What Every Oral Surgery Practice Needs In Order To Be Effective.
Patrick Fischer, Creative Director
If no one is talking about your practice, there might be something you could change. Often times extremely talented and intelligent providers are confused why they aren’t generating more patients. The truth is, the patient isn’t as aware as you are when it comes to your craft. Sometimes, an effort needs to be put forth towards things that might appear superficial or excessive. But doctors have an obligation to meet the lay-person where they’re at, and it isn’t always in the operatory. Take a look at the list below and see where you may be falling short.
What every Oral Surgery Practice needs in order to be effective:
Patient’s are not interested in compromising quality when it comes to their health. This is why medical providers have such an academic background in order to safely provide the best possible care. However, that credibility goes beyond the doctor’s hands. People want to feel it in every aspect of a practice, even down to the pictures on the website. When a consumer doesn’t know the difference between two side by side products, they default on a gut reaction. Which one has the strongest presence? Which one seems to be the most relatable? Which one, if either, makes me feel like I won’t be disappointed? Brand identity is intended to draw people in, enticing them with positive feelings and promising how great they can expect their experience to be. For many industries, it’s a way to make sure that you are working with your ideal customer (or patient, in this case). Branding can help to not only bring the right ones in, but keep the wrong ones out. We call them quality conversions, people who share beliefs with an organization and enhance the brand by being an advocate for you and your work. Creating an intentional image helps build trust in prospective patient, and reinforces the attitudes of the patients you already have.
Rarely is this a priority for practices. Sometimes we forget how little someone may know about the procedures they’re undergoing, or maybe we think people don’t care. A patient might be soft-spoken, or maybe apathetic. Whatever the factors may be, even if a patient doesn’t ask, never underestimate the power of education. Dentists and Oral Surgeons generally have some of the highest attainable degrees, and the public views practitioners as almost an authority figure. Not always intimidating, but certainly someone to take seriously and look to for advice. In that situation, it’s valuable to begin thinking like a leader. Sometimes, a dental visit or surgical operation can be stressful for a patient, but having a basic understanding of exactly what’s happening and why it’s happening can help shift the relationship. When a patient feels as though they are operating with a partner, as opposed to an authority, they feel themselves empowered, and a mutually positive experience is more likely to occur.
Often times, dental procedures aren’t fun. People go to the dentist or Oral Surgeon because the have to, not because they want to, which can leave very little room for an overwhelmingly positive experience. However, practices are run by people, and people can make the difference between an amazing experience and a miserable one. In hospitality, they use the 10-5 Rule, which states that if an employee is within 10 feet of a customer, they should make eye contact and smile. If they are within 5 feet of the customer, there needs to be a sincere greeting or friendly gesture of acknowledgement in addition to the eye contact and smile. Patients don’t usually stumble into staff in a dentist’s office, but the idea is clear. When employees are taking care to provide an outstanding patient experience, they need to behave like they want the patient there, and that they know that the patient is receiving the best possible care. When you are a provider, it’s easy to get caught up on “talking shop” and sticking to the task at hand. But trust is established through more than competence, and it’s important that there is an attempt at a human to human relationship, or something that goes the extra mile. Sometimes patients need to feel inspired to share with friends and family how great their experience was. What if you made it your goal to accomplish just that? How can your staff help accomplish that? First impressions are vital, which brings me to #4:
This may be a no-brainer, but medicine is developing every day, with new tools becoming more efficient and innovative than ever. Case in point, the current trend is for general dentists to try their hand at procedures typically reserved for oral surgeons. This would never had been possible without technological advancements that are taking medical techniques that once required a “steady hand” and making them fool proof. Technology is always going to continue to change and adjust to make things easier and cheaper, and patients take notice when one practice is nicer than the next. It’s not always about new devices though. Waiting rooms are typically the first and last impression of an office, and having a dynamic experience oriented towards taking the “waiting” out of “waiting room” can get the positive vibes started as soon as someone steps in the room. This list curated by The Healthy Practice does an excellent job at not only describing the literal approaches a practice can use, but also expresses the overall tone that should be attained. Once I went to a dentist office and there had been water damage from the winter prior. His windowsills were literally bowing from the the damage, and there was an unmistakable musty smell throughout. Sometimes it helps to understand not only what people expect from an office, but also anticipate what will create a satisfying experience before the patient has to inform you of it. Nobody will feel a quality of medical care in place that damp and stinky, and it’s not the practice’s responsibility to accommodate the patient, not the other way around.
If anything has become apparent through this list, it should be that people prefer their providers to be caring. That a doctor who earnestly desires their patients wellbeing will be substantially more successful than the one who neglects simple and basic courtesy. But one tool that can create possibly the most memorable patient experience might be the one that happens when the patient isn’t in the office. I’m referring to follow-up, and it doesn’t always have to be phone call after an intensive surgery. If you want your patients to become evangelists for your practice, you have to make them feel special. Everyone wants to be on the “inside” of a brand or organization, and taking small steps to make them feel included is an excellent way to help create referrals. Sending a friendly text, engaging outside of work, remembering a detail like birthdays, or something that they told you about their life are all things that can help enhance that relationship. The reality of the health care provider is that people are often in vulnerable positions when in your care. By reminding them that you like them and appreciate their business even when they are least expecting it can create a foundation that will last for years.
If you feel like you’re not sure if something will enhance or detract from the patient experience, ask yourself these two questions:
- Is this benefiting the relationship?
- Is this making me seem more transparent?
If you answer “yes” to both of those, chances are you’re on the right track. The patient to provider relationship is complex, and never static. But without trust, you can’t run a practice. Providing the best possible care and having a thriving practice shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. People want to be a part of something, and if you let them, that’s all the marketing you’ll ever need.