Are your patients happy?
In our line of work, this question can’t be asked often enough. Patients are at the very heart of healthcare service provision, and if the patients are unhappy, we clearly aren’t doing our job.
Oddly, while dental practice owners and administrators frequently ask me how they can expand their services and attract new patients, I don’t often get questions from people who want to ensure that they are providing the best possible experience for their patient base.
This strikes me as strange because if you aren’t keeping your current patients happy you’ll probably struggle to attract new patients. It’s no secret that few advertisements for your practice will be as effective as having a large number of satisfied patients.
For this reason, you’ll want to keep the foundation of your clientele strong and ensure that overall patient satisfaction is not compromised as you expand your practice. If you want to build your patient base without negatively affecting legacy patients, consider these four steps.
1. Survey Your Patients
In order to find out how you can create a better experience and increase patient satisfaction, first you have to find out what your current patients think could use improvement!
Every dental practice has a different mix of patient types so when it comes to offering better service there is no one-size-fits all solution: a practice that primarily serves seniors will want to focus on different aspects of care than a practice that caters to Millennial patients or young families will.
If you are trying to expand your service to include a specific patient demographic, you will have to find a way to balance the needs of your current patients with the needs of the new patients you are trying to attract.
Surveys are one of the most reliable ways to find out what your current patients like about your service and what they think could be made better. The first step toward increasing patient satisfaction should always be discovering the reasons why your current patients are unsatisfied.
You can also invest in reputation management software to quickly and easily survey your patients and encourage them to leave reviews. Positive reviews and testimonials are the single best tool to promote your brand. Did you know that Millennial consumers trust word-of-mouth advertising (including testimonials) over traditional advertising by more than 700%?
The right reputation management software will not only help you better understand what your patients think of your practice, but will also allow you to share positive experiences to help you grow your practice.
2. Enhance Your Online Services
In the twenty-first century, one of the easiest and best ways to make patients feel more plugged in is by meeting them where they are: online. Software for dentists is quickly becoming an essential tool for practices of all sizes, as they make it a lot easier to automate patient registration, track patient needs and keep treatment recommendations from falling through the cracks.
Moving to a more expansive dental practice management software that includes automated patient communication is a great way to reach out to new tech savvy patients and offer more convenience to your existing patients.
Effective use of dental practice management software also reduces no shows and short notice cancellations – a sure sign that it is keeping patients plugged in and engaged with your practice. Patients who regularly make and honour their appointments see the value in the service you offer – lower frequencies of no shows and cancellations are an indicator of improved overall patient satisfaction with the added benefit that it reduces costly downtime.
3. Focus on Experience as Well as Service
In the dental industry, we spend a lot of time talking about the level of service we are offering. But until recently, it was fairly unusual to hear someone talk about patient experiences.
As the late health industry executive and bestselling author Fred Lee outlined in the following TEDx lecture, given in Maastricht back in 2017, patients don’t just look to healthcare providers for a service, they look for an experience of care that goes beyond the simple transaction of receiving medical help.
It is not a question of trading one experience for another: it is about viewing patient experience as an additional dimension of the economy of your dental practice. If you want to improve patient satisfaction while attracting new patients, you’ll need to rethink the entire landscape of the patient experience and be willing to make adjustments.
Start with why patients came to see you in the first place – to either be assured that they are on the right track with their dental hygiene and/or to receive treatment for whatever is required. In fact, your treatment plan acceptance rate is another good indicator of patient satisfaction and of whether your consultations are hitting their mark.
4. Update Your Waiting Room
If you are like most dentists or dental administrators, you put in a lot of hours at your office. Over time, this can mean that you become less sensitive to the impression it makes on new patients.
For established dental practices that have been around for a long time, this can be a major problem: a waiting room that seems familiar and comfortable may seem shabby or depressing to a new patient.
But while updating your waiting room is important for making a good impression, it is also a great way to improve the experience for your current patients. Simple improvements like purchasing new furniture, adding access to multimedia or changing the layout can go a long way toward making your patients feel at home in your practice.
In summary, patients that are unsatisfied with the overall experience you offer will be reluctant to book appointments, follow through on scheduled appointments or recommend your practice to family, friends and colleagues.
This means that improving levels of satisfaction among your current patients needs to be job number one for any practice that is trying to expand its patient base. Remember, happy patients are the best advertisement a dental practice can get!