5.15.15 Issue #688 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Obtaining Patient Satisfaction
By Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.

Generally speaking, dentists take pride in preventative care, treating symptoms and emergency interventions to ultimately improve a patient’s quality of life. But there is something else dentists need to focus on these days, and that is the patient’s experience, or sense of satisfaction, from the time of scheduling to receiving the care to paying the bill. As we know from our personal experience with needing a dental procedure, or even a regular check-up, we are usually not happy about needing it! How can dentists be in the business of treating people’s problems and simultaneously be expected to receive high patient satisfaction scores?

Think of it as long-term preventative care: The more you can educate your patients to take better care of themselves and do minimal emergency interventions, the healthier your patients will be, and therefore the happier. Studies show that patients who are satisfied with their care are more likely to be compliant and have better outcomes. Patient satisfaction begins with building a strong relationship, but goes much further. Here are some ideas to consider when working to improve patient satisfaction.

1. Listen. The first step in making your patients happy is simply to listen. Often, patients complain that their dentists seem rushed and too busy to really pay attention to them. Take time to listen to your patient's concerns, and make sure to answer each one! This may be time consuming, but it will save time in follow-up calls or cancellations down the road. Make eye contact. Wait to speak until your patient has finished, then ask questions to be sure you understood everything s/he has said. This conveys to your patient that you care and want to understand their needs.

2. Treat your patient like a customer. It is important to remember that patients drive the demand for dentists. Fewer patients would not be good for business! It might seem a little too “business-y”, but part of your focus should always be on patient retention. Treat your patient like a customer whose business you don't want to lose. Smile, be courteous, and go above and beyond. This can be difficult at times, and you may need to train your staff on these skills, but the payoff is huge.

3. Keep a professional appearance. Appearances matter. Anyone with whom a patient comes in contact should be neat, tidy and professionally dressed, with no long fingernails, offensive odors (e.g., excessive perfume), unusual piercings or noticeable tattoos. Exam rooms should be spotless. Waiting rooms should be clean and stocked with current and relevant reading material. Also think about the kind of conversation your hygienists are having with your patients. Are they divulging too much personal information? Are they taking advantage of a “captive audience?” Do they ask intrusive questions, and then continually stop their procedure to allow the patient to answer? Is this what the patient wants? What could the patient say, or to whom could they say something if they did not? When a patient walks into your office and sees cleanliness and professionalism, they know they can expect to receive quality care.

4. Walk a mile in your patient's shoes. As providers, it is easy to forget what it’s like to be a patient, yet thinking about your own experience as a patient is the simplest way to approximate what might satisfy you. Patients are often scared, anxious and uncomfortable. The chair places them in an exposed, vulnerable position. They cannot see what is happening – only the tools you or your assistants are using – and they often cannot talk or voice their concerns. In addition, pain and/or fear is often a factor. Keep this step in mind when you feel a patient is being difficult or unreasonable.

5. Take complaints seriously. When your patient has a complaint, listen and take accountability. Never place blame or become defensive. Just accept the complaint, apologize, and assure the patient you will do your best to make things right. Follow up with your patient later to let them know the situation has been handled. If possible, compensate the patient in some way. This might be a gas card if the patient has driven to an appointment that had to be canceled, or a certificate for lunch if the wait was excessive.

This is not just one more list of things to remember, but instead it should be intuitive. We are all fairly discriminating consumers, a trend which is increasing as we have access to more information and options via technology. Simply think about your experience as a dental patient. What would be “satisfying” to you, even if you did not want to be there? What are some key take-aways you can implement today that align with the kind of practice you naturally run? Perhaps it is just a smile and good eye contact, or delegating to some of your staff to keep the physical office clean, contemporary, and visually appealing. Any efforts are better than none, especially when your financial success depends on it.

Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at jgalephd@mckenziemgmt.com

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