Of all the responsibilities in your dental office, one of the most important is building strong patient relationships. The entire success of your office depends your ability to understand your patient as an individual, recognize their wants and needs and to guide them to an informed decision that is in their best interest. While dental schools tend to focus on the technical and clinical abilities that dentists need to know, effective strategies on how to communicate with patients isn’t always a focus in the curriculum. To help you build better, stronger patient relationships, we have put together some of our best tips:
First impressions matter. By greeting your patient by their name and with a warm smile and strong eye contact, you are setting the tone for the encounter right away. It’s important that you engage with your patient as a person first before diving into any clinical questions or treatment discussion. Ask them how they are, how they are feeling or about things going on in their life. By having basic courtesy and politeness, you are showing your patient that you care about them as an individual and not just as another appointment on your calendar.
Listening is a skill that takes practice. It allows you to learn more about your patient, their concerns and what they want out of their visit. Ask questions. Listen. Ask more questions. Listen some more. Rephrase what they told you back to them to ensure you fully understood their concerns. By taking their input and thoughts seriously, patients will feel reassured that all of their issues will be addressed during their visit.
Use Patient-Friendly Language
While you have attended dental school, there is a good chance your patient has not. During the examination, explain what you’re doing and looking for in terms that your patient is likely to understand. When going over treatment options, avoid jargon and encourage your patient to ask questions. When possible, use visual aids to explain different processes and to clarify any questions or concerns that your patient may have.
Further Your Skills
Patients want to be treated as a person, not a number. Strong communication within your practice will lead to happier patients, and happier patients are more likely to be loyal and to continue care with you. They are also more likely to refer you to their family and friends which results in your whole office having a more positive and productive feeling. To learn more about how you can improve your communication skills, check out the webinar we hosted with the American Student Dental Association “It’s More Than Just Teeth: A Communications Webinar” here!