How to create the 'frictionless dental practice'

2017 01 30 15 30 23 871 Nottingham Alex 400

"Patient friction" is a term we like to use to describe anything that negatively affects the overall patient experience. From long waits before appointments to your front office mixing up patient details, there are many things that can introduce needless obstacles to achieving an amazing patient experience.

Your goal should be to eliminate systemic issues that interfere with a smooth and polished patient journey. Here are some recommendations on how to remove friction in your practice.


Alex Nottingham, JD, MBA.Alex Nottingham, JD, MBA.

People just don't like to wait, so manage your schedule with the goal of streamlining processes. Check to see if your front office is overloaded with patient call volume on certain days (or at certain times during the day). If your patient volume has been steadily growing, you may need to hire additional staff to serve patients efficiently.

Another option is to leverage automation tools. Utilize services such as chatbots on your website and Facebook page to answer basic patient questions.


Your patients expect a personalized experience. Instruct your front desk team to ask patients enough questions to thoroughly understand the purpose of their visit and ensure the right kind of appointment is made. Also, have the patient coordinator speak with the patient about his or her previous experiences with dental appointments (especially if the patient is new to your office) and highlight significant issues, such as fear, in the patient's chart. Greet patients by their name when they come into the office and use their name regularly during treatment to boost the personal connection between staff and patient.

Easy access to patient records

Requiring patients to repeat their details every time they come in will add an extra layer of "work." Quick access to patient information at every touchpoint in the patient journey will profoundly improve the overall experience, with the bonus of making treatment more efficient. There should be seamless practice management system connectivity throughout the office to ensure immediate access to patient data.

Be proactive

Anticipate common issues and provide quick solutions. Have a well-thought-out FAQ section on your website or in social media. Providing "self-service" tools will empower your clients to take control of some processes, thereby improving overall efficiency.


Your staff needs to appreciate that when a patient asks a question, he or she gets anxious if the question isn't addressed immediately. When the team needs to check on something to provide guidance to a patient, make sure to let the patient know that you are working diligently on his or her behalf. Keep patients informed with periodic calls or texts, and make sure to follow up after providing an answer.

Another aspect of patient communication is how patients perceive team members. Is the team seen as creating friction or not, depending on how staff say or do things? For example, in one dental practice we are familiar with, patients would get annoyed by a request to fill out paperwork for a new patient consultation simply because of the way the team member requested the task to be completed. However, when a more seasoned team member stepped in and explained the importance of the paperwork to ensure patient safety and other ways that paperwork would benefit the patient, the task was completed without further drama.

Alex Nottingham is the CEO and founder of All-Star Dental Academy. Among his works, he has authored a book titled Dental Practice Excellence: 3 Steps to an All-Star Practice and is leading an online training event.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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