Most of us have patients that are just like old friends. Once they’re in our chair, we’re dying to hear about their last vacation, a new house, or their grandchild. But in dentistry, there’s also a time constraint. That means we need to use the time we speak to patients in a way that also nurtures the provider-patient relationship.
Focus on the Needs at Hand
After brief chitchat, it’s vital to bridge your conversation into the needs at hand. Verbalize to the patient what you’re looking at as you’re performing the exam or other type of procedure. This changes the mentality of “The dentist is just poking on my tooth,” to, “Wow! He really is careful about making sure nothing is wrong with my crown!”
There’s nothing worse than being treated as if you have no idea what you’re talking about. If your patients feel belittled, they’ll go somewhere else. Make sure your office staff is careful to nurture healthy communication through body language such as:
- Looking someone in the eye when speaking to them
- Working with patients at the desk, before answering a phone
- Smiling when being spoken to by patients
- Using appropriate volume when discussing personal information
- Being sensitive to needs such as medical conditions
Add Value to Your Services
An essential element in patient communication is the “hand off” that occurs from one staff member to the next. Let’s say you’ve just treatment planned a crown on tooth #31 for Mrs. Smith. First, you explain why the crown is needed and how it will help. Next, your assistant escorts Mrs. Smith to the front desk, reemphasizing the need for the crown, and what can happen if it isn’t completely in a timely manner. Finally, the front desk checks the patient out and schedules them, because of how important it is to have the crown done quickly.
Just one missing link in the chain can make your patient feel like the treatment isn’t that important, or that it can wait until later. That’s the last thing you want!
It’s okay to be friends with your patients. But remember: you want them to keep returning because of the quality of services that you provide!