Many industries are rife with buzzwords and common phrases that are used without full appreciation of their impact or meaning. In the dental healthcare software industry, phrases like “patient engagement,” “patient relationship management,” and “patient experience” are prominent, but actually have stronger emphasis on technology rather than patient interaction and treatment.
At the 2019 ADSO Summit, a session featuring CEOs from the country’s largest dental service organizations provided insight on how their organizations function, highlighting their “secret sauce”—what makes them stand out in a competitive marketplace. Interestingly, there was one area of focus they all had in common—the patient experience; a clear operational driver where they spend considerable time and energy. “Patient experience” was more than just a buzzword to these thought leaders—it was a priority.
As the product manager for a dental software vendor, naturally, this caught my attention. I listened to each CEO speak and pondered how features in our product could help my organization achieve its goal of offering the best possible patient experience. Options such as enabling online payments and appointment scheduling provide a new level of convenience for patients, as well as the ability to confirm appointments via text message or email.
Additionally, offering patients the opportunity to complete health history forms online—from the comfort of their home or from wherever they happen to be—is invaluable to the patient. Features that allow dentists to share patient information with a referred specialist helps reduce the barriers a patient must overcome when seeking treatment. Together, each of these features contribute to providing the best experience a patient can have. Going to the dentist is already unsettling for most people, so making the experience as painless and as positive as possible can make all the difference.
In my 30+ years as an employee of QSIDental, I’ve visited hundreds of dental offices. I’ve seen some beautiful décor and equipment and some not so beautiful. In support of customers going live on QSIDental’s clinical solution, I’ve stood just outside treatment rooms and front desk/reception areas where I could be readily available if the clinical team had a question or problem. Reflecting on my years of experience, one thing became very clear: technology certainly has a role in strengthening the overall patient experience. However, at the heart of the matter is the personal contact a patient receives during their visit. The personal, human-to-human interaction between the patient and facility employees is what makes or breaks the future of their relationship.
Since the ADSO Summit, I’ve started taking mental notes about the “personal touch” dental patients experience. When the patient walks through the door of a dental office, are they met with a warm, friendly greeting? Do they simply receive a question like “Name?” Is there eye contact? Is there even a hello?
In the best offices I’ve visited, the staff at the reception desk set the patient at ease. Returning patients who are recognized and immediately invited back to the treatment area through eye contact is a powerful personal touch, too.
I always take keen notice of the moment the hygienist/assistant is ready to receive the patient from the reception area. The door to the treatment area opens and suddenly, out of the blue, a name is called out. There is a moment of silence. That moment sets the tone for the rest of the visit.
Human interaction coupled by technology that makes accessibility to care effortless can enable healthcare relationships that will last for years to come.