When we think about the patient experience, we understand that its significance is far reaching, whether it is a good or not-so-good encounter. A positive patient experience will result in accepted treatment that is paid for willingly, honored appointments, referrals, and great reviews online. No one sets out to create a poor patient experience, yet we hear about them all the time. How does this happen? It happens because we stop paying attention.
Patient comfort is one of the top concerns you have as a practitioner and rightly so. You take courses in patient comfort techniques, you buy technology and equipment to ease the process of having a procedure done, and you work with your teams to ensure that they are gentle and caring with your patient family. But are you addressing the often-overlooked components of patient comfort: the senses? What do your patients smell? What do they hear? What do they see?
Manage the scent of your practice
Science tells us that our memories are triggered most strongly by smell. Just a small whiff of a scent brings back vivid memories, and, for many people, the smells of a dental office will prompt recollections of uncomfortable visits to the dentist as they grew up. As technology has become more mainstream, the smells of bygone dentistry are disappearing. However, it is not unusual to still enter a practice and catch the scent of disinfectants, acrylics, or, occasionally, cloves.
Managing the scent of your practice will immediately improve your patient family's comfort. While aromatherapy is widely used to create a calm atmosphere, I do not suggest burning scented candles or overusing essential oil diffusers. For many folks, the perfumes used in them are unpleasant, and they can tend to be overpowering. I recommend that they limit it to one candle or diffuser, with half the oils used to create a very light aroma. For the best result, I recommend placing air purifiers strategically through the practice to remove smells, rather than attempt to mask them. Air purifiers are small, attractive, and can be inexpensive.
The sounds coming from the treatment area also can be undesirable for patients. When there are several handpieces, ultrasonics, autoclaves, and saliva ejection systems running at the same time, it is loud and bothersome. Many people equate the sound of the dental "drill" to nails on a chalkboard, a chilling sound that nobody enjoys! And with current décor and infection-control trends dictating hard surface flooring, the acoustics will often amplify these terrible noises and add to patient discomfort.
The best way to mitigate the sounds will be to close any doors you have to rooms where the noisy equipment is being used. Install automatic door closers to assist the team in keeping them closed. Installing artwork that has a softer surface, such as fabric art or canvas art, can help absorb sounds. If possible, having a door separating the treatment area from the reception area will certainly help.
Clear the clutter
Lastly, what patients see has a huge impact on building trust and confidence with you and your team. Specifically, I am referring to clutter. Clutter in the business area sends a clear message that your team is disorganized, and mistakes will happen. Clutter in the treatment area will read as "dirty" and will make patients question your sterilization techniques. Studies show that clutter increases anxiety and stress and makes it difficult to focus. This directly affects how your patients process information, and when you are explaining treatment to them, your responsibility is to remove any obstacles you can to help them come to an informed decision.
Managing clutter can be challenging, especially in a disorganized environment. In the business area, it is not as easy as clearing off the counters. Systems for communication and follow-up must be established. Invest the time to ensure this is done well. In the treatment areas, the room counters must 90% to 95% cleared off. Store disinfectants below the counter, use wall-mounted dispensers when possible, and remove brochures and coupons from the room.
These three tips for appealing to patient comfort will have an impact on the experience you create for your patient family.
Understanding how patients determine if their experience in your practice is a good or bad one and how it will ultimately affect the bottom line of your business are the topics of my presentation, "Putting Your Best Space Forward!" at the 2020 Chicago Midwinter Meeting on Saturday, February 22, at 12:30 p.m.
Andrea Greer, RDH, founder of On Point Space, combines over 25 years of clinical, management, and consulting experience in the dental industry with a love of organization, time management, and décor to create productive and beautiful workspaces for dental professionals. If you would like to learn more about On Point Space and how Greer can help improve the practice's bottom line through the practice aesthetic, reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.