Improve patient communication in your practice with these tips

Improve patient communication in your practice with these tips

Dental practices are busy places, making it easy for clinicians and their team members to get caught up in the day-to-day routine. They spend most of their time focusing on treating patients and building the practice, but tend to forget the importance of developing real connections. These connections lead to practice growth, and it all starts with improving patient communication. When dental teams focus on patient communication, it shows in their retention numbers, their productivity and their bottom line. It really is a key element of practice success. Not sure how to improve patient communication in your practice?

Here are a few tips: Build a rapport with patients. I know a lot of dentists who prefer to keep their head down and focused while seeing patients. They’d rather keep to themselves than start a conversation. If that describes you, I suggest you get out of your comfort zone and work on building a rapport with your patients, and to encourage team members to do the same. Ask patients about their families and their work lives. Find out about their oral health goals and how you can help them meet those goals. Not only will your work be more rewarding, patients will start feeling more connected to your practice, fostering loyalty. Ask them if they have any questions. After listening to treatment recommendations, most patients have questions—but all-too-often they don’t ask. Maybe they’re afraid their question is silly, or they don’t want to take up too much of the team’s time. No matter the reason, the result is the same: they don’t feel comfortable going forward with treatment.

To help ensure patients have all the information they need to make an informed decision about treatment, I suggest you ask these standard questions:

-How do you feel about this treatment recommendation?
-How does this fit into your plans for your overall oral health?
-Do you have any more questions or concerns that you’d like to discuss?

Asking these questions will help get the conversation started. Encourage patients to bring up any concerns they have about treatment, and always take the time to address these concerns as well as any perceived barriers to care. Patients will feel more comfortable with the procedure and put more trust in you and your team—and that makes them more likely to say yes to the treatment you recommend. Really listen to patient complaints. When patients bring up an issue, it’s easy to shrug off their comment and blame it on a bad mood. That’s a good way to lose even your most loyal patients. Instead, open up the lines of communication. Thank these patients and ask questions so you can truly understand where they’re coming from. Make it clear you appreciate them telling you about the problem and that you’ll work on a solution right away. Not only will they be satisfied with the response, you now have the opportunity to make an improvement you didn’t even know you needed.

Educate patients. If you take the time to educate patients, they’ll feel more connected to your practice and will be more inclined to accept treatment. Talk with them about their oral health and how they can improve it. Let them know about the services you offer that can help get them to optimal health, and the possible consequences of not going forward with treatment. Beyond just having a conversation, you can also use brochures, images from an intraoral camera, radiographs and videos to educate patients about what’s going on in their mouths and how you can fix the problems identified. Make sure they know you’re happy to answer any questions they have.

All this will help them feel more comfortable with the practice and going forward with treatment you recommend. Making an effort to communicate with patients while they’re in the office is a great way to foster loyalty and grow your practice. They’ll feel a deeper connection to both dentist and team, leading to higher case acceptance numbers and referrals. Properly communicating takes just a little extra effort on your part, but will lead to huge benefits, from increased production to a more robust bottom line. Connecting with patients will also make your job more rewarding, and that helps you stay passionate about what you do. Need more guidance to improve patient communication in your practice? Feel free to reach out. I’m happy to help.

Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, www.mckenziemgmt.com, a full-service, nation-wide dental practice management company. Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

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