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How to Improve a Dental Practice: Sweating the Little Details

By Heartland Dental

If you want to improve your dental practice, you often don’t need to make big changes. Small, incremental tweaks and investments make huge impressions on both existing and new patients. 

That said, failing to pay attention to the small things can spell trouble. Patients have a lot of control over which dentist they choose, and a crowded market can mean that even little details matter. In addition to the quality care you provide, it’s also your responsibility to analyze every aspect of the in-office experience to keep those patients coming back year after year.

Here, then, are some of those “tiny details” that routinely make a huge difference to the overall growth and the stability of a practice. 

Evaluate Your Patient Experience 

Examining your overall patient relationships will eventually make a huge impact on your bottom line. How to improve your dental practice may start with a rigorous inventory of your patient experience. 

Track the amount of time your patients are waiting in the waiting room. Are they greeted as soon as they walk in? No matter how much you value your patients’ time, making them wait communicates to them that you don’t. 

Be brutally honest about why you and your staff run behind schedule. What tasks (sterilization, room prep, etc.) need to be improved upon, and could those tasks run more smoothly with the addition of merely one new staff member? 

Also, if patients have to wait on their hygienist or dentist, they won’t think anything of being late to their appointments. Respect their time, and they’re more likely to respect yours.

When you’re running late, it will show in your demeanor. Many people are nervous about dental appointments. If you seem rushed, distracted, or preoccupied, that could turn both new and old patients away. The more your office runs efficiently and smoothly, the more you can display an air of calm and confidence to everyone.

Measure and Improve the First Impression

The appointment doesn’t start when the patient sits in the exam chair. The appointment starts the moment a patient walks into the office. Does your office look cluttered? Is your furniture dated or falling apart? Could your waiting room paint job stand a little update?

Purchasing new or lightly used waiting room furniture and a fresh coat of paint may not cost a lot, but it will create the right kind of impression. Your current office decor may create an inaccurate impression of the practice. You definitely don’t want a patient to assume that your dental equipment is as out of date as your waiting room furniture, especially when it isn’t.

Other cheap fixes include offering a range of current magazines and publications. Fresh coffee or water creates a welcoming and relaxing environment. An inexpensive play area for kids keeps them happy and occupied while they wait, which in turn makes those parents relieved and grateful. 

Many of these details may all seem superficial, but it’s those very details that linger long after someone leaves. 

Formalize Your Dress Code 

Staff uniforms with your logo creates a consistent and professional look for your team. Work with a vendor and offer your team a range of choices so they feel both comfortable and confident when they wear that uniform. 

Professionals should expect to dress the part. If uniforms aren’t appropriate for you, then establish a simple, easy-to-follow dress code. Educate the staff about your standards in a clear and well-documented manner, like an employee handbook.

You may have a very specific idea about how you want your staff to present themselves, but as a medical professional, it’s understandable if you don’t have time to execute HR policies. Working with a dental support organization (DSO) provides you and your staff with access to trained and professional HR resources. Those professionals are extremely familiar with the dental industry and can implement structures to manage employee benefits and workplace policies. 

Patient Appreciation 

Everyone loves to feel appreciated, even if they don’t say it. When you treat patients like they are an important part of your practice, it’s more likely they will remain loyal and refer new business to you in the future. 

When that patient walks in the door, your staff should greet them by name. Pursuing a warmer and friendly environment is also an excellent team building strategy. When your staff feels more connected to those patients as individuals, the more they are likely to treat them with warmth and respect. 

Other simple ways you can show your patient appreciation include:

  • Post-treatment follow-up calls 
  • Birthday cards and thank-you cards
  • Referral rewards like gift cards for repeat business
  • Patient anniversaries

Do you have any multi-generational patients? Feature the whole family in your electronic newsletters or on your social media to thank them and make them feel special.

If you don’t have an electronic communications program or have time to update your social media, the expert marketers from a DSO will facilitate that for you.

Seek Patient Feedback

Create an active patient feedback loop. If something happens in the office that made your patient feel uncomfortable or dissatisfied, they are unlikely to report that to you, especially if they didn’t happen to see you during that visit.

Follow-up surveys could catch problems before they turn into negative online reviews. Also: ask patients for their opinions after every visit, not just their first. 

Never make the assumption that just because someone has been coming to you for a while, they will come back again and again. Because most folks see you only twice a year, they may not remember that negative experience until their next appointment, and then cancel before you have an opportunity to address their concerns.

People need to feel heard. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to respond to each negative comment. But you and your staff need to develop a consistent framework to respond. That feedback is some of the most valuable educational information available to you. It’s often solicited feedback that provides you the greatest insights into issues you weren’t aware of.

Maybe a new and very busy tenant has moved into your building and made parking inconvenient. Perhaps there’s another facility-related issue that you hadn’t noticed or weren’t aware of. The faster you learn of these simple and solvable problems, the sooner you can intervene.

Improving your dental practice may sound overwhelming. Even the smallest of tasks are time consuming when you’re managing a busy patient load. Working with a DSO allows you to delegate many of these tasks to a qualified partner, leaving you to focus on delivering high-quality care. Let us know how we can help you improve your dental practice today.

Tags: Business Growth, Grow My Practice, Increase Patient Loyalty