6 Fool-Proof Ways to Improve Patient Communication Today

Educate your patients and build their trust in you by creating an atmosphere that fosters open, collaborative communication. What does this mean? Rather than one-sided lecturing, the goal should be to create a partnership that involves cooperation with the patient in both decision-making and the care plan. As the dentist, your goal is not to be seen as the all-knowing magistrate but rather as a coach or mentor. Provide instruction and guidance that empowers the patient to participate in decisions and take ownership in his or her own care.

This technique also involves reassuring patients that they have a certain measure of control during treatment. For example, most patients are comforted knowing they can stop a procedure, if, for instance, it becomes painful, by a pre-established signal to the dentist. (A favorite example of this at Platinum Dental Care was a younger patient who's chosen signal to her dentist was to yell "BEEP!" if she wanted to stop at any point. Luckily she never had to use it.) In addition, the timing of a procedure during the visit affects the patient's perception of control. This means pausing to explain the REASONS and the STEPS for a procedure before performing it.

THE BENEFITS?

Following these recommendations will...

  • Lay a foundation of trust
  • Strengthen the dentist/patient partnership
  • Increase compliance with treatment regimes and self-care
  • Reduce fear for those who normally experience dental related anxiety during treatment, diminishing any perceived threat and motivating them to play an active role in their own well-being.

WHAT IS THE ULTIMATE GOAL?

Safely empower patients with clear communication, ensuring that they have realistic expectations and understand their treatment options. This is important because even if YOU (as the dentist) clearly explain the procedure and likely outcomes. the media and advertising have contributed to the rise in unrealistic expectations of providers, their services, and treatment outcomes.

To reduce opportunities for misunderstanding:

  • CREATE a comfortable, unrushed ATMOSPHERE for the patient exam (plan for adequate time!)
  • ASK QUESTIONS to weed out any false, preconceived notions; counter misinformed ideas with clear information.
  • Understand and EMPATHIZE with the patient's concerns (takes real effort!).
  • EXPLAIN ALTERNATIVES as well as risks/benefits associated with procedures.
  • DETAIL the expected OUTCOMES of a treatment or procedure (as well as the possible and undesirable ones.)
  • AVOID using dental industry JARGON and other language that might confuse or put off patients.

NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION

Help send clear messages to your patients that you are honest, knowledgeable, and caring with nonverbal cues. Here are 6 tips to help you speak, gesture, dress, and respond to your patients and staff in positive ways. These cues will strongly influenc ce patients' perceptions of the practice and of your trustworthiness as a professional.

  1. ​Use an open, attentive posture (leaning slightly forward shows interest).
  2. Face the patient while talking and use eye contact.
  3. Nod your head in understanding, but not excessively.
  4. Smile.
  5. Use appropriate touch, such as a handshake or a pat on the hand or shoulder.
  6. Give positive affirmation for patient input

Negative, nonverbal clues — even if unintended — send a subtle message to patients that you may be hurried, unconcerned, or indifferent to their care. Nonverbal, physical clues to avoid include:

  1. Speaking with your hand on the exam room door knob.
  2. Fidgeting, such as drumming or tapping fingers.
  3. Avoiding eye contact.
  4. Using closed body language, such as crossed arms.
  5. Glancing at the clock or your watch, especially while the patient is speaking.
  6. Closing the patient's chart.
  7. Turning away from the patient while speaking.

Countless books and techniques exist teaching effective chairside etiquette. These are just guidelines for strengthening the communication strategies you currently employ in the office in order to foster patient rapport and yield the returns of lifelong patients who really trust you.

Platinum Recall specializes in optimizing your practice. Through staff training, 24/7 call answering service for dental offices, our dental management service, dental accounting service/dental bookkeeping service, and our patient reactivation service, we promise to boost your practice's production by 10-40 new appointments a month. Whether you experience regular production levels or you find yourself asking, "How do I sell my practice?" we guarantee that our systems can boost your production. Our clients see a 12-1 return on investment for our services, so request your free demo today or call 800. 900. 2012.

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