The Orthodontic Practice: Patient Experience, Culture, and Values

intivoe dentist shows xrays to patient

Why Patient Experience Matters

For the orthodontic practice, providing those great oral healthcare outcomes is of the utmost importance. This is an integral part of the patient experience. However, a lot goes into delivering a great patient experience that goes beyond the technical part of orthodontic care.

Your patients exist in a busy world, one constructed around treating them like a consumer. As a result, they are used to a high level of customer service. This is now becoming an expectation for healthcare providers as well. However, treating a patient like a consumer is not the answer either. Many people fear going to the dentist, so the patient experience has to be rooted in values.

This is where your core values and workplace culture come into play as part of the patient experience.

How Core Values Fit In

Of course, the core value of any orthodontic practice is to help your patients meet their oral health goals. But, what are your other core values? And how do they support the patient experience?

Core values are an integral part of any business. An orthodontic practice is, inevitably, a business as well as a healthcare provider. It’s important for your team to be on the same page about your core values. Identifying and leading from these values is what makes your practice a safe space for your patients. 

Consider this from the perspective of patient experience. We have known for a long time that patients value respect and dedication. Showing your patients that you care about them goes a long way. Integrating care and respect into your core values facilitates that positive patient experience. They are more likely to be happy about their oral healthcare outcome if they have felt respected throughout the process.

Part of that respect is informed decision-making. It takes a high level of skill and education to be an orthodontist. The orthodontist’s ability to provide insight into procedures is extremely valuable to the patient. They not only appreciate that you care enough to keep them informed, but they will also see your dedication to good oral health. This can look like:

  • Answering patients’ questions to the best of your ability
  • Listen to any concerns they have about their oral health
  • Provide adequate information for them to make an informed decision about their care

Focusing your core values around respect and dedication allows you to build a positive culture at your practice. Creating that positive experience for your patients is a key part of running a successful practice.

How to Find the Right Core Values

Having the right core values for your practice benefits the patient experience in a number of ways. One key way is that your team knows what the expectations are for the kind of service they should provide.

Fostering a good culture at your practice, in fact, starts with your staff. We have all been to a healthcare provider or place of business where we can tell that the staff are miserable. We can tell partly because of how we, the patient or customer, are treated. An unhappy member of your team will struggle to provide a good patient experience.

Work culture and core values are very intertwined. As we’ve noted, core values allow you to define expectations. It gives your team something to aim at.

But how do you arrive at those core values? Some things to consider are:

  • What matters most to my practice? 
  • What matters most to my patients?
  • How do I want my patients to feel about my practice?

It can be challenging to find the answers to those questions. Remember, that with an orthodontic practice, procedures can seem intimidating or complicated to your patients. For this reason, an important core value for orthodontic practices in particular is transparency. Since these procedures can be a big undertaking for the patient. Nobody enjoys wearing braces! This is why accountability is an important part of the patient experience. As we’ve identified already, patients also value respect and dedication.

It’s all well and good to have these aims for your core values. But it also matters that you consistently apply them. Your patients will notice if they have a great experience at your practice one day, but then a less pleasant one the next. For this reason, consistency is a key value to consider, too.

Workplace Culture at the Orthodontic Practice

Intiveo receptionist and patient talk and desk

Let’s talk about workplace culture and the patient experience. At an orthodontic practice, the procedures are complex and intricate. There can be a lot of pressure to get things right and to serve your patients well.

That’s partly why workplace culture is so important. This pressure could so easily become the basis for a stressful work environment. 

If you are framing your workplace culture around values such as respect, dedication, and transparency, your workplace culture will reflect that. There are some simple ways to have this become part of the patient experience, including:

  • Building the right team. Finding the right employees to truly embody those values and connect with patients is essential. Your hiring process should facilitate the creation of your team. Not only does your staff need to be good at the technical parts of their job, but they also need to be people who will place value on the experience of the patient.
  • Keep the well-being of the patient in mind. Well-being goes beyond good oral care. Well-being also encompasses the mental health of the patient. While they are in the care of your staff, showing that you have their best interests at heart will inspire safety and credibility.
  • Remembering patients’ names! It may seem obvious, but one simple thing to prioritize is just to remember your patients’ names. This single action can make a patient feel like they are an important part of your practice. This is important between employees, too – remembering each others’ names is essential for a cohesive team.

Whether your practice is big or small, prioritizing a good workplace culture has many benefits. Your patients will notice if your team is happy in their work environment. Provide your staff with the tools to serve patients well! 

Making the Patient Experience Work

Creating a good patient experience is not an easy undertaking. There is a lot to balance: the financial needs of your practice, the time to deliver great oral healthcare outcomes, and the emotional needs of both staff and patients. Creating this experience can be time-consuming.

For this reason, it’s important to consider ways that your staff can save time. This gives them the opportunity to focus on their delivery of a great patient experience. Identify inefficiencies in your team’s tasks. For example:

  • Your staff is mostly filing things manually.
  • Your staff contacts patients almost entirely by phone.
  • Your patient return forms either in hard copy or by emailing a picture of hard copy forms.

You want your team to feel resourced enough to participate in a positive workplace culture. This means giving them the tools to succeed.

One tool might be to automate some of these tasks. A lot of practices might be concerned that this means delivery of your core values becomes sloppy. But this doesn’t have to be the case!

For example, think about preparing a busy parent to bring in their child to get braces. What kind of pre-appointment instructions does this need? Or forms? With the right type of patient communication software, such as we can provide at Intiveo, you can accomplish the following:

  • Automatically send personal communications, using the patient’s (or parent/guardian’s name) name
  • Send forms by email that are specific to their appointment, that can be filled out online without the risk of them being lost or illegible.
  • Send reminders and instructions by the patient’s preferred method of communication, probably eliminating that high volume of phone calls.

These tools allow your staff to stay true to their core values. They treat the patient with respect, while also being able to execute their tasks more efficiently.

The Patient Experience at Your Orthodontic Practice

Appointment Reminder

Building a workplace culture and a set of core values will support your staff in providing a great patient experience. Prioritizing core values that support a positive patient experience is key. Respect, dedication, transparency, accountability, and consistency are just some of the values that can lead to great patient experience outcomes. We wish you luck in fostering a great workplace culture!