We all need to keep our patients happy, and it is paramount that you and your staff do everything possible to facilitate this. On a busy day when time is in short supply and your team is rushed off its feet, you may feel like all you are doing is making apologies. But, as long wait times have a negative effect on patient satisfaction, it’s crucial to eliminate the apologies and provide your patients with a good experience. After all, this may well determine how many repeat or referral patients you get in the future, which is fundamental if you want to grow your practice.
1: Communication is Key
Brushing up on how you communicate with your patients can improve their experience immensely. You should seek to understand how you can improve the experience of waiting and invest in developing patient-centered information and communication.
As a service-based business, you should be setting clear expectations for your patients. If you are having a particularly busy period and appointment times are stretched, make sure your team is aware that they will need to manage wait times. Be honest and up-front with patients if their appointment is delayed and provide them with accurate information about how long the wait may be. Patients can then decide if they want to wait, or they may prefer to rebook. It’s not a perfect solution, but it gives patients the choice.
Today’s technology is making it possible for patients and healthcare providers to communicate in ways we never dreamed of 20 years ago. Voice mail, faxes, and mail are giving way to instant messaging and telehealth video consults. Not only does this enable you to contact patients immediately if you foresee a problem that may result in their appointment being delayed, but it also reduces the time spent in the waiting room. In a pandemic, reducing potential exposure to the virus is beneficial not just for patients but for your team, too.
With all the means of communication we have at our disposal these days, there really is no excuse for not getting in touch with your patients. Unfortunately, technology does not teach individuals how to communicate with patients. Staff training in this area should be a priority as even the most technologically advanced communicator should ensure their face-to-face communication skills are equally as good.
2: Revamp Your Waiting Room
The waiting room is a crucial part of a patient’s overall experience, and it should be welcoming, aesthetically pleasing, comfortable, and clean. A waiting room with tasteful décor, filled with color and natural light can influence patients positively on a physical and psychological level. It has been found that plants in the waiting room favorably impact patients and staff – even if they are artificial. Let your patients know you care about their experience by creating a modern waiting room aesthetic where your patients feel comfortable and able to relax.
Creating a Relaxing Space
De-clutter your waiting area by removing old magazines and keeping stacks tidy with baskets or magazine racks. Update your seating, choosing fabrics that are functional, comfortable, and match your brand aesthetic. Have a variety of ambient light sources in the room that contributes to a tranquil atmosphere much more than functional, overhead lighting.
Reliable, complimentary WiFi will be a huge benefit to many patients who can entertain themselves using their smartphones or tablets. Parents will find it useful to keep their small children occupied and for anyone needing to keep a check on emails or work, Wi-Fi will provide functional and practical service.
Customize TV Content
Customized TV content can deliver a variety of tailor-made messages to your patients. Far from just showing TV programs, you can create local interest content, such as ads from local businesses, or display information about your practice or dental health issues.
3: Mitigate Long Wait Times with IT that Suits Your Business
It is a common misconception that if you cannot see patients expediently, then it is because the practice is too busy. From time to time, this may well be the case, but one of the main reasons for limited appointment options could be due to inefficient scheduling. With the right healthcare scheduling software for your clinic, you can improve wait times for your patients and minimize staffing shortages that can contribute to overflowing waiting rooms.
- For patients, filling in long forms in the waiting room should be a thing of the past. Digital health tools include portals that allow patients to fill in their information securely online before they arrive for their appointment – resulting in less time in the waiting room. What’s more, the information can integrate seamlessly with the dental management software suites you use to streamline other processes, such as administration, appointments, patient records, treatment planning, test results, billing. This saves you and your staff time so they can concentrate on patient care rather than administrative tasks.
- For even greater improvements, staff shift scheduling can present your whole team with a valuable tool for managing their time. The fact is, you and your team must juggle patient waits, treatments, medications, insurance procedures and administration among other things and things can go awry swiftly if members of your team are absent. Shift scheduling software enables all members of your team to manage their work schedules and as practice manager for you to see at a glance who can step in to cover.
Although telehealth has been around for some time now, the pandemic has brought it truly into the mainstream. It is now an essential tool to aid communication between healthcare practitioners and patients, helping to keep patients and your staff safe and eliminating congested, chaotic waiting rooms. It has been estimated that 20% of emergencies can be seen using teledentistry, which itself can have marked improvement on congested waiting areas.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is already saving time for patients and for your staff. Rather than having to phone in and wait in line for your office to answer, a website chatbot can often answer questions frequently posed by patients – even out of hours. Additionally, it saves both your team’s and your patient’s time.
While AI is still in its infancy, machine learning will transform patient care in the future with algorithms that will be paramount in the way we treat patients – from diagnostics to holistic treatment plans. There will be numerous benefits to patients, including spending less time in a waiting room because AI-driven systems will be able to accurately detect their problems and prescribe a course of treatment.
The Bottom Line
In the world we live in today, patients have high expectations. They want to be seen with little wait times; they want their treatment options explained simply, and they want their dentist to be attentive and caring. Moreover, healthcare providers need to ensure that they are providing the appropriate treatment to the right patient. A touchless patient identification platform like RightPatient can help with that, preventing patient mix-ups, duplicates, and overlays in the process.
Making improvements for your patients is just as likely to be beneficial to you and your team, too. The pandemic was not good for dental health and has already changed workflows dramatically with the increased use of technology solutions. But, moving forward it’s important to know your business and invest in the most appropriate technology and training that meets your practice’s needs, rather than the latest “cutting-edge tech” that may not fit in with your workflow.