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Trojan Today Classic: “What is Your Patient’s Perception? Pt. 2” by Kay Huff

A patient’s perception is a reality for that patient. As we said last month, it is essential that every step of the patient visit” from the initial phone call, how the patient is greeted and seated, treatment presentation, payment request, scheduling of next appointment, checkout process, and all outgoing care calls is representative of your practice’s high quality of patient care. This month, we cover what happens when the patient arrives at your office.

Meeting, Greeting, and Seating Patients

Each and every person entering your office must be welcomed.  Greet patients in a professional manner (stand up, call patient by name, shake hands) and provide any necessary information about the status of the patient’s appointment, such as wait time. 

Use closed-ended statements when speaking to the patient to prevent spontaneous conversations that can become long and involved. “Mrs. Wilson, it is nice to see you today.  Dr. Happy will be with you in a few minutes.” A very powerful tool is to greet your patients by name. This is another reason why you should utilize your technology and have a photo of the patient on the computer. Most dental software systems now have this feature. Also, since perception has to do with the senses, I love entering a practice that has essential oils and aromatherapy in place. Without even realizing it, there is an instant calming sensation and a feeling the practice is warm and welcoming. 

“While you’re waiting, is there anything I can do for you?”

“Would you like something to drink or a snack?”

“Please help yourself to one of our magazines and relax until the doctor is ready for you.”

If you happen to have a television in your reception area, make sure it’s tuned to something positive! If you fill your patients with negativity prior to the appointment, do not be surprised if it affects their visits and your case acceptance. Patients should not have to wait longer than ten minutes after their scheduled appointment time. If it will be longer than ten minutes, the patient must be told approximately how long the wait will be. If you expect patients to be at their scheduled appointments, then it only makes sense to see them on time!

When the clinical team member comes to the reception area to get the patient, she must walk out to the reception room, look at the patient, and call him by name. Then, make an introduction. “Hello, Mike. My name is Stephanie. It’s nice to meet you. I will be your dental assistant for your appointment today. Dr. Happy is ready for you now.” Walk with the patient to the treatment area. Once again, it is important to stay away from open-ended questions.

You may offer to give the patient a brief tour including the restroom, consultation room, and, of course, the sterilization area. If you have a consult room, I recommend using it for your new patients! Have the New Patient Coordinator seat the new patient in the consult room and review the details of the appointment. Once this is complete, introduce the patient to the assistant or hygienist to begin the short tour. You can reinforce again that the patient has made the right decision by saying, “You’re going to love Dr. Happy! He is so gentle. Dr. Happy has all the state-of-the-art technology, and you’ll be amazed that dentistry can be this comfortable. We also have digital x-rays that minimize radiation.”

Patient Checkout

Because preventing misunderstandings is much easier than correcting them, take time to be upfront and honest with your patients. Always “inform before you perform” any procedure. 

There are three specific pieces of information that need to be clearly communicated to each patient about his or her dental appointment — Procedure, Investment, and Time (PIT). This policy and system is fundamental in building a relationship of mutual respect with your patients. 

The clinical team and front office team members are held accountable for verifying the PIT stop has occurred before the patient has left the office. For example, the clinical team walks the patient to the front desk, verifies Procedure and Time with the patient for the next visit, and tells the patient the front office team member will go over their personal Investment for the next visit.

Care Calls

Many practices go the extra mile by placing care calls.  

This allows the practice to maintain relationships with patients even after they have left the office. Ask about their visits. What did they feel went well? Where could you improve? Share with them your excitement about being able to meet their needs. Some offices choose to do this with personal phone calls, others choose post-visit surveys, and some choose personal note cards. If you are unable to reach a patient by phone, consider sending a personal note card saying the doctor/hygienist had hoped to speak with them. Be sure to document all outgoing calls either in the chart or in the computer. Utilize surveys. You can actually review them during your team meetings and get a true picture of your patients’ perceptions, which may be different than yours. Either way, building and maintaining relationships is what keeps patients returning for years to come.

Perception is Reality! 

Here is a great exercise. It will include the team in the delivery of a WOW experience and share your team’s perceptions!

Have your team break into groups and list these topics:

  1. Quality of Service
  2. Areas of Expertise
  3. Reasons they would refer a friend to your office

Kay Huff brings more than 36 years of dental experience to ACT Team, with extensive knowledge of business systems, leadership, and team motivation. She is also a Certified Consultant with Bent Ericksen & Associates, as well as a member of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants (ADMC) and The Speaking Consulting Network (SCN) American Assoc. of Dental Office Managers AADOM. FMI: www.actdental.com.