How Empathy & Compassion Reduce Patient Anxiety

patient satisfaction

Empathy and compassion work together in good dental practice to keep your patients super satisfied. When you create an environment that shows how much you and your team care about practicing empathy and compassion, patients will know they’re in good hands. Especially anxious patients! Take that extra step to display your best side, and you can significantly reduce patient anxiety and increase patient satisfaction. The outcomes are great for all—your patients will feel safe in your empathetic and compassionate hands, and you can provide the quality care they need. 

In this blog, we’ll explore the intertwined worlds of empathy, compassion, and anxiety and how, by better understanding these elements, you can reduce patient anxiety. Empathy and compassion are truly powerful tools for dentists to create a more supportive environment. When you prioritize emotional well-being, you can help alleviate anxiety and make every visit a more positive experience.

Here are some of the things we’ll cover when it comes to empathy, compassion, patient satisfaction, and tackling anxiety:

  • Active listening
  • Validating and recognizing difficult emotions
  • Information and education
  • Positive language 
  • Empathetic chairside manner
  • Creating a calming environment
  • Follow-up

Let’s get into it by starting with a review of why all this matters!

Educate yourself on anxiety for patient satisfaction

Dental anxiety affects 36 percent of the population. That makes it highly likely that you have an anxious or scared patient. Anxiety is considered a significant barrier to good dental health and can lead to specialty care, which isn’t any easier for patients to navigate. Make it simple right away by first understanding why people are afraid to visit the dentist.

Evidence shows that pain is a very common reason for dental anxiety, as is a fear of drills or needles. A visit to the dentist can also feel out of the patient’s control because they are stuck in the chair in a vulnerable position. Feeling like they can’t stop the procedure when they want is a big part of this vulnerability and fuels anxiety. Other common reasons include past traumatic experiences, learned behavior, fear of germs, or panic disorders.

By knowing what triggers a patient from this list of options (and beyond), you can tailor your appointments and communication to best suit their needs. This shows you are empathetic and compassionate toward their struggle! It can be hard for anxious people to articulate their fears and what they need, so start just by understanding why they are worried in the first place.

Here are some tips for getting the information you need:

  • Start small. A simple “Are you worried about visiting the dentist?” can start the conversation about anxiety.
  • Provide other ways to communicate. A list of common fears/triggers that a patient can choose from provides them with a toolkit to tell you what they need without working too hard to find the words.
  • Ask them what makes them feel better or more at ease, just in general.
  • Let them know they can always ask you to stop.

Why empathy and compassion matter for anxiety

Now that you’re more educated on anxiety and its underlying causes, it’s important to have a good grasp of empathy and compassion. How can these gestures help your patients, and why? Empathy and compassion help anxious patients and, in turn, increase patient satisfaction for a number of reasons.

Here are some ways empathy and compassion combat anxiety:

  • Validation of feelings: When you express empathy and compassion, you validate an anxious patient’s intense emotions. Knowing that their inner turmoil has been acknowledged can be comforting and relieving.
  • Reduces isolation: Show them they’re not alone through empathy and compassion! Create a connection and cut through feelings of isolation.
  • Reduces stress: Empathy and compassion trigger the release of oxytocin and other feel-good hormones in both the giver and the receiver. There’s a literal link in your brain between warm fuzzy feelings and compassionate behavior.
  • Trust & safety: This is so important for dentists. When your patients feel like you care for them, they will feel safer in your chair and at your practice.
  • Improves communication: By being empathetic and compassionate, you open new lines of communication, leading to increased understanding and problem-solving. Anxious people will respond by engaging in more productive conversations about their feelings and potential solutions.
  • Enhanced self-esteem: When your patients know you are empathetic and compassionate, they can be more sure and brave in the dental decision-making process. They will also feel more inclined to come back.

Empathy and compassion offer a range of emotional, psychological, and physiological benefits that significantly alleviate anxiety in your patients. Relaxed, calm patients are happy patients! That’s sure to mean increased patient satisfaction. Create a supportive and understanding environment through empathy and compassion. You’ll help individuals feel better overall, reduce their stress about their oral health, and help them build the emotional resources they need to manage their dental anxiety effectively.

How to implement empathy and compassion

OK, so you’ve got the lowdown on why patients may be scared, how to gain more information, and just why empathy and compassion are so important for alleviating anxiety. But how do you turn all that knowledge into tangible actions that will soothe patient anxiety and increase patient satisfaction? Let’s get into it.

There are three categories we’ll cover

  • Actions you can take to help patients
  • Resources you can provide to help patients help themselves
  • Systems you can use to help your practice and patients all at once

Actions you can take

Studies show how you communicate with your patients goes a long way. Being warm, personal, and understanding makes your patients more comfortable and willing to seek your care. Good communication is a key way you can show empathy and compassion.

Begin by practicing active listening, positive body language, and positive spoken language when you are communicating with anxious patients. Activepatient satisfaction listening and positive body language are subtle but powerful ways to show that you are invested in the conversation and want to help your patients seek calm during every one of their visits. It also demonstrates genuine interest and empathy. Go beyond hearing words when you practice active listening. 

This deep level of engagement and comprehension leads to great patient satisfaction. Positive spoken language is a bit more obvious but is a plain and straightforward way to put your patients at ease. Create an empathetic and compassionate environment through what you say and how you say it.

Active listening tips & tricks

  • Maintaining eye contact: Active listening means making and maintaining eye contact. This shows you are attentive and interested in what people are saying. Don’t stare! Keep it casual if you feel like your patient is uncomfortable.
  • Providing verbal encouragement: Cues like “I see,” “Tell me more,” and “I understand” encourage the speaker to continue to share.
  • Provide non-verbal encouragement: Smile and nod!
  • Avoid interrupting: Patiently wait for natural pauses or breaks in the conversation to ask clarifying questions or to share your own thoughts.
  • Minimal distractions: Active listeners minimize distractions for themselves and the speaker. Silence electronic devices, turn the music off or down, and give your full attention to the conversation. There may be some exceptions—such as allowing anxious patients to use fidget spinners or toys that help them get through a tough conversation.
  • Reflective responses: Show understanding, compassion, and empathy in how you respond. Paraphrasing and asking clarifying questions show you’ve listened, taken the information in, and now you want to delve deeper into your patient’s thoughts and feelings.
  • Ask open-ended questions: This encourages sharing. Try “What,” “How,” or “Tell me more about …”
  • No judgment: Refrain from making assumptions or evaluations about what your patients are telling you. This is a time for listening and listening only.
  • Being patient: Silence is OK! Give your patients time to express themselves, even if it means sitting silently for a few moments.

Active listening means giving your full attention to the speaker, showing empathy, and demonstrating your understanding and interest. This will build rapport and foster effective communication with your anxious patients. It’s a really powerful way to underline your commitment to empathy and compassion.

Positive body language tips and tricks

Positive body language looks like: 

  • Smiling
  • Open posture
  • Gentle touch when appropriate
  • Casual proximity
  • Mirror your patient’s body language
  • Nodding
  • Avoid pointing or finger-wagging
  • Avoid looking at your watch, checking your phone, or only staring at the computer screen
  • Good hygiene and professional appearance
  • Confident posture with shoulders back and head forward

Positive body language is an integral part of effective patient-provider communication, and it puts your worried patients at ease. You’ll impact their experience for the better to increase patient satisfaction and show them you’re compassionate and empathetic to their needs.

Resources you can provide to help patients help themselves

Anxious patients will appreciate any additional information or knowledge they can return to at a moment’s notice. Because it may be hard to remember everything you discussed in person, educational material is a great way to show you’re compassionate and empathetic about good communication and providing patients with resources. 

These goods give your patients the tools they need to navigate any anxious feelings. It’s like you’re holding their hand from afar. When they feel this kind of empathetic support, they will know they aren’t alone in their journey through dental anxiety. Patient satisfaction is sure to soar with this kind of reassurance.

Educational materials and resources

  • Digital and paper brochures and pamphlets: These can explain procedures, detail the importance of oral health, and give steps patients can take to reduce anxiety.
  • Websites and online resources: Recommend reputable websites or online support groups that you’ve vetted. Here patients can find support from like-minded people and info about cleaning and procedures.
  • Educational videos: YouTube is full of good content! You don’t even have to make it yourself. Share links directly on your website or over social media platforms.
  • Post-care instructions: Make these easy to access virtually or provide hard copies. These can all be customized to suit the patient’s specific needs and will give them detailed information to return to if they are worried.
  • Patient seminars or workshops: Topics could include anxiety management, the importance of dental hygiene, and more. Educate and engage your anxious patients effectively!
  • Virtual tours: Demystify the environment and allow patients to become familiar with the surroundings before they even step foot in your office.
  • Recommended readings: Books, articles, and self-help guides on dental anxiety and oral health empower patients.
  • Mobile apps: Meditation apps, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques can all be found online.
  • Patient testimonials: Sharing success stories for other anxious patients can be reassuring.

Provide customizable resources tailored to your patient’s individual needs and preferences to really show up with empathy and compassion. All this encourages communication and shows you want them to be empowered with all the knowledge necessary. Remain receptive to questions and concerns, and you’ll be well on your way to alleviating anxiety and enhancing the overall patient experience.

Systems for patient satisfaction

This third category is a bit of the miscellaneous category of little extra things you can do to show empathy and compassion toward your anxious patients. Small touches go a long way! Two of the most important systems you can implement are regular follow-ups and reviews, as well as creating a super calming environment.

Follow ups boost patient satisfaction

patient satisfactionFollow-up calls, texts, and emails let your patients know you are still thinking of them even after they leave. It’s also a good chance to just create a routine of communication so anxious patients feel heard and looked after. When they know you are expecting them and knowledgeable about what happened between appointments, they will be more committed to returning and also practicing great oral hygiene in the interim.

Follow-up is also your chance to ask for reviews and feedback. This feedback can be used to publicly show how great you are with anxious patients and give your private information about any changes you need to make. If you get a negative review, it’s actually a great opportunity to show your empathy and compassion! A phone call to an unhappy patient can reveal what went wrong and how you can avoid that at all costs. This personalized touch shows patients that you truly do care. And, next time, when their appointment goes great, they will have tangible evidence that you took their words into consideration and made real changes with them in mind.

Polish your look & feel

Having an awesome outward appearance in your dental practice also helps show empathy and compassion because it shows you want patients to be comfortable. Also, just having a nice space is a subtle but powerful way to put people at ease. When anxious patients are in a calming environment, they can navigate their worries better and communicate with you more clearly.

A great dental practice can include:

  • Plenty of plants
  • Up-to-date magazines in your waiting room
  • Fun toys, puzzles, or age-appropriate books for kids
  • Soothing music
  • A weighted blanket
  • Aromatherapy
  • Earplugs
  • Sunglasses
  • A TV for patients to watch during procedures

Make your practice a chill place, and patient satisfaction will skyrocket. Also, everyone will just be a whole lot happier to come to the dentist. A win for all involved!

Creating an empathetic and compassionate practice begins with focusing on patient satisfaction. But, more importantly, creating that environment at your practice can reduce patient anxiety. By creating a strategy focused on patient satisfaction, you can significantly reduce patient anxiety and give your patients a great experience.

How does Intiveo tie in?

Showing your empathy and compassion is paramount to reducing patient anxiety. When you communicate, educate, and listen to anxious patients, their worries will melt away. Happy patients mean an increase in patient satisfaction and better, more regular access to care for anxious individuals who may normally avoid your practice. When patients return time and again, your job becomes easier, and their visits are breezier. All this is made possible with a little help from Intiveo’s toolkit.

Use these powerful resources that are designed with dental practice success in mind.

  • Online educational resources
  • Automated follow-up, review prompts, and appointment reminders
  • Care and education via email and text
  • Real-time chat software

Intiveo makes it easier for you to practice empathy and compassion to the fullest. Help your anxious patients, build forever relationships, and watch your patients’ oral health thrive. All this means great outcomes for them and a booming business for you! Book a meeting today and learn more.