Is there a dentist that wouldn’t want:
– Superior patient retention: Loyal patients who stay with the practice long-term and show up for their appointments?
– Excellent word of mouth with tons referrals?
– Numerous positive reviews online (Google, Yelp, etc.)?
Beyond great clinical care, these factors are heavily dependent on customer service, a large part of which is the “patient experience” in your practice. So, for this post, I want to focus on that very subject: Patient Experience.
Making a Patient as Comfortable as Possible
It’s no “news flash” that people don’t enjoy having needs and drills in their mouths. It is inherently uncomfortable, even for people who don’t have any degree of “dental phobia.” And if people are uncomfortable for a long period of time in our office, they’re most likely not going to be excited to come back and bring their friends and family into the practice!
So, it’s on us to do everything we possibly can to make it an enjoyable experience with as little pain as possible. (Note: as far as I’m aware, in most states and provinces, you cannot advertise “painless” or “pain-free” in your marketing. So, I wouldn’t go there, but I would strive to do anything I could to reduce pain in any way possible. I’ve found that patients will notice and appreciate it).
There have been many technological advances over the last couple decades directed toward this end, but I have a few additional tips for this along with how to make patients feel more comfortable that that might help. Read these and then get together with your staff at the next staff meeting and discuss what can be done to improve the patient experience. You can probably come up with a ton of great ideas to add to these.
1. Take care with your injection technique.
When talking about making dentistry comfortable, I think we’ve got to start off with injection technique. There are a lot of things you can do to make it easier on the patient, but here’s what I did:
- I always used the smallest needle I possibly could for the procedure I was doing.
- I used a topical anesthetic before the injection
- I warmed the anesthetic to body temperature ahead of time. Some people bristle a little against this because when you warm the anesthetic it has a tendency to limit the shelf life of it—well, we just had a system of rotating the carpules through the anesthetic warmer. It was worth it because I’ve experienced this myself, and having the anesthetic go in at body temp instead of room temp makes a huge difference.
2. Never leave the patient alone in the operatory.
I had a policy in my office that was very important to me: the patient is never left in the chair alone. They could be apprehensive — especially if they’re seeing dentists not just the hygienist — and it really helps when a staff member is there with them.
So our policy was that, if at all possible, we did not leave the patient alone. The assistant didn’t run up to help confirm or pull charts if there’s a patient in that assistant’s chair. I was willing to pay him or her whatever it costs to sit there and talk to that patient and keep the patient comfortable.
Which leads right into my next point:
3. Be efficient chairside.
Get the procedure done as quickly and efficiently as you can while still maintaining the highest quality of care.
It kind of goes without saying all supplies need to be in the room; the assistant can’t be jumping up all the time and running around grabbing things the dentist needs that weren’t ready to go.
Be efficient while practicing dentistry. Less efficiency = increased patient time in the chair. Don’t make it take any longer than it needs to.
I also applied this efficiency concept to my lab cases. I worked tightly with my lab so that I got all my cases back within 7-10 days. We sped it up by having a driver handle it all versus UPS or some other carrier. My lab was two hours away, and I arranged with them to send a driver to my office twice a week to pick up and drop off cases. I didn’t want my patients to have to wait any longer than necessary with a temp.
4. Provide shaded eye protection.
When I go to a dentist, I appreciate it when I not only get eye protection—but shaded eye protection. That glaring light sometimes bleeds over and I find it uncomfortable for my eyes. Try staring at a bright light for a while…it gets annoying very quickly.
5. Play something pleasant on any TVs in your office (not the News).
So the final point that I want to make is that there are now TVs in offices, sometimes in every treatment room. Certainly, in the waiting room. Beyond the fact that patients shouldn’t be waiting long enough to need to watch TV (more on this in my prior article about patient wait times), putting the wrong content on the TV can ruin the atmosphere you’re trying to create in your office.
My advice is: Please do not play the news (local or national).
The news is rarely uplifting. I’ll just leave it at that.
You want your patients to think of your office as a friendly place that they love coming back to. You want them to associate your office with a positive experience, so don’t play things on TV that tend more toward the negative.
If you’re not playing educational videos about various dental procedures, try putting on any of the various Home & Garden channels. There are many channels now that show homes being remodeled and things of that sort, it keeps many people interested while not being upsetting or controversial in any way.
Hope these tips help! Obviously you can come up with more ideas for your office, so again, get together with your staff and do a little brainstorming. In any event let’s strive to provide the best customer service possible. And this starts with working your hardest to make your office as comfortable as possible for patients.
And as always, if you’d like any help, give us a call at (800) 640-1140 or (727) 530-4277 for a free consultation.