Feedback may be either positive or negative but, either way, we can learn important lessons about our dentistry that are equally important.
Feedback can reveal what aspects of our dental services are considered satisfactory by the patient, and what improvements could make for a better experience next time. One method of obtaining feedback is the use of a patient questionnaire.
The feedback can give us an insight into the patient's journey through the practice, from the time they arrive at your door, until the moment they are discharged. During this journey, the patient comes into contact with different members of the dental team. Each one can make a difference to that patient having either a good or bad overall experience.
It is important for the dentist to know the things that are being done well, so that they can be maintained or bettered. It is a good boost of confidence to know that patients are happy with the service provided and that the team members are carrying out their duties to a high level. Such feedback should always be shared right across the team.
Input is essential if the dental team is to find ways of improving the patient's journey. Indeed, a great deal of negative feedback on the same issues means something really needs to be done about the points that have been raised. This type of feedback will highlight areas, which are not being carried out to the satisfaction of the patients. Ways of improving the situation should be considered as a matter of urgency; disenchanted patients can do much damage to the success of your practice. If patients are happy, not only will they come back, but they will also recommend their friends and families. They will talk positively about the practice in general, which creates a good reputation. Word of mouth is the best way of building a patient list.
Patients should feel confident that they have chosen the right practice from the first time they ring to book an appointment. The staff should have a good telephone manner, by being polite, helpful and trying to cater for the patient's needs. If the patient can then book an appointment to fit in with their own schedule, the patient's journey has already got off to a good start.
On arrival at the practice, it is very important for the patient to be greeted and feel welcomed. This highlights just how valuable the reception staff can be. It is very important that the first members of the team, who make contact with the patient, should create a good impression.
They are there to assist the patient and need to keep them well informed (if the dentist is running late, for example). Coming to see the dentist is hard enough for most patients, so having friendly staff to create a relaxing environment, before entering the surgery, helps to create a good experience for the patient.
In the surgery
The correct protocols need to be in place to make sure this part of the patient's journey does not create a negative experience. All Health & Safety and cross infection control policies should be in place and adhered to, if they are not to be the subject of negative comments.
Once inside the surgery, each patient should feel equally important and should not be made to feel rushed. Time should be taken to listen to the patient carefully and effectively. Good communication skills are essential to ensure that the patient knows the dentist has heard and understood their problem(s). Patients need to understand the diagnosis, treatment options and costs before they can consent to treatment. Ask the patient whether they need any further information, or time to think about the options suggested. The process of providing treatment is also very important. The patient needs to be satisfied with the quality of the treatment they have received; ideally it should be a comfortable and pain free experience, since this will contribute to their recollection of the experience.
The patient's final contact will be with the reception team, as they book the next suitable appointment and perhaps settle their account.
Formal feedback should cover the whole of the patient's contact with the practice, from their first attempt to arrange an appointment. Feedback should cover, not just what happened, but how the patient was made to feel at every stage. All feedback should be discussed by the whole team at future staff meetings, so that all of them can contribute to any changes and improvements that need to be made. This may include discussions, further training or even taking the staff on on a course. Auditing the activity, which gave rise to an earlier complaint, provides a useful check on the progress of any improvements.
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