We’ve already addressed the issue of patient trust in a post about the difference between educating your dental patients and selling to them. But how can you work at building trust among you, your dental staff, and dental patients? In this post, we’ll focus on ways to foster patient relationships, mitigate dental fear, create a patient-centered environment, and provide the best quality dental care by building trust.
One of the best ways to build trust with patients is to cultivate empathy in you and your dental practice staff. Research suggests that empathy may even have a basis in evolutionary biology, and that it is crucial to “helping” professions like dentistry. But how can you put empathy in practice? According to proponents of empathy in dentistry, dentists should actively communicate with patients, putting themselves in their place, and involve patients in decision making about their care. This cultivates a person-oriented, rather than authoritative, relationship.
For example, if a patient expresses anxiety about a tooth extraction, you could say “I understand feeling anxious. Tell me specifically what part of the procedure you’re worried about and I’ll try to help you get through it with as little anxiety as possible.” Talk to your staff about ways they can practice empathy. The first step in empathy is understanding. Ask patients about what is happening in their lives. Maybe a patient isn’t doing a good job brushing their teeth. Instead of giving them a lecture on the importance of brushing, ask them about their brushing habits. When do they brush? Maybe they’ve been stressed out at work and have stopped brushing after lunch. Give them a new toothbrush and a travel size tube of toothpaste and encourage them to keep it in their desk drawer. Say, “I know it’s easy to forget brushing in the middle of the day when you’re busy, but even if you only do it a few days a week it’s a good start.”
Getting to Know You:
Trusting you and your staff is easier for patients if they feel they know you on a personal level and not just as medical authority figures. We’ve already addressed highlighting your staff’s contribution to your dental practice as part of your webpage design and marketing plan. But showcasing staff on your practice website, introducing them on social media, and keeping patients updated about their accomplishments is great for both dental practice marketing and for building patient relationships and trust. The more you humanize your staff, the more connected your patients will feel to your practice. Going into for dental surgery performed by a mom of three who coaches volleyball on Friday afternoons, or a former competitive horseback rider who enjoys baking homemade cakes for friends is more comforting than by an anonymous, cold figure in a white coat.
Many agree one sign of a great dentist—and thus, a trustworthy dentist—is that he or she takes the time not only to introduce dental staff, but also to get to know patients. Make sure you and your staff understand any problems a patient has with their dental care, including treatment needs, overall health issues, or dental fear. Moreover, if your patient has a major life event, follow up about it the next time you see them—this could mean congratulating them on a graduation or asking how they’re faring in cancer treatment. As a rule, when you ask how your patients are doing, listen to their answers. They are more likely to trust you if they know you see them as complete people.
You may be asking: how can I manage to be so personal and informed about all of my patients—I’m just one person! And what if a different staff member attends to a patient? How can my staff stay up to date and on the same page about the personal lives and health issues of our patients? One concrete step you can take is to use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software for your dental practice. You’re already using software to manage appointments, finances, and treatment plans. Get the most out of your software by keeping track of more details about your patients and making them feel appreciated and cared for.
Trust is more than an abstract idea—it’s the glue that keeps patients loyal to your dental practice. Using the tips here, and making use of good Customer Relationship Management, can make the difference in your patient relationships in the long run and keep people coming back!