For practices

Attracting patients to your practice is only the beginning. Understanding how to build relationships with new and existing patients by using effective techniques to turn them into long-term patients is key to practice growth.

Many practices make the mistake of focusing only on gaining new patients. This fails to effectively address the need to retain the ones they already have. Happy patients will return and also recommend you to their friends and family when someone is in need of a new dentist or hygienist.

With that in mind, here are 4 helpful tips you can use to improve the overall patient experience in your dental practice.

1. First Impressions

Over the phone

When a patient calls, it’s not necessarily all about phone “scripting”, but more about making the patient feel welcome and knowing the objectives you have in scheduling in a patient the most effective way for both the patient and the practice. For new patients, always recommend them a practitioner due to their needs and availability, making sure you always compliment and recommend them in the best possible way.

Make sure you let them know where you are located and the best place to park if they are driving, or alternatively public transport. Close with an upbeat tone and let them know that you’re really looking forward to meeting them.

If a prospective patient calls to ask for clinical advice, always be sure to be very limited and rather than going into specifics, let them know that it’s best you come in and see one of our dentists, so that we can give you the best advice.

Online Bookings

After you receive an online booking, be sure to always contact the patient to let them know you have received their booking and find out a little more about their requirements. This helps to start building a warm relationship with the patient before they attend.

On Arrival

First impressions are everything. They set the tone for the entire experience a patient has throughout their visit with you. Some new patients may feel anxious or intimidated when entering your practice for the first time, so creating a friendly and easy-to-navigate environment and making them feel at home will help your patients feel welcome and relaxed.

Some procedures to ensure the best patient experience are:

  • Always be aware of who your new patients are for the day ahead and just prior to them arriving be sure to check who it was that booked them in
  • Try and stand up when you see them coming through the front door
  • Greet them with a warm welcome (as you would a friend into your home)
  • If they are elderly or have any disabilities, be sure to walk out to assist them
  • Ask them about their day so far/how they are -If it was you that booked them in, be sure to re-connect by saying something like “It’s nice to meet you, we spoke on the phone”. It’s a great way to make the patient feel comfortable from the moment they walk through the door, allowing you to continue building rapport from the phone conversation
  • Walk around to the reception area to great them with the new patient form, rather than handing it over the counter
  • Explain what’s required on the form, let them know you’re able to assist them if they require
  • Let them know where the bathroom is located -Offer them a drink of water, toothbrush and toothpaste so they can freshen up

2. Greater Patient Communication

Relationship building and a pleasant patient experience are just as important in the waiting room as it is in the clinical setting.

Always be aware of the patient’s needs and their dental history on arrival. Patients’ perceptions of the quality of the care they receive are highly dependent not only on the quality of their interactions with their practitioner but the whole team. Great communication among all team members within the practice influences the quality of internal working relationships, job satisfaction and has proven to have a profound impact on the patient’s commitment to the practice.

Patient satisfaction is proven to be highly increased when:

  • Members of the team take the patients concerns seriously, explain information clearly, and try to understand the patient’s previous dental experiences. Provide an opportunity for the patient to tell their story.
  • Patients are encouraged to express their ideas, concerns and expectations. We must acknowledge them.
  • The length of their visit increased. Be sure to allocate enough time to make sure they don’t feel rushed.
  • The practitioner ensures they always introduce their assistant and have them involved as much as possible in general conversation.
  • When they receive continuing care from the same practitioner as much as possible.
  • As expected, patients who are given advice and are included in every step during treatment report greater satisfaction. This also directly results in a higher rebooking rate and fewer appointment cancellations. So take the time to communicate with your patients clearly and on a level that they understand.

Our line of work is 80% communication and 20% clinical skill. If we fail to communicate effectively, we fail our patients in their dental care to make informed decisions.

We can never assume that a patient will understand everything that goes on during their visit.

3. Managing a professional handover

One of the most important roles of reception is to ensure that there’s a smooth transition between the surgery and the front desk.

From the patients perspective, we need to ensure they know that you have excellent communication between you and the surgery. This begins with having the treatment plan ready when the patient arrives at the front desk.

It’s very important that the practitioner walks the patient out to the front and stands with them on their side of the counter. This not only makes the patient feel comfortable but also ensures that the dentist isn’t discussing confidential treatment towards other patients in the waiting room. The discussion will be brief, referring to the existing treatment plan that’s already in the patient’s file in front of them.

The purpose of this discussion is for the practitioner to relay to you what has been discussed in the surgery regarding subsequent appointments, allowing you to book them in efficiently and with a much higher success rate. A patient is more likely to be overwhelmed after their treatment to be relaying this information to you, and it also instils confidence in the patient that everything is being managed effectively.

4. Working well as a team

Great communication between the front office and surgery is a must for a smooth running of the day and the best possible level of patient care. Miscommunication causes tremendous stress on the practice, practitioner, and the patient.

A morning huddle with your team is one of the most important things you can do as a practice to improve effective clinical workflow and also provide great support to your team where needed. Understand how everyone is feeling and see how you can work together to provide support. Nursing staff, always have a quick meeting with the practitioner first thing in the morning and run through the day ahead with them.

Accountability is everything, and we are all accountable in not only our roles in the practice, but most of all the patients’ journey with us. Have fun and work as a team to keep each other happy and motivated.

Remember: the patient senses everything!

Want to know how you can improve your patient experience?

We’ve put together this FREE guide full of simple and effective things you can do within your practice to improve the patient experience. Get yours here.


Perception Agency Founder, dental practice owner and consultant, Kaine Harling

This article was written by Perception Agency founder, dental practice owner and consultant, Kaine Harling. Perception Agency is a Melbourne-based digital, marketing and content creation agency, helping dental practices grow and engage with their patients.


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