10 Tips to Improve Dental-Patient Communication

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The Connect the Doc Team
June 14, 2023
min. read

Excellent dentist-patient communication is vital to your patient’s satisfaction and experience with your dental practice. When interacting with you or your dental team, patients need to feel heard and understood. They also need to have access to sound information about their dental health to make good decisions. 

Prioritizing the quality of your communication with patients is essential. Your patients are not a distraction, and they shouldn’t be made to feel that way. Instead, your patients are your work, so they ought to be your priority in the workplace, and that should be clear and understood by the way you interact with them. 

If you don’t communicate with your patients well, you will see your patient retention rate drop. Even worse, you could have trouble attracting new patients because existing patients would have shared negative reviews online and within their networks about your dental practice. So, dentist-patient communication is just as crucial to your reputation management strategy as it is to your ROI. 

This article will shed light on the importance of dentist-patient communication and highlight ten tips to help you improve the way you communicate with patients. Ultimately, after reading this article, you should know enough to boost your patients’ satisfaction. 

Why Dentist-Patient Communication Matters 

Chances are, you feel somewhat comfortable with the current level and quality of communication you have with your patients. And if that is the case, reviewing the four reasons for excellent dentist-patient communication outlined below could serve as a good reminder for you and your team. They may even motivate you to take your communication process to a higher level. 

Here are four reasons dentist-patient communication matters:

1. Boosts Patient Satisfaction

Patient satisfaction is a function of the patient’s perception and expectation. If a patient expects excellence and perceives mediocrity, they won’t be satisfied. If their perception matches or supersedes their expectation, they will be satisfied. And although every patient’s expectation may differ, there are specific standards that you can predict your patient wants you to meet. 

Things like being polite, clear and empathetic, are examples of standards you can easily predict patients want to see from you and your team. So, at the fundamental level, you should be able to meet those expectations. And as you continue to grow as a business, keep learning about your patients and meeting or superseding their expectations. The more you do, the more satisfied your patients with be and the more likely they’ll keep coming back. 

2. Reduces Patient Complaints

No one likes fielding complaints. And although complaints are negative feedback in disguise, you don’t want to have many of them. If you’ve worked with patients—or people, generally—long enough, you’ll find that many complaints actually stem from poor communication. By ensuring that your communication with patients is empathetic, clear, and direct, you can reduce the number of complaints that you and your dental team have to deal with. 

3. Increases Positive Patient Reviews

On the flipside of patients’ complaints are their positive reviews. If you’re working hard to improve your dentist-patient communication, you can expect more patients to be satisfied with your service, and those satisfied patients will likely be open to sharing their positive reviews online or with their friends and family. 

4. Improves Workplace Efficiency

When communication is clear and understood, both parties feel a sort of relief. Similarly, when you and your patients are on the same page, your dental team can be more efficient. Clear communication reduces the chances of no-shows for appointments, saves time spent trying to resolve misunderstandings or last-minute hiccups, and allows your team to focus on work that actually matters. 

10 Tips to Improve Your Dentist-Patient Communication

Communicating with patients is all about providing them with the information they need to make sound decisions about their dental health. The onus is on you to understand their needs, be clear about your goals and give expert advice so that you and your patients can decide the best path forward or treatment option. 

With that in mind, here are ten tips to help you communicate in a way that actually helps your patients: 

1. Set the Right Tone

First impressions matter. The initial conversation or contact you have with your patient should set the tone for all other interactions. Patients should leave their first appointment feeling confident that you have their best interests in mind and with an understanding of the status of their dental health. If you’re unsure how to set the right tone, start with a friendly smile, call them by name and walk them through how the appointment will go. 

2. Be Empathetic 

When you meet a patient for the first time, they may be in pain or worried about a challenging situation with their dental health that hasn’t yet happen. Or they may be perfectly okay and just need a routine check-up. Regardless of their situation, treat patients fairly and with empathy. Put yourself in their shoes and let them know that your goal is to help them feel and be better. And be consistent in the way you express empathy. 

3. Sharpen Your Listening Skills

Part of being empathetic is listening attentively to patients. Listen to their concerns and pay attention to their body language. As mentioned earlier, patients want to know they are being heard and understood. So, listen to what they have to say, and don’t be too quick to butt in, dismiss their concerns or interrupt them to give your opinions. 

4. Respect Patients and their Time

If your patient schedules an appointment at 10 a.m., the appointment should begin at 10 a.m. No one likes to be kept waiting, so work with your dental team to reduce wait times and ensure that you’re punctual to your appointment. Additionally, do not disregard patients’ preferences. Whenever possible, do your best to listen to and accommodate reasonable requests. 

5. Use Plain Words

It’s so easy to forget that not everyone understands the terms and phrases that are commonplace in your dental office or dentistry as a whole. Be mindful of this fact and avoid using jargon when speaking with patients. Use plain words and, if possible, give examples or use images to describe what you mean. The words you use to communicate can go a long way to help the patients understand their situation so they can make informed decisions. 

6. Give Patients Alternatives

Since our goal in communicating with patients is to empower them with the information they need to make good decisions about their dental health, you should remember to tell them about the alternatives for each procedure, treatment, or prescription. Don’t withhold any helpful information from patients. Tell them what they need to know to choose the best treatment option. 

7. Send Reminders and Follow Up Messages

Appointment reminders and follow-up messages help you and your patients be in step with each other. You can set up automated reminders and follow-up messages using dental marketing tools like Connect the Doc’s Live Chat (Walter), so no communication falls through the cracks. Also, follow-up messages are an excellent opportunity to ask patients for feedback and reviews. 

8. Ask Patients to Share Feedback and Reviews. 

Depending on how you see them, patient feedback and reviews can be a goldmine for information on how to improve your services, team, and dental practice. You can learn so much about your patients and discover growth opportunities when you ask patients to share their feedback and reviews

Even more, asking patients to share their thoughts makes them feel part of the process and endears them to your practice. It helps them know that you genuinely care about their perspective and are willing to listen to what they have to say. You can use Connect the Doc’s review tool to gather feedback and reviews from patients automatically right after their appointments. 

9. Leverage Smart Communication Tools

Smart communication tools, like Walter, allow patients to access their dentists or essential dental resources when they need them. With Walter, patients can ask basic questions and get quick replies. Walter was built using artificial intelligence so it can learn messaging patterns and use that to send responses that get better and better with each conversation. Using this technology, you can learn more about your patients and ensure they get the responses they need when they need them. 

10. Educate Your Team

As you learn more about improving your dentist-patient communication, document your findings and use them to create a communication policy. Share your policy with your team so everyone can be aligned on the best ways to interact with patients inperson and virtually. If you use specific tools to communicate with patients, you should make sure each team member can use those tools effectively. 

Patients are the reason you do what you do. They should feel heard, respected, understood, and well attended to after each interaction with you and your dental team. With the tips we’ve outlined, you know what it takes to communicate effectively with your patients. Put in the work to improve the way you communicate with your team, and you’ll reap many benefits, including a higher patient retention rate and increased revenue. 

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