
- Focus on improving one thing at a time (trying to do everything all at once is a recipe for inconsistency).
Trust is also built through eliciting high quality online reviews. Learn how Schweiger Dermatology Group tripled their positive online reviews in just three months here.
Managing patient expectations is vital for avoiding disappointment and dissatisfaction. Patients often have specific expectations regarding treatment outcomes, costs, and recovery times. Providing transparent information about treatment options, potential outcomes, and associated costs upfront can help align expectations. By providing patients with a clear understanding of what to expect before, during, and after their treatment, dental professionals can help manage their expectations and foster realistic optimism. Additionally, encouraging patients to ask questions, provide feedback and express any concerns allows for open communication and ensures that their expectations align with what can realistically be achieved. Ultimately, by proactively managing patient expectations and providing transparent information, dental practices can enhance the overall patient experience and build trust and confidence in their services.
Convenience is King
Patients appreciate convenience and comfort during their dental visits. According to a survey conducted by Futuredontics, 30% of respondents said that convenience factors are the top reason they selected their dentist, ranking only second to insurance acceptance – “This shows that patients are actively looking for dental practices that offer flexible hours, quick turnaround times, and convenient appointment scheduling”.
Embracing technological advancements plays a pivotal role in achieving convenience. For instance, integrating online appointment scheduling systems not only reduces wait times but also empowers patients to book appointments at their convenience, leading to a smoother and more efficient process. Plus, offering digital patient forms that can be completed prior to appointments eliminates the hassle of paperwork and expedites the check-in process, enhancing overall efficiency. Finally, embracing teledentistry solutions enables patients to consult with dental professionals remotely for certain non-emergency issues, offering greater flexibility and accessibility to care.
Continuous improvement is essential for delivering exceptional patient experiences. Regularly soliciting feedback from patients through short surveys allows practices to identify areas for improvement proactively. When you have a firm grip on what you’re nailing and what you need to improve on from a practice, branch, team and individual level, you’re able to build a culture of continuous improvement that ensures the practice remains responsive to evolving patient needs and preferences.
The dental patient experience encompasses a myriad of interactions and touchpoints, each playing a vital role in shaping patients' perceptions and satisfaction. By understanding and addressing common hurdles such as dental anxiety, trust, managing expectations, prioritizing convenience and committing to continuous improvement, dental practices can navigate challenges effectively and deliver exceptional patient experiences. Ultimately, prioritizing patient-centered care and fostering meaningful connections with patients are the cornerstones of a successful dental practice.