5 Conversations to Have with your Patients
It’s no secret that the dental patient experience is the single most important long term success tool for any dentist. For this year’s Dental Hygiene Month, everyone in your office should be making an effort to talk to your patients about managing their oral care. If your patients are comfortable and safe in their interactions with you, they’ll keep coming back, and of course, having a reputation for friendliness never hurt anyone.
1. Why is it important to have good communication skills in the dental office?
“Bedside manner” matters. Many patients, especially younger ones, might have a general fear of the dentist, and might not be receptive to your initial communication. By entrusting us with their treatment, we create a professional relationship that requires nurturing, understanding, and care. Make it known that you are there for your patients, whether that’s discussing treatment options or after-hours emergency consultation if something goes wrong.
2. Greetings and goodbyes
When someone comes into your office, are they greeted warmly or simply glanced at? Are your office staff friendly, cordial, and professional? With the realities of COVID-19 looming over every patient interaction, figuring out ways to understand how our patients feel should be our main focus, and that first walk-in to your office is very important. There might not be anyone else at your practice except for your patient and a front office employee. Make them feel as if they’re experiencing an even more personalized level of care instead of thinking they’re trapped in a box by themselves.
3. Communication barriers in dentistry
Clearly, religion and politics aren’t on the table during a dental visit, but you can still have a personalized conversation that keeps your patients engaged with you during and after treatment:
- Ask about their family; if someone just recently went to or graduated college, or how seasonal activities such as sports or holiday planning is going
- We all need to let off steam sometimes, but remind patients of the reason for their visit if they’re being chattier than usual, and say that the conversation can continue next time
- During treatment, stick to “yes or no” questions when talking about personal matters, but also check in on pain or discomfort levels periodically if necessary
5. Money talks
Even though your dental practice is a business, many patients might not anticipate this when it comes time to pay the bill. By communicating payment methods and requirements, you’re setting yourself up for success instead of a dreadful negative patient interaction that will cost you money and time. As with anything else, transparency is key, and this isn’t something you should leave your patients to figure out for themselves. If you want your money, you’re going to need to be upfront with how you’re going to get it.
- Specify your payment methods, whether you accept alternative payments such as check, etc, and offer as many options as you’re able
- Detail payment terms for all patients in clear, concise language, and don’t renege on your promises
- Be able to give your patient a quote estimate for their services instead of having them foot a surprise bill at the very end of treatment
Your patients will prefer the ability to know whether or not they can pay off larger bills over a small period of time rather than right away. Collecting what you’re owed is important, so ensure that all of these options have contingencies for you to get paid within a short period of time.
5. Effective communication in dentistry starts with you
What are the specifics of your plan to communicate more effectively? Are you soliciting new patients for care, or simply going through the motions with your regulars? Are new patients skeptical of your practice or eager to come in for treatment? Do you translate your love of dentistry well to your patients? Being aware of the areas you need to improve on will encourage you and your employees to focus on the real patient experience, rather than just another face at the front desk.