We’ve got seemingly endless options these days when it comes to the places we choose to give our business. From new restaurants and retailers opening every day to new hospitals and dental offices popping up in every new subdivision that gets built, it can be tough to find providers that we want to stick with for the long haul.
When it comes to our oral care, that means looking for a dental patient experience that makes us feel valued and important and like we’re getting the best possible care. That experience is more important than you might think, and there are some simple ways you can improve your patient experiences across the board.
Why is the Dental Patient Experience Important?
One of the biggest reasons for learning how to improve patient experience in dental offices comes down to the vast amount of competition that exists. As of 2020, there are over 200,000 practicing dentists in the US, which translates into roughly 62 dentists per 100,000 people. With all these options available to us, dental patient experience is a big driver when we ultimately make our decisions to trust our dental care to one practice over another. Here are ten great ways to make your practice stand out in the crowd.
How to Enhance Patient Experiences
We know that the dental patient experience is an essential part of attracting and retaining patients. But how do we go about improving that experience? Let’s look at some places where we can focus our attention to positively impact the patient experience on every level.
Center Your Practice on Patient Satisfaction
The simplest way to begin enhancing patient experiences in your practice is to make patient satisfaction a central focus in the way you operate. By focusing on your patients and ensuring they are completely satisfied with every aspect of their visit, you can ensure they have a great experience. So, what is the difference between patient experience and patient satisfaction?
Patient Experience vs Patient Satisfaction
Patient experience and patient satisfaction are two terms that are often used interchangeably, even though they have different meanings in the healthcare world. Patient satisfaction refers to the expectations they have for their visit and how the care they received stacks up against those expectations. On the other hand, patient experience sums up the way a patient feels about every aspect of their care as a whole. In order to achieve a dental patient experience that keeps them coming in the door, it’s important to start with a focus on implementing strategies to improve patient satisfaction. Here’s how to do it.
Improve your Patient Wait Times
The first part of learning how to improve patient satisfaction and promote a positive dental patient experience involves the amount of time our patients spend waiting to be seen. If they feel like they are waiting too long before being brought back, that can be the start of an unpleasant experience. In order to start their visit off on the right foot, it’s important to focus on patient wait times.
One way to reduce the amount of time your patients spend waiting is to avoid overbooking. Some visits take longer than others, and if you run into a couple of patients that eat up a lot of time, those in the waiting room can be left to feel like their time and care aren’t important. Keep your patient load at a manageable level, and be punctual whenever possible.
Maintain a Clean Office
When your patients are waiting to be seen, they often have little to do but flip through their phones and look around. If they see dust or dirt in places that should be clean, they will second guess the importance you place on cleanliness. In a medical setting, this can be a dealbreaker. Keep your office clean and keep your patients feeling like they are receiving care in a sterile environment.
Update your Technology
We live in a time where technology improves at the speed of light, and as such, patient satisfaction and technology are very intertwined. If any of our medical providers are using outdated technology, it can lead us to wonder whether or not we are receiving the highest level of care. It can also cause us to spend more time than we should setting up appointments and accessing resources. Keep your tech up to date to make the dental patient experience as painless as possible.
Focus on Communication
One of the most prominent causes of anxiety in the healthcare field is the fear of the unknown. You can help mitigate that fear by establishing clear lines of communication between your staff and patients.
Part of that means not rushing through your appointments. Give patients all the information they need to feel comfortable about their course of care, and answer any questions they may have. By communicating openly, you’ll establish a higher level of trust between your patients and your practice, and you’ll significantly improve the dental patient experience.
Keep your Staff Happy
When your support staff isn’t happy, it has a negative effect on the overall dental patient experience. Not only can a grumpy receptionist or hygienist shift a patient’s mood, but they can also lead patients to believe there is something lacking in the way the organization is run. By creating a positive environment for both your patients and staff, you can set your patients at ease and improve the care they receive.
Follow Up with Patients and Get Feedback
It’s tough to know how your patients feel about your practice if you don’t ask them. Following up with your patients after their visits and getting feedback with a patient satisfaction questionnaire is a great place to start. Getting that info on whether or not their expectations were met will pay off big time when it comes to improving patient satisfaction.
Make sure you listen to them, too. Not only will they show you some areas where they think your practice could stand to improve, but by following through on their suggestions, you will show them that you value their input and care about making their experience the best it can be.
If you’re following up with your patients regarding their experiences, don’t forget to ask them to give you online ratings and reviews. Most of us look to online reviews before making choices these days, and having positive reviews online can be the difference between gaining a new patient or missing out. Good reviews tell them they can expect a positive dental patient experience. Don’t miss out on this simple way to improve the patient experience.
Focus on your Brand Image
While we’re talking about a dental practice’s online presence, we’ve got to cover the brand image. If a prospective patient reads the reviews and decides they want to give you a shot, their next stop is likely your website or social media pages. Presenting a strong brand image is an important part of closing the deal. If you aren’t a graphics or marketing expert, hiring a qualified firm to help will be money well spent.
No matter how many steps you take to improve your dental patient experience, it won’t do you much good if no one is there to answer the phone when they call or respond to email contacts in a timely manner.
Making it easy for potential patients to contact your office and set up an appointment is the easiest way to close the deal and get them in the door. If you want your practice to be accessible any time of the day or night, you may want to consider outsourcing your after hours communication to a virtual assistant. Good VAs are trained in the dental field and can be available when the rest of your staff is at home with their families.
Get Help Where you Need It
There are all kinds of ways to improve patient satisfaction, but if you don’t take the initiative to make it happen, your dental patient experience will suffer. If you need help coming up with a plan or finding the time to implement the strategies you have in mind, it’s important that you reach out for help.
Enlisting the help of a qualified firm is a great way to ensure you get the results you’re after without sacrificing the level of patient care you provide. If you’re ready to take your dental patient satisfaction to the next level, we’d love to help you get started.