As a pediatric dentist, you play a special role in your patients’ lives! The way you interact with your patients today can affect their feelings about dental care (and trust in medical caregivers) for years to come. That’s one of the key reasons why the patient experience is so important in pediatric dentistry. You likely got into this field because you enjoy working with children. So, we know you want to take care to ensure their experiences are as positive as they can be.
The basics of patient experience can include:
- As we’ve noted, consistent, clear communication
- Communicating between appointments by the method that your patient prefers, such as text, phone, or email
- Offering the patient empathy, including active listening
- Adhering to your practice’s values
- Maintaining consistent communication between appointments
- Ensuring any instructions for your patients’ ongoing care are easy to access
Of course, there are some things that will be specific to the patient experience for child patients.
Here are a few simple ways to make sure that your patients, (and their parents), feel comfortable at your practice- and keep returning for years to come!
#1: A Personal Touch is Essential to the Patient Experience
Asking easy questions of your young patient can bring you two benefits: they feel more comfortable talking about things that they are familiar with or excited about, and you get some insight into their personality. Make note of significant details so you can connect comfortably- what sports do they play? Do they have siblings? What class in school are they enjoying?
You can form bonds by sharing how you relate to the things they tell you: do you have kids in your life of a similar age? Do you enjoy the sports they’re playing? It’s a simple way to connect and gives you subjects to follow up on at their next visit.
Of course – throughout their appointment, tell them how great they are doing! If they are getting praised, they’re more likely to settle in and be more comfortable with the procedure.
#2: Decorate and Compensate
A sure-fire way to make kids feel more comfortable in your practice is to decorate in a way that is engaging for them. In your waiting area, include fun bold art in bright colors. Have non-fragile toys on the ground, accessible for play.
There is a lot of evidence that if healthcare provider’s offices are pleasant to go into, the patient will have a positive experience. It’s no different for children!
At the end of appointments, provide a “treat” for their good behavior. Be sure to discuss this with the parents in advance of offering a treat – although most will feel positive about this, some may have mixed feelings. Small toys, stickers, and pencils are all fun take-homes that make kids feel like they’ve won the jackpot every time they visit the dentist! This helps them learn that your practice is a fun, safe place.
#3: Communicate Your Actions
Clear communication is very important to the patient experience. Plus, it’s great for setting anyone at ease – especially kids. Explain what you’re doing as you move through their checkup or procedure, and if you can, explain why you’re doing it.
Remember, before your patient and their parent(s) have even set foot in the dental office, many parents will have been diligently reading articles about how to make their kids more comfortable in going to the dentist. They’ve been explaining what will happen all the way along and offering positive reinforcement. If the dentist is also offering explanations as you go along, that will build on the parents’ work. It will also affirm that they have been supporting their children in the right way.
Let them know what feelings they might expect as you go. Knowledge is power!
#4: Don’t Sugarcoat It
This applies to both your patients and their parents. You have to provide healthcare and the best possible professional recommendations. So, if you have a patient that is not taking steps to ensure their dental health, tell them what they need to be doing, and what the consequences might be if they don’t. Tell the primary caregiver as well, but the intent is, to be honest, and authoritative, while not mean or bossy. Emphasize that you and your patient are partners in their health, but the patient has the biggest part to play in their success.
#5: Friendly Follow-up
A few days after the appointment, follow up to check in on how the patient is feeling after their appointment and to see if they have any follow-up questions. Provide them with the instructions for continuing care. This can be done on a case-by-case basis, or with tools like Intiveo, which can be automated and customized as part of your standard messaging.
Finally, schedule regular reminders when recalls are coming due – acknowledging the difficult parts of the calendar like back-to-school time, holidays, etc., so your patients and their families can plan for their regular care.
Taking Care of Patient & Parent
So much of making anyone more comfortable comes down to clear and kind communication. This is such an important part of the patient experience! If you take the time to connect with your patients on a one-to-one basis and show that you care about their feelings about visiting the dentist, we’re sure you’ll have a committed patient for years to come!
Plus, you’re all the more likely to be rewarded with many referrals to other families. Parents who feel that their children are being treated well can be some of your staunchest advocates!
Intiveo has been proud to support many dental practices. We offer a number of resources to help you tackle the key issues facing your practice.Plus, we have been proud to partner with pediatric practices! Kitsilano Family Dental offers great feedback about how Initveo elevated their practice, including a 70% form completion rate.
Curious to learn more about how Intiveo can support pediatric practices? Book a meeting today!