7 Ways to Optimize the Patient Journey

By Therese Vannier, RDA/OMSA December 7, 2017

Unfortunately, most people don’t get excited about visiting the dentist. Whether justified or not, they believe they’re in for a painful and often expensive ordeal. Therefore, forward-thinking dental practices should look for ways to improve the patient experience, such as innovative technologies, better communication, and an attentive staff. Here are a few concrete ways to optimize the patient journey at your practice.Dentist Optimize Patient Journey

Ask Patients What They Want

The best way to learn how to satisfy your patients is to ask them. By surveying your patients, you can find out which things they value most, including ease of appointment scheduling, availability of information, communication with clinicians, responsiveness of staff, office cleanliness and organization, appointment timeliness, case presentation, treatment, and coordination between front and back offices.

Fulfill Patients’ Expectations

Use your survey to better understand your patients’ expectations and then do whatever you can to fulfill them. If working professionals expect to be seated in an operatory the minute they walk in, make that happen. If senior patients expect a warm blanket during treatment, provide that comfort. If local celebrities such as your TV news anchor expect an aroma therapy towel after treatment, provide that pampering. Once you know your patients, you’ll be able to treat them well and make them feel important.

Improve Communication 

The first point of contact with your team sets the stage for the entire time a patient is with your practice. So make sure they hear authenticity when they make their appointment and continue those warm feelings throughout their experience. Ask your patients the best way to contact them, such as text messaging, phone calls, and email. Make contact with your practice simple and efficient. By enhancing patient communications, you’ll encourage their engagement and strengthen your bond with your patients.

Present a Treatment Plan 

Patients will be more receptive to treatment if they can see the problem, so be sure to use study models, photos, radiographs, intra-oral cameras, and educational videos to help present treatment plans. Rather than just talking about the Grand Canyon-sized crack on #15, show them. Present every angle and all treatment options (including no treatment). Communicate all fees, and convey the value and ease of treatment to every patient.

Listen to Patients

Listening is a critical step toward understanding your patients and improving the quality of care. Some patients notice everything, so take advantage of their observations. The information they convey can reveal system flaws, such as appointment delays or problems in coordination and communication. Finding solutions to shortcomings can yield major improvements in efficiency.

Create an Effective Team 

Everyone loves an authentic smile, so make sure your entire staff exhibits a warm and friendly demeanor. Also be sure that your team is well organized and your work processes are efficient. This will enable you to provide an excellent standard of care that will keep your patients satisfied and eager to return to your practice.

Embrace New Technologies

Whether they tell you or not, many patients are disappointed when they see outdated dental equipment. On the other hand, when they see you using innovative new technologies, patients feel like they’re going to a top-notch practice. Since most people don’t enjoy dental treatment, embrace new devices that decrease chair time and increase patient comfort. Consider scheduling in-office demos with product vendors to learn about the benefits of adopting new technologies in your practice.

Providing patient-focused care and optimizing your patients’ journey require some time and effort, but doing so will yield optimal results. Not only will your patients return to your practice and feel more comfortable with the services you provide, they’ll most likely recommend you to their family and friends.