Good provider-to-patient communication is essential in a dental practice. Studies have shown the value and essential relationships between good provider communication and positive patient outcomes. In a rapidly changing healthcare world where more technology is utilized, it’s important to improve and maintain good communication with patients.
This article will discuss more about why communication is important. And, what steps you can take to improve communication in your dental practice. Also, it includes maintaining positive nonverbal communication, being respectful of patients, simplifying patient interactions, making good first and final impressions.
What are the Benefits of Improved Communication?
The most obvious benefit of improved communication is patient satisfaction. People like to be well-informed about their health care status and plan of care. When patients are satisfied with the communication between themselves and their dental care provider, they are more likely to return to the same dental practice for their oral care needs.
There is a correlation between adverse events with patients and poor communication. An article that summarizes a Health Grades report from May 2012 demonstrates that this has been true for years. In the report, hospitals that were ranked by patients in the top percentages for nursing and physician communication had lower rates of adverse patient safety events. For example, bedsores occurred approximately 46% more frequently in hospitals that patients had ranked in the lowest 10% for provider communication.
An article by TeamHealth lists several more benefits, including patient adherence, lower readmission rates, improved mortality rates, lower malpractice risk, and reduction in care costs. Also noted are reduced adverse advents and medical errors. Simply improving how a practitioner communicates with a patient can have a drastic effect on both the patient and the entire medical or dental practice.
How can you improve patient communication in your dental practice?
Improve Nonverbal Communication
Sometimes our actions speak louder than words. Possibly, the easiest changes we can make in the way we communicate is in our nonverbal communication. Examples of negative nonverbal communication include frowning, foot-tapping, crossing arms, rolling eyes, grunting, or sighing. Our non-verbal communication can present as being pushy, impatient, or uncaring even if that is not our intention. Be mindful of how you appear to your patients. Maintaining an open stance and smiling can make all the difference in an encounter.
This point can seem obvious; however, there are some things people do unintentionally that can make others feel disrespected. Typically, one could say to follow the “golden rule” that states to treat others the way you want to be treated. But in today’s world, we often come across many cultural differences, and not everyone wishes to be treated the same. There are few pointers, though, that can generally be used across the board to show respect.
One of those ways is through active listening. Active listening involves maintaining eye contact, focusing on your patient, and asking appropriate questions to ensure that you understand your patient correctly. This lets your patient know that you are engaged and care about their well-being.
Another way to show respect is to greet patients by their formal names. Examples are Mrs. Jones or Mr. Smith. If you know your patient well, or if they have asked, it is acceptable to call them by their first names, but using a name can make an encounter more personable.
Make Interactions Easier
As dental providers, we can sometimes get caught up in the medical jargon when explaining a diagnosis and processes to patients. And, patients may not always stop you to ask questions when they do not understand. This can lead to non-compliance, mistakes, and patient dissatisfaction. Try to simplify the conversation and use layman’s terms when discussing each patient’s dental diagnosis and treatment options. Use short sentences and allow ample time for patients to respond with questions. Finally, provide simple written instructions, if necessary, to ensure that patients do not forget important topics that were discussed at their visit.
End on a Good Note
We discussed the importance of greetings and first impressions, but last impressions are also important. After the completion of a dental care visit, follow up by asking the patient if there are more questions or concerns that you, as their dental provider, could address during the visit. Summarize the visit and review the next steps, including follow-up appointments, testing, and treatment plans.
It can be helpful to end the visit with positive words, such as, “I hope you feel better now” or “Hang in there, you are making progress!” A positive ending to every dental visit will make a patient feel cared for, important and valued, and much more likely to return to your dental practice.
Consult an Expert
Have you tried to improve communication in the workplace but still feel like you could use some more training? Consult a professional agency that specializes in workplace communications. Strategic Practice Solutions provides private consulting and team member review to provide a customized approach to help your business thrive.