How you and your staff can positively increase dental patient satisfaction

You don't need a magic wand to have terrific communication with your dental patients. Thoughtful and purposeful communication with your patients will lead better patient satisfaction.

Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2016 06 Magic Wand 1
People tend to absorb and reflect the atmosphere and emotions around them. According to Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, people experience approximately 20,000 individual moments in a waking day. Each moment may only last a few seconds, but each is important.

Dr. John Gottman’s research on relationships suggests there is a ratio of five to one in terms of people’s balance of positive to negative interactions. This means that relationships are more likely to succeed when there are five positive interactions to every one negative interaction. Luckily, humans have a unique ability to turn negative thoughts and emotions into positive ones.

Logically, the key to improving patient satisfaction is to have the “magic ratio” of positive interactions between your team and patients. Communication should be thoughtful and purposeful. Here are a few ways to hit the “magic ratio” and positively enhance patient satisfaction and retention:

1. Pull, don’t push—Your team’s role is to be an advisor, not a salesperson. Case presentations should focus on patients and their needs and wants, not you and your treatment. Patients want to be empowered and informed, not sold. Avoid using phrases like, “Here’s what you must do,” or “You need to do this.” Instead use phrases like, “You may want to consider our recommendation for your particular case,” or “This is what many of our patients choose to do.”

2. Engage patients—Always keep patients involved in the conversation. Don’t talk “at” them, discuss care “with” them. Focus on asking open-ended questions and probing for understanding of their emotional needs. Create a dialogue, not a monologue.

3. Pre-frame and ask permission for every step you take—Always explain how patients will benefit from what you’re showing them and recommending to them. “Mrs. Smith, I’d like to show you a computer presentation that will give you a complete understanding of what gum disease is and how it can impact you keeping your teeth for life. Is this something you’d like to see?”

4. Be concise—Don’t waste your patients’ time. People want to be empowered and informed, not overwhelmed. Give them some information and ask if they’d like more. Use visual aids instead of words. Remember, the more you talk the more they will doubt.

5. Be expressive—Your patients want to connect on an emotional level. Use stories, metaphors, and colorful words instead of just clinical facts. Engage as many of their senses as possible. Stories tap into the emotions and add depth to your message, making it more real to them. But again, keep your stories pertinent and focused and avoid idle chatter or rambling.

6. Give options—People like options. They want to feel they have control, especially when it comes to their mouth and their money. Always present your best recommendations, but give patients alternative ways they can reach the same goal. When it comes to cost, give them options that don’t stress their family budget. These include cash, credit card, and financing with a health care credit card.

7. Respect their decisions—A long-term patient relationship is more than one decision to move forward with care or your best recommendations. A “no” today may turn into a “yes” tomorrow as someone’s situation changes.

To make all interactions positive, be passionate about care, curious about people, an eloquent communicator and empathetic listener, and always display contagious enthusiasm. As you hit the “magic ratio,” you’ll see your production, patient satisfaction, and patient retention magically increase.

For the most current dental headlines, click here.

Lisa Philp is the Chief Visionary Officer of Transitions Group North America, a full service coaching company for dentistry. She is currently a leader, author, coach, and public speaker. Lisa may be reached at (800) 345-5157, or visit

More in Patient Relationships