Six Surefire Ways to Build Rapport with Your Patients
An estimated 30 to 40 million Americans avoid the dentist due to fear and anxiety, and an even greater number of patients simply dislike dental visits. 1 Dentists try everything possible to make patients more comfortable, including creating a serene office environment, offering distractions while in the chair, and shortening wait times. But in the end, it all comes down to one thing: relationships.
Building strong relationships with patients is key to easing patient anxiety and winning trust, and effective communication techniques are the foundation of any good relationship. For any dentist looking to help ease their patients’ concerns, here are 6 ways to maximize each communication opportunity and build stronger, long-lasting relationships:
1. Patient Education
Many patients dread dental appointments because of the potential physical pain they may feel, even from preventive treatment. Therefore, the manner in which you communicate their needs will make all the difference.
Position the benefits of care, not just the features. In other words, include why the treatment is important, not just the details of the treatment itself. Be sure to educate the patient on the drawbacks of delaying treatment and what may happen if he or she doesn’t move forward with care. And when possible, put the power back in the patient’s hands, providing options when it comes to treatment plans, phasing, payment methods, and more.
2. Patient Affordability
Speaking of payment options, the cost of a dental visit remains a top barrier to treatment, especially for patients who don’t have dental benefits.2 Offering payment options outside of the traditional methods demonstrates a commitment to helping patients overcome any financial hurdles that may prevent them from seeking care. When you provide a way to help patients pay for the care they know they need, you’ll have patients for life.
3. Front Desk Technology
Today, modern methods of communication are what most patients prefer and expect. Having the ability to confirm an appointment via text message on a smartphone while out and about is much more convenient for patients—and increases the likelihood they will keep their appointments. This, in turn, helps you to keep your chair full. Companies like Weave Communications (www.getweave.com) and Rhinogram (www.rhinogram.com) provide dentists and their front desk teams with features like one-to-one texting via the front desk computer and customized patient communication for patients and team members on the go.
4. Practice Website
The dental practice website is likely one of the first interactions a patient will have, making it an effective and powerful marketing tool. Capture the attention of prospective patients by building a dynamic site that is both informative and engaging. The beauty of a well-designed website is that it can showcase the brand, personality, and culture of a dental practice, helping patients feel at home before they ever step foot into the office. Beautiful photos of the staff along with personal, heartfelt bios make the dental team more accessible and the dentist less intimidating. Online appointment requests and patient portal features make it easy for patients to get in contact with the front desk, pay outstanding bills, and access their oral health histories. In addition, maintaining a blog and uploading videos can be terrific vehicles for answering common patient questions and highlighting success stories.
5. Social Media
Having a presence on websites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is a fun way to stay connected with patients in between appointments, and when there is a plan of action in place, social media can also be a powerful driver of new patient flow.
Developing a social media calendar helps keep profiles filled with interesting content on a consistent basis. To ensure that someone in the office is regularly monitoring the account(s) in case questions are asked or an issue arises, the daily social media tasks should be delegated to a responsible team member.
6. Online Reviews
According to one source, 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and healthcare professionals rank third, behind restaurants and hotels, as the most searched-for business type for online reviews.3 Patient testimonials, whether from a friend or a complete stranger, build a dentist’s reputation faster than any other form of marketing, and today, online testimonials help dentists reach a much broader audience than traditional word-of-mouth recommendations.
Building patient relationships is a continuous process, but when it is done effectively, having a schedule full of long-term and trusting patients will keep everyone in the practice happy—and busy.
1. What is Dental Anxiety And Phobia Page. http://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/basics/dental-visits/article/what-is-dental-anxiety-and-phobia. Updated September 18, 2013. Accessed July 21, 2017.
2. Yarbrough C, Nasseh K, Vujicic, M. What Adults Forgo Dental Care: Evidence from a New National Survey Page. http://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Science%20and%20Research/HPI/Files/HPIBrief_1114_1.ashx. Updated November 2014. Accessed July 21, 2017.
3. Local Consumer Review Survey Page. https://www.brightlocal.com/learn/local-consumer-review-survey/#5. Accessed July 21, 2017.
About the Author
Naomi Cooper is President of Minoa Marketing and CEO and co-founder of Doctor Distillery.