High Five

To help your practice stand out, deliver a stand-out dental patient experience

May 14, 2019
It's a competitive dental market, and practices need ways to stand out. This practice administrator says patient experience matters.

It’s important to remember that your patients have a choice. They can choose you or another practice down the street. In our particular situation, there are over 100 dentists within a five-mile radius of our practice. When I think about what makes us unique, I focus on our commitment to delivering an exceptional patient experience—from the first phone call through to post-care follow-up.

When the phone rings, that’s opportunity calling 

The patient experience and foundation of a strong patient–practice relationship starts the minute someone answers the phone. Some practices use scripts, which are helpful, but it’s also important to be authentic. The goal is to feel comfortable and confident and help patients feel the same.

 That first phone call is your opportunity to introduce the practice, team, and doctor. As we all know, first impressions count. By the end of the call, a new patient should know who you are, why you do what you do, and the great experience they’re going to have at your practice. Remember to take notes during a phone call so that when the patient comes in, you can use the notes to continue building the relationship.

 Call people by their names 

Research suggests that the number of times you use a person’s name in a conversation is an indication of how important they are to you. A person’s name is their connection to their identity. Here are a couple of things we’ve found work well: 

• Be sure to address older patients by their proper name and ask permission to call them by their given name. “Mrs. Jones, it’s great to meet you. May I call you Betty?”

• Be prepared to greet patients by name when they enter the front door.

• Introduce new patients to team members during the new-patient tour or during their appointment. If possible, make a connection. “Betty, allow me to introduce you to Alison, our hygienist. Alison, Betty lives near the lake that you and your kids go to on the weekends. Betty, Alison is a terrific hygienist. You’re going to want to come in for your ongoing preventive appointments!” 

Treat patients as you would your family 

I love it when a patient sincerely says, “Thank you.” It makes my heart happy and I thrive on words of affirmation. It’s why I do what I do. I work hard to make patient journeys excellent, because it makes me happy. 

One way we treat patients like family is by creating a comfortable and casual environment. We’re not a typical, sterile, very serious medical practice. We take clinical care very seriously and provide exceptional dentistry, but we do it in a warm and welcoming environment. We’ve created a practice environment that we would want to go to if we didn’t work here and have access to terrific care already. Yes, we want patients to walk out with a healthy mouth, but we also want them to walk out with a smile on their faces because they feel cared for like family. 

Everyone is a leader 

Leadership starts at the top with the doctor. The managers or administrators should be the go-to lead for the rest of the team, but I believe that everyone on the team are leaders in different ways. Everyone has a special skill set and different things they bring to the table. Together, the team leads patients through their oral health journey. 

A big part of leadership is empowering others. We work hard to empower our patients through education and by including them in decisions and using great communication skills to ensure they truly understand what’s going on in their mouth, and why we are recommending certain treatment. We want to empower patients to get the care they need through flexible appointments and financial solutions. That’s why we offer the CareCredit credit card. We don’t want a patient’s journey to oral health derailed because of cost. 

Ultimately, we’re a small seven-person practice that works hard to make patients’ experiences stand out so that they want to come back and want to refer their friends and family. We’re a team, a family, and we’re here for our patients. Because we know they have choices, and we want them to choose us as their dental home. 

Joanne McNeill collaborates with CareCredit to develop educational materials for the dental industry. 

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