As a dentist, your primary concern is always to maintain and improve your patients’ dental health. But the reality is that your dental practice is also a business, and businesses need to pay attention to customer satisfaction.
When you’re a dental service organization, in which multiple locations service hundreds (even thousands) of patients in many different areas, this becomes more complex. You’ll have several teams in separate offices, which is often a recipe for inconsistency. That is, if you don’t communicate standards to everyone.
Today, we’re going to talk about some of those, in the form of three keys to patient satisfaction. When you drill these principles into the mind of every team member at every location, you’ll see the results in improved patient experience.
#1: Reduce Wait Times
Ideally, we all like to believe that prioritizing our health is important and thus, we can carve out the time needed to properly address things like dental cleanings. But the reality of the 21st century is that each and every one of us has about 50 tasks to accomplish in a day. Rarely do we have even hours to spare; showing up to the appointment at all is the priority. Ensuring that your patients don’t sit in the waiting room for too long will make them feel that their time is respected.
According to a study by the American Dental Hygienists Association, “Long waiting times prior to a scheduled dental appointment have a negative effect on patients’ satisfaction with their visit, the evaluations of the patient-provider relationship and the patients’ intentions to return.”
As with anything, reducing patients’ wait times can be more difficult to achieve (and track) when you are running multiple offices.
Our founder, Dr. Brett Wells, owns a DSO in North Carolina, so we asked him what he’s done to successfully reduce wait times. His answer might surprise you: Instead of focusing only on the waiting room element, he zeroed in on his own role in the overall office visit process.
“Usually, the hygienist will let the doctor know they’re ready for the patient to be seen toward the end of their cleaning process,” Dr. Wells says. “The problem is that the doctor usually has quite a few patients to see.So now, the patient is all done and ready to go, but they’re sitting there another 15 to 30 minutes. That, I think, is more frustrating than sitting in the waiting room.”
So what was his solution? Dr. Wells put into place, at every one of his practice locations, a policy stating that hygienists were to request his visit at the beginning of each patient’s appointment. A simple change, but this way, he could pop in at any time, meaning that the patient was almost never left waiting at the end of their cleaning.
#2: Communicate Clearly
The mindset of saving patients time might make you think that zipping through conversations could improve their satisfaction. But, there is a difference between conveying information in a concise way and making someone feel rushed.
When a patient comes to the dentist, the whole point is for them to glean insight into their oral health. Whether they’re getting a good bill of health after a cleaning or discussing improvement post-procedure, it’s important to take the time to ensure the patient understands what’s going on, why it’s happening, and how they can better care for their teeth and gums.
The way to achieve this and still reduce wait times is to be detailed, but direct. Unless you can tell that a patient likes to chat (and you have the time to engage in that), get your point across in a polite but swift manner.
When running a dental service organization, that balance of friendliness and efficiency is something you should constantly be evaluating. Why? Because, as you may know, DSOs can have the reputation of being too systematic and impersonal. That perception is something you should be especially careful to work against. Detailed personal communication on the part of yourself and your hygienists, dental assistants, and front desk staff is how you actively work against the DSO stereotype.
#3: Make the Payment Process Simple and Transparent
So, you want to save time where possible, yet always be thorough. But another key to patient satisfaction is improving the payment process for your patients.
Despite the fact that most of your patients appreciate the importance of good dental care, the cost of treatment can be overwhelming. Some won’t be able to afford to pay for their treatment, and others will feel irritated about the high price tag for services. No matter how much a patient values their dental care, they aren’t going to enjoy that surprise copay in the mail.
The overly expensive and frustrating process of insurance has long been an unfortunate necessity to pay for medical care. But in the world of dentistry, a new solution has emerged.
Dental membership plans empower your patients to pay you directly for their dental services, without involving an insurance provider. You are compensated fairly. Patients enjoy the satisfaction of knowing they’ve paid what their dental care is worth. And because membership plans can work on a monthly or annual payment plan, patients often find this method more affordable.
In-house membership plans are also a great way to add to the time you save your patients, as these plans mean patients don’t need to stop by a checkout desk before leaving your office.
And here’s the best part: You get paid on a set schedule, while your patients can say goodbye to snail mail surprises.
If you take advantage of a third-party platform like our very own here at DentalHQ, you could further streamline this process. A dental membership platform puts your members into a system that keeps track of their next appointment date, whether they’ve scheduled and confirmed their next appointment, etc.
So, In Summary …
When you reduce wait times, communicate details, and make payment doable and transparent, you increase patient satisfaction!
To learn more about dental membership plans, visit our post clearing up some of the common misconceptions.