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It’s ironic: patients come for your dentistry but stay mostly because of “non-dental” things that happen in your practice. Consequently, the quality of dentistry you provide is only one aspect of creating a successful dental office. Use the following check list during your next staff meeting to assess how you’re doing in these areas:
Trust. Do your actions reflect fairness and reliability in all your interactions with patients — from timely scheduling to going out of your way to help with issues such as financing and insurance? Any glitch, oversight or unwillingness on staff’s part may reduce the quality of patients’ overall experience and decrease the probability they will refer you to family and friends. Glitches, oversight or unwillingness also erode trust.
Communication. Whether it’s a treatment plan or a policy, are you clear regarding communication? Are you upfront about your expectations — and what patients can expect from you? Do you volunteer information or wait to be asked? The clearer and more upfront your communications, the fewer the opportunities for misunderstandings.
Payment policies should be explained to new patients prior to their first visit to the office and changes for patients of record should be mailed or discussed at the first appointment after the policy change. As the adage says, “Communicate, communicate, communicate. Then, communicate some more!”
Staff relations. Patients can sense tension between staff members. If relations between staff members aren’t healthy, it will affect the practice and encourage patient defections. Have regular staff meetings to keep the lines of communication open; handle conflict when it occurs (and privately when possible); and don’t tolerate sarcasm, insubordination, or less than outstanding teamwork. Treat all staff members fairly. Finally, get rid of employees who drag the team down and/or create chaos with the rest of the staff.
Policies. Are your policies patient friendly or solely designed to make your life easier? The best policies make it possible to run your practice smoothly and profitably and are convenient for patients.
Finances. Money causes problems in all kinds of relationships. Don’t let it hurt yours with your patients. Be up front about financial discussions and provide payment options for patients who need and/or want them.
Connection. Patients stay with a dental office when they believe the people in the practice care about them. You connect with patients in many different ways: by making eye contact, listening without interrupting, verifying you understand a patient request before acting on it, confirming appointments, and calling when a patient misses an appointment. Sending relevant newspaper clippings and mentioning noteworthy accomplishments are other ways to solidify relationships with patients. Personally calling after a surgical procedure is also a way to show patients you care.
Follow up. Do you do what you say you’ll do? Reminders for staff regarding outstanding tasks are one of the best ways to show reliability. Patients are impressed when you remember something on their behalf.
Notice. Acknowledge and reward the patients who have shown loyalty to your practice. Notice and mention the dates they joined your practice. Recognize patients when they make a referral. In short, be sure to thank those who have helped you get where you are today, and continue to do so as you look to the future of your practice.
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A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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