In today’s technological era, it is easy to barely come in contact with your dental patients. There are machines and devices galore to take care of many parts of a dental practice, as well as hygienists and staff more qualified than in any era of dentistry. While it may be easier to let the miracle technology and educated staff take care of most of the work, and saunter in only at the moment you're needed, it isn’t good for the practice. Study after study has shown that patients will search out a dentist that forges a personal relationship with them. In short, patients want a dentist who talks to them and listens to what they have to say.
No one understands a patient's examination results quite like the dentist. Patients also feel more informed themselves when they hear their results straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. When the dentist personally tells the patient test results and what they mean, it gives the patient a chance to talk directly to the person who will be doing the work on them, and eases many of their fears in a way nothing else can.
Listening To Patient Concerns
Much more important than just examining a patient's mouth for problems and developing a treatment plan, a dentist must ask a patient about their wishes and really listen. Do they want to make changes? Do they have a time period they are working with? What are their major concerns or fears and how can you alleviate them? Even things that seem small to the practice, such as the use of an ultrasonic scaler vs a hand scaler, are important. It may be protocol to use an ultrasonic scaler on every patient, but what happens if the patient dislikes the vibrations, or has a fear of the equipment? A short and simple conversation can mean the difference between keeping that patient and losing him to a more attentive dentist.
It is also the dentist's job to make sure the patient is educated on the different stages of treatment and the choices they have in that treatment. Once all the patient's personal concerns and wishes are addressed, this is the next step in creating a healthy rapport. Future treatments should also be discussed. When a patient is well informed of all the options ahead of them, even far in the future, they feel confident in their choice of dentist.
In some cases, patients are shy or embarrassed to bring up a topic they are confused or displeased with. One way around that is to initiate a patient feedback form. It can be a card in the office, perhaps mailed to their home or sent via email. Give them a chance to list their grievances - or compliments - either anonymously or with full disclosure. Allowing patient feedback in this way gives you a clear picture of what is working and what could use a little attention. It also helps you to know how your staff are performing. Being able to give kudos to your staff is a great way to rally team participation.