Do we dental professionals sometimes have a tendency to see a patient as a diagnosis rather than as a person? Of course, your two o’clock appointment who needs multiple crowns may also be a parent, sibling or soccer enthusiast. Honestly evaluate your day-to-day operations and interactions with patients. Do you need to make adjustments to ensure your patients’ individual needs are at the center of your practice and care recommendations? Patient centricity in dentistry is becoming increasingly important and allows dentists to focus on why they chose dentistry as a profession: to help care for people and their oral health.
Keeping Patients as the Focus
Patients are the most important part of your practice. According to a review published by BioMed Central Oral Health, patient-centric care may lead to higher patient satisfaction, more positive treatment outcomes and better overall health. A practice that puts patients first also leads to greater work satisfaction for dental professionals.
When the focus is on your patients, everyone in the office works as a more cohesive unit. Health care can feel depersonalized, but there are ways to avoid this in your office. A few ways to show your patients that they are important to you and your staff include:
- Sending a handwritten thank-you note to each new patient to welcome them to your practice
- Greeting each patient by name when they enter the office
- Asking patients what their oral health goals are, so that you aren’t dictating their treatment
- Finding new ways to coach and empower patients, with the aim of helping them to prevent the most common dental diseases and achieve Whole Mouth Health
- Taking time to address all of a patient’s concerns and not rushing during appointments
- Being upfront about your fees so there are no financial surprises
How to Create a Patient-Centric Practice
Creating a patient-centric practice requires leadership and a positive attitude from the dentist who must set the standard and example. Sit down with everyone who works in your practice and create a mission statement that describes the patient-focused care you will provide. This mission statement could contain a commitment to try and empower all patients to improve their oral health. In this way, each member of your dental team can look for new opportunities to engage patients as an ‘oral care coach’.
Recommending specific oral care products and 30-Second Coaching are quick and easy for patients to implement at home. For example, you could provide a sample of the new Colgate Total®, together with an explanation of the importance of protecting 100% of the mouth surfaces*1 .
The way you structure and manage your practice is key for maintaining patient centricity. For example, blocking time off in the schedule for emergencies and new patients helps you accommodate anyone who needs a last-minute appointment.
Key Benefits of a Patient-Centric Practice
Aside from the personal fulfillment that dentists and staff experience from running a patient-centric practice, putting patients first is financially beneficial. People who know their providers genuinely care are more likely to become loyal patients who may be more likely to accept a recommended treatment. The likelihood of them referring their friends and family members to your practice may also increase because your patient trusts you and your staff.
Focusing on patient care may not stop some patients from self-diagnosing or disagreeing with your recommended treatment, but a relationship built on trust and sincere appreciation can keep this from becoming divisive.
Patient centricity in dentistry is becoming an important theme in modern practices. Putting patients front and center helps them feel valued while creating a personally satisfying practice environment for everyone involved.
*Statistically significant greater reduction of cultivable bacteria on teeth, tongue, cheeks, and gums with Colgate Total® vs non-antibacterial fluoride toothpaste at 4 weeks, 12 hours after brushing.
1Prasad & Mateo, July 2016, internal report.