Every practitioner wants their patients to leave happy, but what exactly does that mean and why does it matter? Well, when “happiness” is measured by how to improve patient satisfaction it’s worth investing your energy.
Patient satisfaction also presents something of a paradox. What makes a patient happy may or may not ultimately be in the best interest of their health.
Overall, the goal of patient satisfaction has to do with creating an experience where decisions can be made that benefit the patient and their ongoing health.
Why Even Think About How to Improve Patient Satisfaction?
Like it or not, your patient and their family are “customers.” A consumer mindset drives most “buying” decisions today – your services are no exception.
Expectations are high and opinions matter.
- Social media gives patients/families an opportunity to post their satisfaction…or their dissatisfaction
- Online reviews provide patients/families a positive or negative forum to express their opinions about your service
The result of improving patient satisfaction is long-term patient loyalty. A satisfied patient and family become immune (in many ways) to a competitor’s marketing efforts.
The loyalty earned from patient satisfaction can naturally lead to an increase in revenue. And satisfied patients/families create positive reviews that generate vital word-of-mouth marketing.
HOW TO IMPROVE PATIENT SATISFACTION IN 7 STEPS
1. Make an Engaging First Impression Online
An initial phone call or a facility drive-by was once the first perspective someone formed of your practice.
Times have changed.
These days your online presence is often the first impression a patient/family has of your practice. Realize that your front-door is now your digital platform.
- Evaluate your current website. Confirm that it’s easy to navigate, has a conversational tone, is clear, and compels action.
- Digitize your patient’s interaction with your practice. Provide digital options for your patients/families to contact you, schedule an appointment, and securely access and complete all necessary forms ahead of their appointment.
2. Communicate Comfort with Reassuring Tone
Every conversation carries a tone. That tone – positive or otherwise – creates an environment that helps put your patients at ease.
Many patient interactions begin with a question or two. How you answer can help determine the next step a patient takes with treatment.
- Maintain eye-contact. Make the patient/family member in front of you the center of that moment’s attention.
- Speak in a reassuring tone throughout each patient interaction. This helps restless patients and/or family members feel more comfortable.
3. Be Accommodating with Your Appointment Schedule Availability
Your patients/families have time and schedule challenges. School, work, and recreation can impact how and when they schedule their oral health care.
How to improve patient satisfaction is often a matter of adapting to their schedule and time constraints.
- Update your appointment options. Consider early morning, early evening, or weekend availability so patients have more opportunity to schedule.
- Provide virtual solutions such as teledentistry. Remote consultations help maximize time.
4. Shorten the Perception of Wait Times with Positive Experiences
You might not be able to completely eliminate appointment “wait-times.” But you can creatively help your patients/families by decreasing those perceived wait-time moments. Free WIFI, books, activities for kids, photo ops, and refreshments all help create a positive experience.
A relevant study found…
”…satisfaction to more than double when the waiting room was viewed as ‘comfortable and pleasant’ by patients with the same perceived length of wait.” 
And speaking of “comfortable and pleasant” wait-times…
5. Upgrade Your Practice Atmosphere with Welcoming Decor
What you see and experience daily can differ from what your patients experience and see. Familiarity can lead to complacency especially when you’re onsite every day.
Though your patients/families will perhaps form a first impression online (as earlier mentioned) that impression will be further validated when they arrive at your practice.
- Update your waiting room with simple improvements. New, modern, themed furniture or a redesigned layout can set a fresh tone throughout your practice.
- Upgrade your practice on-theme. A themed environment – especially for pediatric practices – will help put kids and their families at ease prior to and during an appointment.
6. Empower Your Patients Through Educational Resources
Your patients/families value their oral health. But they might not be aware of what produces it. Their satisfaction will increase when they leave your practice feeling empowered rather than overwhelmed about their health and related choices.
- Follow a knowledge-is-empowerment mindset. Set patients up for success outside of your practice by giving them useful information online and in-person.
- Retain more patients by providing them ongoing and consistent resources via a blog or e-newsletter – answering their specific questions.
7. Cultivate Patient Engagement and Create Long-term Relationships
Think long-term relationships. The key is engaging each patient/family individually.
Daily production goals can easily take precedence over the patient/family that’s right in front of you. More detrimental to a positive patient experience is that they can sense the somewhat impersonal connection.
- Know your patients/families personally. Recognition of birthdays, personal milestones, loss, or challenges, and more help build long-term relationships.
- Follow-up calls or messages help patients/families feel like their recent treatment is a priority.
Take Strategic Steps to Improve Your Patient Satisfaction Level
Set your environment up for success from the very first impression. Patient satisfaction for children and families begins with a kid-centric mindset and environment. In essence, it’s an investment decision.
Invest in Your Patients
Valuing your patients and their families sets them up for a lifetime of positive health outcomes. And the environment you create can help you achieve a better patient experience.
- Reduce patient anxiety and enhance their relaxation
- Prime patients and families for their appointments
- Create positive dental care experiences
Invest in Your Business
Maintain your edge in the crowded dental service space. Attention to details in your niche can transform your environment and overall patient satisfaction…especially in a pediatric practice.
- Create “buzz” in the community you serve
- Accelerate patient referrals
- Generate positive online reviews
Check out these related resources for upgrading, renewing, and improving patient experience:
Contact Imagination Design Studios (IDS) to get started transforming your office from a mundane to magical patient experience.