Building Relationships Key to Growing Your Practice in 2017

January 11, 2017
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN

By demonstrating to your patients that you value them as people, you build trust in your relationship with them and make it easier to provide more effective treatment.

As dental and medical care move toward a more patient-centered, precision-based model, you might have already noticed your patients expecting a more personal relationship with you when they visit your office. It isn’t enough to simply treat a patient anymore — now, patients and healthcare consumers assume that you will take a more intimate, personalized approach toward addressing their dental needs.

The key to being successful with this growing trend is all about developing authentic, positive patient relationships. By demonstrating to your patients that you value them as people, you build trust in your relationship with them and make it easier to provide more effective treatment. In turn, you might find that your patients refer their family and friends to your practice, driving growth and generating more revenue for you. How, then, do you grow your practice with a model of patient care based off exclusivity? Read on for some tips.

Start with the Right Communication Tactics

If you want to build trust and rapport with your patients, whether they’re new to your practice or not, you have to be mindful of how you communicate with them. It’s not just verbal communication that can sink your relationship — being aware of your body language is also important.

Some common guidelines for effective communication include:

· Greeting your patients in a warm, friendly manner at the beginning of every appointment.

· Maintaining eye contact.

· Sitting down when speaking with patients. Standing puts you in a dominant, assertive position and might prevent your patient from feeling comfortable with you.

· Listening to your patient without interrupting.

· Responding to patient concerns with empathy.

It might take some practice to adopt some of these habits. For instance, you might find it difficult to listen to your patients for a few minutes before you get started with the appointment. However, your patient needs to be able to fully explain what’s going on. If you let them, you’ll probably gather all the information you need. It’s ok to interrupt if you need to refocus, but try to let them talk as much as possible before you speak.

Make a Personal Connection

It only takes a few minutes to be friendly. When you greet your patient, ask about their family or work, depending on information they’ve already shared with you. If you show you have an interest in their lives outside of the dentist-patient relationship, it makes you more approachable and encourages the patient to open up to you. At first, it might seem like conversations unrelated to dentistry might be a waste of time, but these types of interactions are actually the basis of a strong relationship. This, in turn, can lead to a loyal, long-lasting patient who might refer others to you simply based off your approachability.

In addition to being friendly, take the time to explain the unique benefits of visiting your office. Maybe you’ve been trained in a certain procedure that no one else in your area can do, and you have a patient that would benefit from it. You might also share how your dental practice focuses on patient education — then, show your patient the equipment you’ll use during their procedure before you begin your work. How you highlight your practice and skills is up to you, but if you take the time to explain your particular value to your patients, you will strengthen the connections you have.

Help Your Patients Feel Involved and Appreciated

Depending on their reasons for seeking care, your patient might have a variety of treatment options available to them. Beyond merely suggesting the best treatment, go over each appropriate option with your patient in detail. Providing in-depth patient education assures your patient will feel they are a part of the decision-making process. Instead of treatment being dictated by a dentist, patients want to feel like they have some input in their dental care decisions. They will be more likely to follow treatment recommendations and adhere to follow-up appointment schedules if they know you are concerned about their thoughts on their condition and treatment. Since they are ultimately responsible for their own health, you might also find you have better compliance rates and a more engaged patient population if you can get your patients to see that you value them as a team member in their dental care.

It's also nice to add a personal touch after an appointment. After all, the relationship with your patient doesn’t end when they leave your office — if anything, you need to ensure that you strengthen the bond you have with them so that they are motivated to return. Showing your appreciation for their business can take many forms, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Adding patients to your online newsletter, or taking the time to mail thank you postcards helps you stay connected long the appointment. Simple, personal touches like this can help increase the odds they will return again in the future and remember to refer their friends and family to your practice.

Building authentic relationships with your patients doesn’t have to be hard. Simple techniques can help shift your practice mindset to a more personal, patient-centric model of care. You’re probably already doing some things to show your appreciation to your patients — taking it a step or two further in 2017 can strengthen your reputation as a dental professional that truly cares about the people you serve while driving more patients to your practice.

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