Expert Insights

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01st December 2015

Person Centred Care

CQC Regulation (9) is concerned about the Patient-Centred nature of care provision. Whilst it’s difficult to argue that dental treatment could be anything but entirely person-centred as every clinical prescription is a direct response to individual patient’s oral health needs. However, the quality of the clinical care provided is not the whole story. In fact, the non-clinical aspects of patient’s care are most often what patients base their impressions of the quality of their care upon.

For patients the person-centred aspects of their care are linked to the convenience of the appointments available to them, dental practices all over the UK now offer early morning, late night and weekend appointments. These appointments are particularly sort after in orthodontic practices, as schools place increasing pressure on pupils and parents not to take appointments during school hours. Patients need appointments at times to suit their schooling and work responsibilities.

Balance of opening hours

It is the prerogative of practice owners to set their opening hours. It is, however, prudent to do this after careful consideration of the impact the hours set will have on everyone concerned. If the opening hours are not suitable for patients, they will become confrontational toward staff, and it the working hours are not suitable for staff you will find it difficult to attract and retain them. Employers need to balance needs based on the fact that dental teams cannot keep on giving more and more, weighed against patients comparing the dental services provided by small family practices with those of the large corporate, high street health care providers and with the medical profession, whose contractual requirements to offer more out-of-hours appointments have recently been high in the new agenda.

As dental teams become larger, there is the scope to increase opening hours without increasing the working hours of individual dental professionals. Every dental business should review its operations on a regular basis to ensure they are providing optimum levels of care for patients and employees alike. To take the business forward they need to recognise the needs they should meet by gathering the views of those concerned and using them pro-actively to strike a happy balance. What does your practice do to strike this balance?

What patients want

Research indicates that in general the purchasers of dental services have a strong preference toward being regarded as ‘patients’ rather than as ‘customers’. For this reason the term ‘patient’ will be the preferred language in this text.

Most businesses have exactly the same aim – to make money. The way to achieve this is to satisfy patients. Good customer care creates a satisfied patient base. Satisfied patients make repeat visits and success follows.

Non-clinical patient care has two main functions:

  • To ensure that we satisfy the patient.
  • To identify and correct shortcomings in our services swiftly.

The development of quality non-clinical patient care measures requires you to:

  • Recognise the needs of staff and patients.
  • Define what needs to be done to meet those needs.
  • Plan the procedures and services to meet the needs identified.
  • Develop team skills and understanding of team and patients’needs.
  • Measure results.

Excellent non-clinical patient service

Patients immediate impressions when arriving at a modern practice with audio visuals in the waiting area, a clean, light and bright reception area at which a friendly approachable receptionist waits to greet them can be the first step in rewriting patients’ internal scripts about dental visits by providing them with a good impression: meeting the needs and exceeding their expectations and making them feel welcome, excited and valued.

Customer service is crucial to the growth of any business. If patients do not get the service that they desire they will go somewhere else. We can all play a role in delivering excellent patient service, for example.

First impressions count 

The first impression sets the stage for the ‘patient experience’. The first impression can come from a phone call, an email, or a visit to the practice. Make sure you reach out to patients, introduce yourself, be positive and be willing to listen to them.

Human contact  

Email can be a convenient way to communicate with patients, but don’t hide behind email. Many patients still prefer to talk with you, so be willing to pick up the phone and return phone calls.

Treat patients how you would like to be treated in their place  

It’s the golden rule – do unto others as you would be done by. Be sure that you treat patients with the same respect and courtesy that you would like to encounter. When a patient leaves the practice ask yourself: “If I were treated like that, would I return?”

Be proactive  empathise 

Don’t just wait until someone asks you for help, be willing to be proactive and ask your patients how you may be of service to them.

It’s not what you say it’s the way that you say it! 

This is true whether it’s a phone call or a conversation in person; make sure that you keep your tone friendly yet professional. We can often come across as having been interrupted, disturbed or angry just by the tone of our response. Always smile when responding, this will ensure that your tone comes across as pleasant and helpful.

Be willing to find the answers to patients’ questions 

Patients deserves solutions for their questions and concerns and it’s important to always be honest, but never say “I don’t know” unless you follow it with “However, I will find out for you.”

Own up to mistakes 

Mistakes happen. We will never be 100 per cent perfect, so always be willing to own up to your mistakes, apologise and rectify the situation. Let the patient know that you will take care of them, reassure them so that they are willing to return in the future.

Glenys Bridges – QCS Expert Dental Contributor

Topics: Dentists

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