3 ways to help make communication the priority in your dental practice

March 31, 2016

It’s no secret that many patients can be afraid of the dentist. While it’s unfortunate, I’ve found the best way to combat this issue is to educate effectively and communicate well. Communication is imperative not only to making a patient feel comfortable, but it is the foundation on which our relationships with our patients are built.

It’s no secret that many patients can be afraid of the dentist. While it’s unfortunate, I’ve found the best way to combat this issue is to educate effectively and communicate well. Communication is imperative not only to making a patient feel comfortable, but it is the foundation on which our relationships with our patients are built.

Clear and honest communication improves our case acceptance rate, reduces no-shows, leads to referrals and, ultimately, a higher ROI for my practice. Read on for a few tips about making communication your number one priority at the office.

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Utilize your technology

Most practice management systems have a notes section in each patient profile. Encourage your staff to take advantage of this option. My staff and I consistently use the notes section in our system, Eaglesoft from Patterson Dental, to document any conversations and procedures relevant to the patients so we can check on any issue or developments in the future. This not only help to keep us organized, but it reminds patients that we’re thinking of them and keeping their history and preferences in mind when making future decisions.

Additionally, our system has a messaging function for which my staff and I use to communicate with each other while in different areas of the office throughout the day. Patients’ visits are no longer interrupted if one of my staff needs me for a question as they can message me in the background through the messaging portal. This helps immensely in keeping the flow of the office on time and all schedules operating according to plan.

Finally, the charting function within our system is simple and effective. Treatment plans are very easy to create and are presented in an easy-to-understand format for patients to read. All of these communication functions within our practice management system help create efficiencies for us around the office when balancing our busy schedules.

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Put the patient first

It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind or the business aspect of our jobs. After all, we are business owners and operators juggling many different tasks when we’re not visiting with a patient. That being said, patients are our lifelines to sustaining our businesses, so it is vital to consistently think of their needs and how we can better serve them.

When thinking of ways to increase case acceptance, we always come back to our communication strategies. We avoid “selling” our patients on any procedure and instead think of the ways in which they can best understand our recommendations. We like to show patients exactly what we see on digital screens using intra-oral cameras, tell them what we would recommend and why, and using the images as reference let the patients decide from there.

Using this process, we are currently averaging 65 new patients a month and the most common complaint we hear from them is that they feel they were “sold” treatment in the past but never given a good explanation as to why. Understandably, this is very frustrating for patients. To avoid this, we take a lot of time educating them with visuals and having open, one-on-one conversations about each patients’ specific needs.

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Ease into it and create comfort

Patient anxiety is a very real thing in our industry and it is up to all of us to explain that there truly is nothing to fear when someone visits the dentist. We take many different steps to convey this message, such as offering in-chair Netflix screenings with headphones and a screen directly overhead of the chair in our operatories, and providing soft blankets, towels, and aromatherapy to cater to our patients’ specific needs. I even bring in my own puppy to the office – it’s amazing what an animal can do to ease tension for patients.

Keep in mind that everyone that enters your practice is different, so it is imperative that you communicate with your patients and understand their needs. For example, some of my patients want to know step by step what is going on while others want to relax and concentrate on the soothing music. We tailor our appointments to each patient to help alleviate any anxiety he or she may be having.

In the end, it all comes back to communication. Put that first and you will see benefits in many different ways. From increasing appointments to strengthening your current relationships, communication is key. 

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