21 February 2023

10 Ways to Improve the Dental Patient Experience

10 Ways to Improve the Dental Patient Experience

Dental providers love seeing their patients enjoy beautiful, healthy smiles. By offering the latest products and treatment services, dentists go above and beyond to ensure visits to their practices are a great experience. This goal ensures patients will be eager to return for further oral healthcare later and builds your client list, which helps your office thrive.

Because the dental industry is highly competitive, practice owners and managers should regularly assess their operations and find ways to enhance their dental patient experiences. Many factors impact how an office visit can go, and this directly affects consumer attitudes about dental care.

To ensure your clinic is doing everything possible to provide the best care experience possible, consider the following ten tips that can boost patient perceptions about your office.

Less Hassle Means Better Patient Experiences

Most patients will only see their dentist once or twice a year, barring any dental emergencies that might pop up. This infrequency is often why future bookings get forgotten and appointments missed. Last-minute rescheduling and no-shows drain your team's productivity and your bottomline. One way to combat this issue is to change how your office handles the booking process, specifically how your reminder process works.

It's still commonplace for dental practices to rely on their front desk team to reach out to patients regarding their upcoming visits for confirmation. If you're still doing this process via phone calls, you're not thinking about the patient experience. Just like your office, they live busy lives full of distractions and ever-changing priorities. Requiring them to pick up the phone to confirm their next appointment isn't always realistic. Sure, they should be able to call you back at some point, but if it's just a few days until their visit, they might forget. This creates anxiety and stress, which hurts their perception of maintaining their oral health.

So, what is the solution? Consider implementing a practice management system that offers VoIP features, like Adit, which offers intuitive appointment management features, such as:

  • Two-way text messaging
  • Automated reminders
  • In-text links to an online calendar
  • Text response confirmation 
  • Text-based bill pay

Offering a tech-forward appointment management solution that provides everything from booking and rescheduling to making payments and SMS reminders will help patients avoid panic situations come appointment time. Take this effort a step further by incorporating a mobile app that offers these features, and patients will be able to manage their care visits in a more timely manner.

Less Hassle Means Better Patient Experiences

Nobody Likes Clipboard Intake Processes

Let's face facts, paperwork stinks. While it may be a great way to eat up some of the waiting time for patients in your lobby, it's also part of the reason why your office runs behind schedule. Ideally, your patients shouldn't have any forms to fill out when they arrive short of a signature or two.

When relying on traditional paperwork for patient intake, you not only have to wait on the patient to complete the information, but your staff has to decipher written answers, update EHRs, and confirm insurance coverage. All this takes place before ever getting your patient in the dental chair and has probably added frustration or anxiety to their mood.

Instead, consider implementing a paperless intake process where electronic forms get sent to the patient the moment they book their visit. Whether you opt to use automated emails or simply send a link to an online patient portal, having time to conduct a pre-check-in process saves time for everyone involved and creates a smoother visit experience.

Nobody Likes Clipboard Intake Processes

Invest in Dental Tech that Enhances Patient Care

Discomfort is a common anxiety that many dental patients have when going to the dentist. But this fear isn't only about invasive procedures like root canals and wisdom tooth extractions. Even something as simple as traditional bitewings can make the toughest of patients wince. Dental technology can change these experiences into stress-free procedures that offer immediate rewards for the antsy client sitting in your chair.

For example, does your office still take traditional impressions using bulky molds and flavored casting material? It only takes a gagging patient gagging while wearing the mold tray to ruin the impression. So why put them through this procedure when there are more comfortable techniques to achieve the same goal?

Intraoral scanners have revolutionized patient experiences during these procedures and can provide instant dental models of teeth in just a few minutes, translating to less discomfort. Bitewings and panoramic x-rays have also gone the digital route, minimizing the size and length of time imaging devices need to be in a patient's mouth.

Invest in Dental Tech that Enhances Patient Care

Create a Pleasant Waiting Room Experience

When creating your waiting room, avoid mainly focusing on possible wait times. While the look and feel of your lobby may not be the deciding factor for a patient's return, it will contribute to their overall experience. Keep the needs of your visitors in mind and ensure it has the necessary features your market audience would prefer.

For example, if you run a pediatric clinic, you don't want your primary source of entertainment to be Women's Day magazines and TV news. Instead, have plenty of activities to keep children occupied while passing the time in your waiting area. Consider installing a few chalkboards, board books, activity centers, play educational kid shows and more. Hygiene in the waiting room is as important to parents as their children's smiles, so make sure the room and entertainment provided are easy to keep clean, including the walls!

Other features to consider using in your waiting room can help patients keep their minds off the wait include:

  • Wi-fi access so adults can still keep up with their emails and work messages
  • Comfortable seating
  • Calming color palettes
  • Visually soothing art
  • Gentle music
  • Clear and generous walking areas so the room won't feel small
  • Various forms of entertainment (magazines, TV, books, etc.)
  • Charging stations for mobile phones and tablets
  • Subdued lighting

Using these different design elements can nurture a feeling of comfort and welcomeness while dental patients wait for their appointments to begin. However, to truly support a positive treatment experience, be sure your team communicates with patients honestly about any delays.

Not knowing how long one has to wait to be seen by their dentist is frustrating and unnecessary. A study by Software Advice found that a whopping 80% of patients wouldn't be nearly as upset about delays if the dental staff would just let them know how long to expect to wait.

Your office could communicate longer than expected wait times in a variety of ways. Maybe install a television display showing patients' names and how long until their appointment begins. Or, just having a simple conversation between your receptionist and those waiting can also suffice.

Create a Pleasant Waiting Room Experience

Empower Your Patients Through Self-Care

It's a scenario played out in dental offices worldwide every day. A patient books an appointment, arrives, receives treatment, goes home with a new oral healthcare routine, and has little to no follow-up. The patient is essentially on cruise control until their next visit. It's easy to treat a dental visit as a yearly one-and-done event, but you know their treatment doesn't stop when they leave.

Patients expect their dentists to provide unparalleled oral healthcare by continuously educating them about their dental needs, the latest products and treatment options, and conducting routine follow-ups.

Your office can meet this expectation by doing the following:

  • Consistently follow up after appointments
  • Educate patients about important dental hygiene habits
  • Increase access to care by offering educational resources online through a patient portal or website
  • Automate reminders and recall efforts to ensure no one falls through the cracks

The more involved you are in your patients' health, the more satisfied they are with your service.

At the end of the day, your dental practice wants to help your patients avoid preventable oral health problems and form healthy care habits. Increasing patient engagement in this process will enhance treatment experiences and boost overall outcomes, which are great for your brand and bottomline.

Empower Your Patients Through Self-Care

Don't Stop All Traditional Communication Methods

Advanced PMS platforms like Adit streamline and create additional avenues of communication with your patients. However, you will have a few who struggle with technology and require more traditional methods. Keeping this fact in mind, sending out postcard reminders is still an effective way to get in touch with those who aren't familiar with or able to access web-based scheduling features.

Just make sure your messaging is effective and easy to understand by following these tips:

  • Be engaging. Use a personable and entertaining greeting.
  • Personalize the postcard by including the patient's name in the message.
  • Send when appropriate to their care plan, not just any set date.
  • Ask patients how soon before a visit they want to receive the reminder.

Remember, you don't want your postcard to end up in the trash with other junk mail. Make it stand out and speak directly to the dental patient receiving it so it won't feel like an impersonal flyer or advertisement they didn't ask for.

Bring Entertainment to the Dental Chair

When you think about ways to entertain a patient, you probably consider your waiting room features. However, your exam room is also an important area of your practice that should offer some distraction. Even if they only spend five minutes or so waiting in your dental chair, that's time spent with anxiety, boredom, frustration, and every other emotion they might be experiencing.

Pipe music into this area, and even consider letting patients choose what they want to listen to during their teeth cleaning. Distracting entertainment is a wonderful way to enhance the positive experience you're trying to create for them.

For patients undergoing an impression molding procedure, it would be ideal to have a TV in the room for them to watch and keep their minds off of the wait.

Bring Entertainment to the Dental Chair

Keep Your Competition Out of Your Waiting Room

A popular trend for waiting room entertainment is running local news or children's channels. However, while your office will benefit from making wait times feel shorter, your patients will likely see competitor dental ads in between show segments.

Instead, invest in custom programming that allows you to cut out these unwanted advertisements or purchase an ad-free commercial entertainment package. You can also compete against local competitors by running your specials and your latest oral healthcare advancement advertisements on these TVs, as well.

Use Post-Visit Surveys to Gauge Patient Experiences at Your Practice

In an age of social media influencing and online review sites, it's important to understand how patients perceive their dental visits before they share their experience with the entire world wide web. Staying ahead of potential issues and recognizing an opportunity to expand your services is essential. This is why your office should be requesting feedback from patients immediately after their appointment ends.

Fortunately, this doesn't have to be an awkward conversation at the check-out counter. Practice management platforms like Adit make it possible to send after-visit survey links and review requests to a patient's phone or email as soon as marking the visit complete in your system! You could start receiving these important insights into how well your office met patient expectations before they leave.

Finally, if changes are necessary because of these reviews, you can inform patients and reach out to those who originally suggested these improvements. These steps will reinforce your commitment to ensuring your practice provides the best possible patient experiences.

Use Post-Visit Surveys to Gauge Patient Experiences at Your Practice

WiFi is a Patient Need

Although offering wifi was mentioned earlier as a waiting room perk, it's important to recognize it isn't an optional convenience for your office to offer your patients. Not just for entertainment value but to create a smooth care experience from check-in to check-out.

If you're still unsure you want to have guest access, consider that many adults go to dental and doctor appointments during an extended lunch break. This means they need to stay connected to their jobs while away from their desks. Free wifi access helps reduce patient anxiety about their

busy day while trying to prioritize their oral healthcare.

You can even use this free service to encourage them to opt-in to your latest newsletter and services by requiring that they sign up with an email in exchange for access.

WiFi is a Patient Need

Begin Improving Patient Experiences with Adit Dental Practice Management Software

There's not a dental practice in existence that doesn't want to provide its patience with an outstanding care experience. But, not all follow through with this goal or take time to figure out where improvement is necessary. It takes more than installing a few TVs and putting a mural on your exam room's wall to have patients raving about your clinic. Every aspect of your dental operations has a direct influence on how your services, team, and brand get perceived.

At Adit, we streamline everyday processes that can hamper a patient's visit. For example, we make it possible to create an entirely digital intake process that can update everything from medical history to insurance verification ahead of time, so there aren't any surprise coverage denials later. Connect with patients on communication channels they prefer, such as sending reminders via secure SMS, so they always have a way to connect with your team about appointment changes.

Patient experience is about more than a beautiful smile, it's about working with a dental care provider that enhances every aspect of their visit. Our over 15+ tools give your team the needed insights to recognize and support patient needs in a variety of ways, including:

  • Adit Voice
  • Electronic Patient Forms
  • Practice Analytics
  • Online Scheduling
  • Appointment Reminders
  • Adit Pay
  • Patient Recall
  • Call Tracking
  • Telemed
  • Pozative Reviews
  • Internal Chat
  • 2-Way Patient Messaging
  • And so much more!

Adit understands that to create a phenomenal patient experience, you have to understand what needs are not being met from the perspective of your clients. This analysis can help you engage, attract, and grow your base further and stay ahead of the competition.

Discover how our cloud-based practice management software helps you forge deeper connections with patient needs and expectations using built-in tools that leverage automation and AI. Schedule your free demo to experience everything our platform has to offer.

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Angela Ledford

Director of Marketing

Angela is a former English teacher turned marketing content specialist. Over the past 10 years, she’s developed marketing strategies to forge enduring bonds between B2B, B2C and SaaS companies and their clients through holistic education, effective communication, and captivating storytelling that moves audiences to act.

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