Reducing Anxiety is the Key to Patient Retention

Identify and Reduce Common Causes of Dental Anxiety: Understanding Positive Patient Perception Will Help You Grow Your Practice

If you are a fan of Netflix or enjoy a night out at the movies, you’ve probably noticed that dentists aren’t often portrayed kindly in popular media.

The movie industry still clings to the cliché of dentists as villains – just look at Horrible Bosses, where Jennifer Aniston plays a crazed dental practitioner who gleefully tortures her patients and staff, or horror films like The Dentist or its sequel.

These portrayals are unfortunate because most dentists, and their team members, are actually quite amiable and likeable. Personally I can say that at the dental clinic where I receive care they routinely share little anecdotes and we have some good laughs.

Any dental practice in the know recognizes the importance of patient perception and will address and even reverse the all-too-popular assumption that the dentist’s office is a place to fear.

Dental industry experts tell us that the most common reasons given by patients for not routinely visiting the dentist are:

  • Communication issues
  • Failure to address concerns over the cost of dental care, and
  • A lack of appreciation for patient anxiety

If you run a dental practice and you want to ensure that your patients not only return for future work, but also return for regular preventative care – and not just to deal with a crisis – you need to address these concerns.

Improving Communication

Effective communication is essential for creating positive perceptions, and improving communication is easy – if you know what people want. Most patients appreciate a health care professional that speaks to them, not at them. By reducing your reliance on technical jargon and by presenting information clearly, you can significantly improve your patients’ overall experience. After all, the more aware they are of your administrative and clinical processes, the more comfortable they’ll be.

You can also work on improving the non-verbal communication skills of your dentists and support staff to increase patient retention. It’s a dentist’s office after all, so make sure everyone’s smiling!

Addressing Concerns about Cost

Many patients reporting negative reactions to their dental experience say the care was satisfactory but are unhappy with the cost. This is especially true in countries like Canada where many other forms of healthcare are fully or partially funded publicly.

One way to help patients understand the cost-to-benefit ratio of dental work is to explain the treatment process, the breakdown of the individual services you are providing, and the consequences of not proceeding with the required treatment. For Millennials, who tend to be more budget savvy, spend time educating them during their decision-making process to help them understand the reasoning behind your recommendations.

Dealing with Dental Anxiety

Fear of the dentist has been reported as the second most common phobia – second only to public speaking – and every dental patient experiences some degree of anxiety.

To help alleviate this anxiety, remember that comfort is key. Go the extra mile to establish an open and caring relationship with patients, especially those under the age of 12. Coloured glasses can help reduce the glare of the bright lights above the dental chair and can add a bit of fun to the experience, while having TVs spread about the office can give both kids and adults a happy distraction.

Reduce Appointment Jitters

Patients are already anxious enough about going to the dentist, and they don’t want their appointments continually cancelled or postponed. Running a dental clinic should never be viewed as chaotic, and ABELDent’s automated patient communication and other dental scheduling software can help keep you organized – which will help reduce patient anxiety, and keep them coming back for future care.

Don’t let the Hollywood media define you! Address these common patient concerns and watch your practice grow and patient satisfaction increase!

Patient Satisfaction by the Numbers

Have you ever sat in a waiting room tapping your fingers, hoping each time the Nurse appears that your name will be called? Definitely been there, definitely hoped that.

Have you ever noticed that even as a Doctor or Practice Manager yourself, your level of overall satisfaction decreases in direct proportion to your wait time? That after around 10 minutes, your mind starts to calculate the cost of your wasted time? Do you start to issue imaginary invoices to the provider for your own time? I’ve done that as well.

According to recent research conducted by Software Advice, the average wait time in a dental office is 13.5 minutes. Of the over 5,000 patients surveyed, 97% reported frustration with the time they were expected to wait for a pre-booked appointment.

Further, the study found a real co-relation between wait times and patient satisfaction. When patients have to wait for the Hygienist they are more likely to be dissatisfied, but when the provider is earlier than expected patients are both more satisfied and more likely to follow the treatment plan.

Other than mastering the arts of accurate scheduling, streamlined patient processing and efficient clinical work, there is not a lot you can do to avoid delays. Some patients will always be late. Others may take longer than anticipated to treat. Emergencies, cancellations, staff absences… your days rarely unfold exactly as planned.

So while you cannot always control wait times, what you can work on is altering your patients’ perception of the length of their wait. Here are a few suggestions that might help you do that:

  • Create a pleasant atmosphere with comfortable seating.
  • Music and magazines have always been standard. Adding a TV monitor can have a big impact on patient entertainment.
  • Offering complimentary beverages is always appreciated. Bottled water is a great option: simple, refreshing and healthy.
  • Most patients today will keep themselves occupied with their mobile devices. So make sure you offer WiFi – independent of your practice’s access for security purposes – and clearly post login information.
  • Acknowledge patients upon arrival.
  • Communicate wait times whenever possible. 80% of patients say they would feel less frustrated if they were told expected wait times in advance.
  • Manage wait times carefully. Checking back, asking questions, offering an update will make the time seem to have passed more quickly. Rely on practice management software that tracks appointment status, wait times and patient alerts to draw your team’s attention so they can take immediate action to reduce the negative impact of waiting.
  • Use your portal to advise patients via text of any delay expected to exceed 15 minutes.
  • Also use your portal to allow patients to pre-populate and update their personal information and health histories. They will appreciate that you have created a system to help reduce their wait times.
  • Maximize the capabilities of your software to use electronic forms, have patient information at your fingertips and capture real-time data throughout the appointment.
  • Regularly analyze your data to identify and address trends to reduce wait times. Good practice management software tracks the entire patient visit from arrival to departure, giving you the opportunity to learn from recurring issues and specific bottleneck situations.

For the most part, we have all come to expect some degree of wait time when visiting a Dentist or Doctor. You can differentiate your practice by minimizing the impact of the wait, to the delight and surprise of your patients.

 

ABELDent Keeps You Informed on Digital Dental Office Solutions

Consult our Simple, Straightforward Guide to Building the Perfect Facebook Group

As a follow-up to our October article about using Facebook to promote your dental practice, here is a new article that will show you how to harness the power of Facebook groups to better engage and connect directly with your patients.

At ABELDent, we know how to connect dental practitioners to the right dental practice management software and the tools they need to increase productivity, but we also know how to connect to people – which is why we’re confident the insights presented in this guide will help you build a better practice.

Consult our Simple, Straightforward Guide to Building the Perfect Facebook Group

What to Know Before You Start

Understanding patient needs is the most important pillar of any healthcare practice, and being able to connect directly with those patients is the first step toward building a lasting relationship.

You probably already know that owning the customer experience is the key to marketing any brand on social media. But if you really want your dental practice to stand out from the competition, you need to understand how these platforms actually handle user experience, and where your individual brand fits into the equation.

These days, companies compete first and foremost on the basis of customer experience (according to Forbes, 89% of companies list it as their primary metric for success). Like any other type of customer, dental patients use how they feel about the service you’re offering to decide whether or not they will keep doing business with your brand – or engage with that brand in the first place.

This is why companies in the know have begun to use the community-building nature of Facebook groups as a backdoor into deeper connections with potential and returning customers. The experience of being connected to a community paves the way to brand interaction, and Facebook privileges and promotes this kind of organic interaction.

Think about it. At the start of 2018, Facebook needed to change the way its News Feed functioned, and so they tweaked the algorithm – the code that decides what information to present to users and what information to deprioritize – to promote more posts from family and friends, while demoting content posted by brands, businesses, and media outlets.

While the new algorithm actively pushes followers away from traditional ad campaigns, it simultaneously rewards businesses that connect to users by building vibrant group communities.

Tip #1 – Find your Niche

Facebook groups are great at bringing together people who share a common interest. Creating a group dedicated to spreading dental health awareness, for example, might attract Facebook users who have similar oral health questions, or who want to learn more about local dentistry options in their city.

This gives you ample opportunities to improve awareness of yourself and your dental care brand simply by being helpful and informative.

Tip #2 – Engage with your Members

Posting and engaging with your group members goes a long way to building your numbers (just ask social media marketing expert Neil Patel, whose own Facebook group has over 11,000 members)!

More than just a controllable asset, a Facebook group is a hub – a space for people to gather, share, and discuss – which influences users in a far bigger way than a Facebook page alone.

People need answers to their questions, and if you are able to offer consistent solutions, you will see patient communication within your group soar, especially as people start to share the experience with friends and family on the platform, driving more attention to your brand. You can start by offering simple dental hygiene tips related to proper brushing and flossing techniques, the benefits of teeth whitening, and the importance of routine visits to the dentist. Once you’ve solidified your brand’s status, you can then begin to suggest specific services, such as those offered by your practice.

If you’ve been consistently providing answers to oral health questions, you can slowly begin to recommend that people stop by your clinic to learn more, turning Facebook engagement into potential business.

Tip #3 – Commit Yourself

If you’re thinking about starting a Facebook group for your dental clinic, or you want to improve the group you’ve already started, you need to put some time and energy into the endeavour. Remember the following:

  1. Be informative. Let the world know what your group is about. Write a great intro blurb in the About section to get people interested. This is your elevator pitch, so make those characters count.
  2. Be welcoming. Create a pinned post anytime a new person joins your group, welcoming them aboard and inviting them to introduce themselves. People who feel like they belong are more likely to participate and engage with your content.
  3. Be encouraging. Talk to existing customers in your group routinely, and encourage them to post positive reviews or testimonials. This will allow you to highlight patient experiences for others to see and share.
  4. Be present. Make sure you commit to giving your group members a piece of your time every day. It might not be the most ‘scalable’ use of your half-hour, but you need to be present in the group to get members to believe in you and your brand.

There you have it! Hopefully you can use this guide to create the perfect Facebook group that will allow you to position yourself and your brand in a more visible space, find new customers, and bring more attention to your dental practice.

At ABELDent, we routinely publish informative pieces on all things related to dentistry software and dentistry itself, so be sure to check in on the blog regularly!