Putting the personality into the practice
Marketing factor: personality
People often associate the term ‘patient service’ with the very basics like drinks, reading materials and waiting room entertainment. Yet other factors such as personal needs are even more crucial to the success and longevity of the patient relationship – a glimpse through the eyes of the patient.
Personal connection plays an important role in all the decisions we make, in our private lives, our careers, and even when choosing a dental practice. I would be much less loyal to a practice where I am for the most part anonymous, where I am constantly being seen by a different dentist or treated by a different prophylaxis specialist than I would be to a practice to which I have a more personal connection. However, this connection can only be achieved if the practice puts value on it.
No ‘patient ping pong'
In practices with many dentists, avoid constantly moving patients around. This is not only inefficient, since each dentist has to read the patient file anew each time, but is also unsettling for the patient. Of course there are also patients who are not concerned about seeing a particular dentist every time, but as a general rule the patient should always be treated by the same person.
Personal connection is built on trust. It is therefore important that you give adequate time for providing clarification and answering patients’ questions. A ‘quick turnaround’ or even an exclusively digital clarification via iPad builds neither trust nor connection.
Communicate on equal terms
Do not initiate advisory and clarifying discussions while the patient is lying in the chair, but rather when they are able to communicate with you on the same level. If you do not have a separate consultation room or consultation table in the treatment room, at least allow your patients to sit upright in the treatment chair throughout the discussion.
Avoid using jargon
Of course using specialist medical terms shows your expertise and can even consolidate your position as the perfect professional. However, the primary concern should be that the patient understands and can follow what you are saying.
Keep patients informed
It is important to keep patients as well informed as possible, especially when it comes to multi-stage treatments: How do the results look? What form will aftercare take? How is the course of treatment structured from temporary solution to final treatment? None of these are things that should be communicated via post from you or the health insurance provider, but rather face to face.
We form personal relationships with one another based on who we really are. Within the dental practice, this manifests itself through taking the time to chat with people on a personal level. This not only acts as an ice breaker, but also shows you are interested in your patients not just as patients but also as people. Feel free to disclose personal information about yourself too. What is wrong with telling the patient about your trip to Corsica in response to the patient excitedly telling you about their upcoming holiday?
Personal connections rely on continuity. You should therefore not be having to get to know your patients anew every time they visit, but instead building on what you already know. Ask about the patient’s holiday next time they visit and tap into that comfortable communication level you established last time. A brief entry into the memo field in the patient’s digital file can be really helpful for this. Ask your assistant to fill it in.
Take time for greetings and goodbyes
Even in the dental practice, the ‘customer’ should be greeted and bid farewell – by both the reception team and the person treating them. This gives a formal structure to their visit. Schedule in adequate time for this at each relevant point in their visit. It is especially respectful to greet them by name at the reception desk. This is the easiest thing ever now that patient files are all digital and contain a photo of the patient’s insurance card.
As you see, the dentist–patient relationship is just like any other. It must be built, cared for and above all maintained if you want it to last. This requires time, continuity and the willingness to make yours a practice with personality.