While talking to a new client recently, one thing he said he’d like his team to recognize is that ‘every visit is a big deal for our patients’. His point is that sometimes we become so desensitized to being at the dentist that we don’t understand our patients’ need for reassurance and patience.
If I count up all the days I’ve practiced hygiene in the last 20 years, it’s well into the thousands. For most of my patients however, they may have only visited the dentist 40 or 50 times in the same time period and for some, maybe only a handful.
After thousands of days at the chair, coming to the dentist’s office is part of who we are. It’s routine for us, like a second home. But for our patients it’s a completely different experience. Here are a few simple tips and things to think about to make each and every one of your patients feel like they’re your ONLY patient.
#1- Eye Contact
This is so simple but it makes a world of difference. It’s so easy to seat our patients and begin asking questions as we’re looking at the monitor or at their paper chart. I’ve shared before about layering education and clinical conversation over your scaling time but when you’re asking patients specific questions such as ‘what medications are you taking?’ or ‘what concerns do you have today?’ it is important to look them in the eye. This let’s them know you’re actually listening. Listening is a skill I’m constantly working on. I tell myself all the time ‘shut up, stop thinking of what you’re going to say next, just LISTEN’.
If you listen, then you can process what you’ve heard and use it to tie risk assessment and patient ‘wants’ to your treatment recommendations.
#2- Knee to Knee
I was coaching a young doctor recently and every time he went to check a patient he stood leaning on the counter looking down at the patient. He didn’t realize that at 6’2″ how he was towering over his patients. He is a warm, caring person and this posture made it hard for him to really connect and make patients feel comfortable.
And it is especially important to have your patient’s head at or above the level of your own when you’re meeting for the first time or presenting treatment.
Doctor-when you go in to do the hygiene exam immediately sit down and slide so you’re in the knee to knee position with your patients.
Hygienist– if at all possible, keep a 2nd chair in your room and sit down on the other side of the patient rather than standing up.
#3-Forget about your next patient (and your last)
Gasp! I know, I said it and next week when I’m in the heat of my hygiene day, it will come back to haunt me…ha! Don’t think about the next patient that may have arrived early or that you see walking up to the front door. This doesn’t mean you should run behind all the time but it means avoiding comments within earshot of patients like ‘I’m sorry I can’t do that today, I have another patient’ or ‘Doctor is running late because he is tied up with another patient’. Think of another positive way to say it.
‘You know what? Let’s find a time to bring you back to work on this area so we can make sure we can completely focus on you and do the best job possible. I wouldn’t want to rush this.’
All of your patients want to feel like they are your ONLY patient- at least at that moment.