Patient satisfaction is the final goal of all our treatments and also our highest reward, or, in other words, it is the end result that we want to achieve from our treatments, and gives meaning to all our endeavors.
It is interesting that in our dental school we did not learn a lot about patient satisfaction. This topic was sort of meant to be learned along the way or it is implied that you already know everything about it somehow. Maybe instinctively? 🙂
During dental school the main focus was on how to treat diseases, focusing on particular problems in the oral cavity, but very little time was dedicated to patients themselves as a whole, on learning efficient communication, social skills like listening attentively, and about the whole patient experience in a dental office or a clinic, not just the treatment itself.
We had, of course, a few bits and pieces about patient satisfaction as part of some of our subjects , like how to take an anamnesis and so on. But, in my humble opinion, this is a huge theme that is as important as our aim to be excellent clinicians and if we learned something about it in school it would be much easier for us to succeed in our profession.
The first thing that I learned about patient satisfaction is that patients see our treatments differently to the way we see them. To patients, of course, it is very important that they receive excellent treatment, good value for the money they are paying, but there is also something more to it that makes all the difference.
It is an overall atmosphere in the clinic, from the moment the patient walks in through the door, or even more so from the moment he or she hears the voice of the first person saying hello on the phone right up to the last person who gives him or her another appointment and says goodbye.
In this blog I assume that we are all already experts in our field 🙂 and are offering high quality treatment. And so are all the other clinics, so what can distinguish my clinic from the others?
We can point to a few factors:
- It is all about a friendly atmosphere
How patients feel is very important – they need to feel comfortable and relaxed, which is sometimes challenging, but from my experience every time my team members and I succeed in releasing a patient’s tension, the procedure goes much better.
Smile – Sometimes we forget or take it for granted, but it works like magic every time. I will now quote an expression from one of the lessons I attended on this topic: “be aggressively friendly” 🙂
2. The doctor and staff set the mood
If I’m calm and in a good mood, I’m able to turn a patient’s initial anxiety into relaxation and trust. Then I know I’ll have a happy and satisfied patient. As my practice has developed, I’ve noticed that the more confident I am in my ability to provide good treatment, the more satisfied my patients are with it. This means that in the beginning when I started practicing dentistry my confidence was lower than it is today and although I provided much the same treatment as I do today, my patients felt my insecurity and today they react with much more satisfaction in parallel with my self confidence.
3. Organization – keeping the staff well informed
If we have more employees it is vital to establish SOPs – standard operating procedures. This means that all the staff are well organized and know their duties every step of the way. This is another thing that they didn’t teach us enough about at my dental school 🙂
4. Making the patient feel like the most important person in the world
Probably the most important element is to treat every patient with respect, giving him or her our full attention, and helping them feel that they are valued. Depending on how valued they feel, they will feel correspondingly more or less satisfied.
5. Post treatment management and complaints management
I think that it is very important to stay in contact with patients after the treatment, especially after surgical treatments, to maintain our patient’s confidence every step of the way and to show we care. How we manage complaints, problems or accidents that may occur from time to time is vital to patient satisfaction. Accidents and complaints are a fact of life for everyone everywhere but what matters is how we approach them – this affects the final outcome and the impression patients take away with them. To me, it is vital to recognize the event and then show our compassion and empathy for the patient, and show the willingness to find a solution.
To conclude, patient satisfaction is a subjective thing, in which good or excellent treatment is only part of the equation. The other part is the patient’s overall experience in our clinic, the atmosphere, how we communicate with him or her, do we give them our undivided attention, are we sympathetic enough, do we care about their personal needs, etc… In fact, it all comes down to feelings because we are all emotional beings and we all want to be happy.
If I can boost my patient’s happiness by making him or her feel valued, secure and relaxed, it increases the overall value of my treatment, and gives that certain extra for which my patients keep coming back and why they recommend my practice to others.
And lastly, for me to achieve a patient’s satisfaction is what gives true meaning to my work, the greatest reward. It is the most inspirational thing that makes me love what I do.
I’m very grateful that the ITI is interested in my experience with patient satisfaction and I am honored to be able to share it with the community.
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