Updated: Sep 13, 2021
In my last blog post, I reviewed a tour of the the dental clinic, that I recommend you get your receptionist, or a dedicated personal assistant for the patient to perform. It is critical that this part of the process is completed first and that you actually get your own version of the tour designed, trained and implemented before moving on.
The purpose of the "new patient experience design" is: To create a lifetime patient who would NEVER decide to change to another dental office and is highly motivated to follow your professional advice.
In my practice in Skagen, we had patients coming from Switzerland, Brazil, USA, Belgium, Norway and Scotland, every time they needed permanent dental treatment. Many of these patients have written to me and regretted that I had to stop, as they had never experienced such a good treatment (read: experience) as the one they received in our clinic.
You can also build such good patient relationships if you want to and agree that it leads to acceptance of far more comprehensive treatment plans. It is not just one part of the practice that needs to have a special experience design. Every single patient interaction in the practice needs to be well thought out and executed perfectly every time. It takes time to reach this level of service and it is not easy. However it is doable. I mean - My team and I were no more talented than you are. If we could do it. So can you. All you need is focus, a plan, patience and the will to reach your goals. Accept it takes time. Acknowledge that your systems can always be improved. Always seek to improve the patient experience. In order to get you started, I recommend you start with the experience you give your new patients.
The main reason why it is so important to get the first part of the practice tour properly in place is, that you only have one chance to give a good first impression.
The second is, that new patients don't know how you usually do things in your practice. That makes it easier to practice new procedures without looking like an amateur in the eyes of your patients.
If you want to go from having loyal patients to advocates of the practice you need to give your new patients a really good experience. If you want patients to become super fans, you need to be in control of ALL the details about the patients' experiences in your dental practice. Make sure your first impression is exceptionally good, from there you can work on all other parts of the experience. If you ruin the first-hand impression, it takes SO much extra work to correct the experience.
At the end of my last post, the patient and the receptionist have reached the end of the tour of the dental clinic.
At this point the patient should have a good idea of who is working in the clinic, what competencies they have and where the various functions take place.
Now the patient is ready to move on in our system that should build an even greater experience. I have written the following as an example of a dialogue with the patient. In general, I am opposed to fixed scripts as they tend to feel phoney, so look at the examples as an overall guide for the dialouge.
Patient interview Purpose: To learn as much as possible about the patient's "Dental history" Everyone has a story related to their teeth. We need to know as much as possible, to be able to treat the patient best possible and exert the greatest possible influence. Ideally the interview is conducted in a conversation room arranged for this specific purpose. What questions to ask, why and how they are asked concretely, are described in my hands-on workshops: sales psychology 2.0, where questioning techniques are a part of in the training. In the following example, I call the patient “Doris”. The receptionist sits down with the patient and says something like: “Doris we are always interested in learning something more about our patients. Not only their teeth, but also what is going on in their lives. Of course, we focus mostly on your teeth, because that is obviously why you have come here. But we also want to get to know you as a human being. Would it be okay with you, if I ask you some questions? ” Doris I have 7 questions that I would like to ask you. 1. In addition to getting your teeth cleaned. Have you had any kind of dental treatment performed? What? Why? How was the experience? 2. During the times you have been to the dentist before - have you had any good experiences? 3. During the times you have been to the dentist before - have you had any bad experiences? 4. We know that the health of your mouth can have a crucial impact on your overall health and not just the health of your teeth. Do you know anything about the dental status of your parents or grandparents? Eg. has anyone in your family had full dentures or partial dentures? 5. According to your own smile. On a scale of 1-10 where 10 is perfect. How would you rate the health and appearance of your teeth and gums yourself? 6. When I look at your health information here, it looks like you are healthy and well. Today we know that the state of health in your gums is strongly related to some general diseases in the body. Therefore, I would like to know a little more about the medical history of your family. Have any of your siblings, parents or grandparents had cardiovascular disease? Stroke? Diabetes / Diabetes? Premature babies? or cancer? 7. Just a minute ago you classified the health and appearance of your teeth as a number…. on a scale of 1-10. Doris, what would it take to make your teeth look like a 10? After the initial conversation with the patient, the receptionist leads the patient on to a vacant treatment room (or a dedicated photo studio, depending on how much the practice focuses on comprehensive or cosmetic treatments)
Full series of photos Taken by the same person who has followed the patient until now. The pictures are taken with a digital DSLR camera. As a minimum, take: Full frontal smile, profile, retracted front, Retracted sides right- and left side, upper occlusal and lower occlusal. With a trained employee, it takes approx. 3-5 min. to take a full series of good photos. You can see examples of how the photos should look like here. By the way, notice that it's one of my former dental nurses who took the photos off me. All dental nurses in my practice were trained to take these photos (plus a few others).
X-rays The receptionist takes the necessary x-rays. Bitewings, panoramic, CBCT, single tooth, etc. (Depending on the reason why the patient contacted the practice in the first place - the type of recordings has been clarified with the dentist at the morning huddle)
Full mouth IO scan. The receptionist performs a full mouth IO scan including a bite registration. The patient is put in an upright position and talks to the receptionist until the dentist enters the room.
The examination The receptionist hands over the patient to the dentist and stays in the room during the ENTIRE examination. This means that the receptionist transfers information to the dentist, in a way that the patient is listening to a summary of the previous conversation. (This is cruisial) Example: Receptionist: “Doris I would like to introduce you to doctor XXX. Doctor XXX meet Doris. ” The receptionist now says something about the information collected during the tour of the office. Something personal that can create an emotional connection between the patient and the dentist. That is, something not related to the teeth. If the patient has an interest in dog training and the dentist has a dog, there is a common interest which is used to create momentary emotional connection between the patient and the doctor. It instantly gives the patient a feeling of being listened to and cared for as a person and not just as a number. The dentist then spends 1-2 minutes talking to pt. on the subject they have both been introduced to, as a common interest. The receptionist stays in the room and transfers photos from the camera to the digital records and to an iPad pro with a large screen. Meanwhile the patient and the dentist talk about a common emotional trigger. (like the one mentioned above) Next, information about patient concerns or considerations prior to the visit are shared between the doctor and the patient. The receptionist takes care of keeping notes during this conversation. 30 min. examination. After the clinical examination, the patient is informed that both the dentist and the receptionist are going out of the room to look at the X-rays taken previously. The patient is handed an iPad pro where the patient's own photos are located (as the only ones!). The patient is instructed how to swipe between the photos and encouraged to look through all the photos. The handover to the iPad is done by the receptionist like this: “Doris the dentist and I just need to look at your x-rays. While we do so, will you do me the favor of looking at your pictures? While looking at the pictures, would you please make a mental note of all the things you see that you have questions about or that you think looks strange? When we get back, the doctor will go over all the questions you might have. It works just like your smartphone. You swipe from image to image and you can zoom in and out with your fingers just like you are used to. The receptionist and the dentist leave the room for max. 3-4 min. Now something magical is happening. The patient is drawn to his or her own photos on the iPad. The patients now see images of their own teeth in a way they have never seen before. If our patients saw their own teeth the same way we see them, the appointment book would be filled with treatment from start to finish, several years into the future. When a patients see their own teeth for the first time in this way, they start to ask questions to the dentist as soon as the dentist comes back into the room again. Is it not better that the patient asks sincerely interested questions regarding his/her own state of health than that we have to try to teach the patient about something the patient basically does not understand, and therefore does not interest the patient? After the interview, the dentist introduces the hygienist and informs the patient about the advantages for the patient seeing a hygienist rather than a dentist for the regular appointments. If there is an indication for a comprehensive treatment. The receptionist will arrange a new appointment for a conversation regarding a treatment plan. (I go into much more detail about this in the hands-on workshop sales psychology 2.0) The dentist is leaving the hygienist and the receptionist by saying a nice goodbye and wishing the patient a continued pleasant experience in the dental office.
Time with the hygienist The receptionist introduces the hygienist to the patient in the same way as the dentist was introduced (probably pointing out other common interests) A full periodontal registration is made (6 measurements on each tooth, incl. bleeding on probing and pus) even if there are no periodontal issues at the moment. Then a regular cleaning follows or alternatively a periodontal treatment is started, depending on time and readiness of the patient.
Financial planning and booking of treatment/ a TX consultation /regular appointment. Carried out in a consultation room - NOT in the operatory.
New patients who call your practice, most often want an appointment for a dental cleaning. The dental cleaning is therefore always performed during the first examination. The only exception is in severe periodontal cases. Here, a tooth cleaning can be started but not completed.
The reception's handling of new patients on the phone is critical and requires training of the team so that it is done correctly. It's all too easy to lose potential patients on the phone before they've had a chance to experience how amazing your dental office is. Conversely, it is also easy to get the wrong patients into the office. These are the patients who do not fit the profile of your dental clinic. It is a pity for both the clinic and for that type of patients. (There are no good and bad patients, but patients who fit your clinic better or worse)
It is not easy to build this patient experience model into a dental clinic. It requires focus, energy and training. But it is worth all the time and effort. The patients' response is almost always the same: “I have never experienced such a thorough and good examination by a dentist” = Differentiation of the practice in relation to all other dental practices. It opens up a deeper dialogue with the patient about the desires for oral health. If the dental clinic maintains a high level of service and an ongoing interest in the patient, you will experience how patients who initially move to another dentist often return back when they need to have a major treatment performed. Because when they change dentist, they EXPERIENCE how much of a difference there is between yours and the other dental clinics.
Dental practices focusing on price as their primary differentiator, cannot afford to spend as much time on their initial patient experience as I describe here. It does not fit into that concept. If your dental practice focuses on consistently being as cheap as possible, do not work with this model. It will simply collide with the brand you are trying to build. Virtually all other dental practices will greatly benefit from this model.
If you want to know more about how you can implement the model, or have a more well-run dental practice, you are always welcome to reach out to me via email or phone. Currently my team and I help dental practices in 6 different countries.
Many kind regards
Jesper Hatt DDS
P: +41 78 268 00 78