Building Your Patient Engagement Relationship
Patient engagement can feel like a mysterious process, at times. As a dental practice, of course you want your patients to be engaged. You want them to come prepared for appointments, to give you great Google reviews, and to be loyal patients for your practice.
But, to achieve this, the lead has to come from your practice. Creating a solid patient engagement strategy allows for that to take place.
Of course, it’s not always clear what the right elements are to create that strategy. A lot of practices try a lot of different strategies without really knowing what they are aiming at.
Engagement is built on communication. If you do not communicate well with your patients, that engagement is going to be lacking. Overcoming communication challenges is a key part of the equation. But where do you start?
The answer is foundational to all good relationships, both professional and personal: trust.
Trust, Authenticity, Logic
It may seem obvious to say ‘your patients should be able to trust your practice’. Of course you want your patients to trust you! Creating a patient engagement strategy built on trust sounds great – but what does that look like in practice?
Building trust with your patients is a lot like building trust with employees, in the sense that it’s important to trust that they know themselves best. With an employee, that may look like trusting them to manage their workload, manage their mental health in the workplace, and take on projects that will benefit a team. Indeed, employees who work in companies with a high-trust environment experience 74% less stress!
What can we extrapolate from this for your patients?
While patients are, obviously, not your employees, they are nonetheless your partners in their oral health outcome. They are stakeholders. So, it’s important to meet them where they’re at, including:
- Listening to their concerns
- Trusting that they are describing any issues to the best of their abilities
- Asking for clarifications so that you understand their issue
In trusting your patients, you inspire them to trust you. But, inspiration is not all. It is important to involve your patients in your decision-making about their health. Showing them the logic that you use to recommend procedures or treatments will go a long way towards putting them at ease. It allows you to show your expertise, and that the patient is in good hands.
In addition to logic, authenticity also plays a role in building trust with patients. We are not always encouraged to show up as our authentic selves in our workplaces. But, this is an integral part of building rapport with your patients. This can be as simple as chatting about last night’s hockey game or asking after a patient’s kids.
Overcoming the Language Barrier
Of course, a foundational part of patient engagement is communication. One of the challenges of communication is the language barrier.
Part of meeting patients where they are at is finding a way to communicate with them even if you do not speak the same language. Of course, it is not reasonable to expect every healthcare provider to understand every language. But, it is also unethical not to provide great health care to every patient, regardless of what language they speak.
In creating that trusting relationship with patients, it is important to consider ways that communication across a language barrier is possible. Many healthcare providers are linked with interpreters in order to overcome this challenge.
However, this is not feasible for every practice, so what can you do? Some suggestions might include:
- Can you use visual aids or physical cues to communicate what you’re saying?
- Can you learn a few basic sentences, like, ‘how are you today’, ‘hello’, ‘point to where it hurts’?
- Do your patients have a member of their family who can come to support them at their appointment?
- If members of your staff speak more than one language, how can they be made available to assist patients without putting extra labor into their workday?
Again, patient engagement is built on established trust and communication. Making even a small effort of this kind with your patients will go a long way to establishing that trust. And, to keeping those lines of communication open!
The Benefits of Patient Engagement
How can establishing trust with patients lead to better outcomes for your practice? Having a solid patient engagement strategy built on trust can benefit your practice in several ways. And, the benefits may not be quite what you expect! Truly, it can benefit your practice very comprehensively, for example:
Improved Satisfaction Levels: Patients report that they have an improved satisfaction level when they trust their healthcare provider. Indeed, even if the health outcome isn’t what they were hoping for, they will still have more patience with the outcome if they trust their provider.
Better Treatment Outcomes: When the lines of communication are open with your patients, you are able to get a better picture of their health. This in turn allows you to provide them with better treatment.
Increased Referrals: When your patients are happy with their experience at your practice, they become advocates for your practice! Practices see an increased amount of referrals when they have a great communication relationship with their patients.
Patient Loyalty: Happy patients keep choosing your practice. It’s as simple as that! Establishing that trusting relationship with your patients keeps your practice as their top choice. They know that they will come into a respectful environment that prioritizes their oral health.
Better Financial Outcomes: As we have discussed previously on this blog, dental practices have to balance being healthcare providers with running a business. It is important that your practice meets its bottom line. Patients that refer other patients and are loyal to the practice make that a reality. Overall, better financial outcomes help with improved quality at the practice. It allows you to invest in better technology and software. This kind of investment allows you to have a more efficient practice as well.
Get started on your patient engagement strategy today!
How Software Plays a Role
So. You know that you need to build trust with your patients. You know the benefits of patient engagement.
What now? How do you implement this?
As we’ve noted, your patients are busy. So is your staff!
Finding a way for your staff to increase efficiency will also serve your patients. Again, it comes back to trust. Patients want to trust that you have their best interests at heart. One of the best ways to show this is that you value their time.
What are some concrete ways that this can look?
- Having a messaging cadence that reflects the needs of your patients – do they need an appointment reminder? a follow-up message with after-care instructions?
- Giving them the option between text, email, or phone for communications
- Not inundating them with unnecessary info. Keep your messaging professional and relevant.
Finding a patient engagement software that can offer these features can be key to both patient and staff satisfaction.
At Intiveo, this is something we know a bit about. Our software is built around the principles of good communication with your patients. To give you a good sense of what you can expect from patient communication software, here is what our software has to offer:
- Automated messaging that is customizable by appointment type
- The ability to personalize communication with your patients, including the medium, such as text, email, or phone
- Software that is specific to your type of practice, such as OMS, periodontic, orthodontic, and more
- Options in languages other English, including Spanish
- A user-friendly interface for your staff
- A customer-facing team that supports your staff with onboarding and training
At Intiveo, we know that you want to prioritize the communication relationship that you have built with your patients. Interested in learning more? Book a meeting today!
Starting On Your Journey
Centering trust, authenticity, and logic in your patient communication can lead to great outcomes! Building your patient engagement strategy around these elements will open the door to many benefits for your practice. What you see when your patients trust you, is improved satisfaction levels, better treatment outcomes, patient loyalty, and more.
We wish you a successful patient engagement journey!