5 Ways to Improve Patient Communication

Improve Patient Communication
Oren Baum, Founder: I recently attended a core course with one of our great continuing education association partners, covering the topics of patient engagement, social media, and interaction. I spoke with some clients who were also attendees and realized that they were taking different things from the seminar than each other and different than what the speakers may have intended.

We thought to put together some top-down information on what forms of interaction could most benefit a dental office, and how they work together to increase referrals, decrease recall times, and increase business.

As a dental practitioner, it's important that your patients feel that they are in a comfortable and safe environment, free to discuss whatever is on their mind. Not only does that provide richer details about their medical (and relevant patient) history but it also allows you and your staff to foster close relationships. By keeping the lines of communication open, you build trust and earn lifelong patients. When you think about the current workflow of your office, from scheduling patients to after care follow up, is there any part of the patient experience that is missing or can be improved?

If you haven't had the time to sit down and think about how to connect better with patients, here are five methods to get you started:

Develop strong rapport

No matter how busy your day is don’t forgo pleasantries. Calling your patient’s by name and demonstrating that you remember their likes/dislikes, and past conversations is key to developing a strong rapport. Instead of asking yes or no questions, ask open ended questions that will encourage patients to provide you with more detailed information. Make sure to listen and to not interrupt.

Set Expectations

Setting expectations is key to providing a great patient experience. Realistically, it is highly unlikely that your staff will be able to answer every phone call or email right away but they should be able to confidently convey to the patient when the next point of contact will be. The same holds true for available payment options, duration of procedures, and after-care /recovery time. If patients know ahead of time how long something is going to take, they are less likely to feel impatient or stressed, thus more able to enjoy the experience at your office, and more likely to carry that good association with them longer, and talk about it with others.

Stay In Touch

When thinking about the patient experience, you may be thinking only about the interactions that take place in the office, but in this day and age, it’s possible to connect and engage with your patient’s out of the office as well. One of the best methods of staying in regular contact are eblasts or e-newsletters. Sent right to your patient’s inbox, it’s a great form of 'push' marketing that allows patients to not only stay up-to-date about what’s happening in the office but also to educate them about your services and establish your authority and credibility. 'Push' marketing is distinct from 'Pull' marketing as 'Pull' relies on patients to visit your website, social media, or other channels/platforms you distribute information. 'Push' marketing increases the potential audience by delivering your message right to your patient's inboxes.

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Be Informed and Willing To Educate

Clients expect their dentist and hygienist to be knowledgeable and confident about what they are doing, but also to be able to convey that knowledge in a way that allows the client to understand your process and actions. Using endless medical jargon might demonstrate that you are knowledgeable, but does not do a good job of educating the patient about what you are doing. To alleviate confusion, try using visual examples or metaphors and be willing to think outside the box to engage with patients in ways that meet their needs.

Ask For Feedback

Patients love to feel that they are being heard and their opinions are invaluable when it comes to finding out about how satisfied they are with your practice. Encourage patients to share their experiences at your office with others in the form of a review or survey, or even in person. Patients will appreciate that you value their feedback and are open to areas of improvement. Even if your office is doing a great job there is always room to increase patient satisfaction.