Nicolas Coomber offers advice on how to build rapport.
The patient is always the most important person in dentistry. Treatments and care only exist to improve their lives, maintain their health, and minimise issues in the future.
It stands to reason that the patient experience is, of course, fundamental to the overall quality of oral health care. However, whilst the practice is a home away from home for many clinicians, a trip to the dentist could be daunting and uncomfortable for the everyday patient – so how can dental professionals optimise their visit?
Know your patient
For many people, the dental practice can be a hotbed of nerves. Around 36 per cent of the population could be affected by dental anxiety, and another 12 per cent could live with extreme dental fear. That's nearly half of the patient base that isn’t completely at ease with the prospect of a visit to your practice.
However, clinicians know that each individual will harbour their own unique reasons for their concerns. In turn, each patient may require a different approach to treatment; there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
The first step is simply attempting to understand the patient, to recognise all of their needs, before you act upon them.
This can begin even before the patient has entered the practice by taking advantage of today’s social media landscape. It’s been seen that patients who have their queries answered via a social media direct message system before their treatment feel decreased dental anxiety. Considering around 44 per cent of patients are happy to contact their dentists by social media, facilitating this method of communication for your practice could be incredibly beneficial.
When in practice, forming an in-person patient-dentist relationship is obviously fundamental to putting an individual at ease. The importance of empathetic listening and eye contact isn’t news to many clinicians, but the impact of encouraging patients to open up and discuss any dental fears cannot be overstated. Openly acknowledging strong emotions, such as fear, is seen as the most effective way to neutralise them.
The future is now
The causes for nerves could be anything from negative past experiences to impressions formed through popular media or generally feeling a lack of control. Whilst effective communication could identify concerns and go some way to mitigating any worries, you may also improve the patient experience by investing in your practice.
A patient’s perceived quality of care is influenced, in part, by the technology and equipment used by their clinician, not just the final clinical result achieved. Meeting and exceeding expectations could allow patients to place their trust in you as a dental professional, and minimise concerns.
You may interpret this as investing in modern solutions that are specifically used to manage dental anxiety; an increasingly popular approach entails the use of virtual reality. It may be helpful prior to treatment as an in vitro exposure therapy technique, which has been proven to decrease and even eliminate dental anxiety over time. It could also be used to distract patients during treatment, where it has been seen to minimise pain perception.
Invest in you
There could be further benefit, however, to simply investing in your own clinical equipment and surpassing expectations surrounding the quality of care. Whether you provide general dentistry or focus on areas such as endodontic, restorative or prosthetic treatments, modernised instruments and products could help you offer functionally and aesthetically enhanced treatment outcomes that come as a result of a faster or more comfortable process.
These new solutions may be digitised, like a handpiece that allows treatments to be completed faster and with more accuracy by providing greater clinical control. Patients will appreciate spending less time in the chair – and for some anxious individuals, there is nothing that they would like more.
Maybe the next upgrade to your care is to introduce a new composite that provides refined, durable and aesthetic solutions, dampening patients’ concerns about an unappealing outcome. Improving your healthcare provisions does not always mean investing in the flashiest and largest scanner to wow patients – sometimes, the smallest details can make the greatest difference to the patient experience.
To make the most of your investments, you could consider taking on exceptional Coltene products, and the impressive advantages of the Coltene Rewards scheme. When you improve your patient experience by taking on modern and sophisticated restorative or endodontic solutions, for example, you earn Coltene Coins, which can be used to acquire fantastic Coltene products over time or even items from leading high street retailers. This way, when you improve your patients’ care, your practice is rewarded too.
The patient experience is ever important in modern dentistry. By investing in your practice, you could create a treatment experience that patients love and rely upon for comforting and quality dentistry unique to you.
For more information visit https://rewards.coltene.com
References available on request.