This study looked in detail at the patient journey and found that: “for most participants [this] involved feelings of trepidation and anxiety in the lead-up to the appointment.” It went on to state that, “Much can be done to set patients at ease through good communication and friendly and relaxed staff.”
While plenty has been achieved since 2009 in regards to improving the patient experience, many practices could still benefit from addressing the fundamental communication issues that lie at the heart of the patient journey. After all, whichever business model your practice follows, whether Private, Mixed, NHS or multi-practice, the key aim will be to increase sales and profitability, and at the centre of that is the patient journey. This is what keeps your patients coming back or encourages them to attend your practice in the first place.
So by understanding your patient journey, looking at each stage in turn – and clearly communicating it to your patients – you will naturally create a more successful practice. Some do this extremely well, while others are far less consistent. For instance, a practice that has taken into account their patient journey might have a clear description on their website, detailing everything from first contact right through to aftercare and follow-ups.
This approach empowers patients with the foreknowledge of what to expect. Which in turn creates more and better quality leads, happier patients who appreciate you and are easier to serve and a more efficient business where you can cope with increased patient numbers without the need for more team members.
This might all seem too good to be true; it isn’t – but it does take a lot of hard work to achieve and is not an overnight project. Central to it all is understanding your own patient journey, providing clear communication and enhancing and enriching the patient experience.
What is the patient journey?
The patient journey comprises everything from the first visit to your website to any treatment itself and beyond. It covers every interaction or point of contact between patient and practice and is impacted by everything you do, this includes:
· Phone calls (in and out bound)
· Communications by post
· Text messages
· The service provided in reception
· Interactions with the dentists and associates
· Interactions with the dental nurses and treatment co-ordinators
· Posters, advertising, leaflets
· The content of your website
· Follow-ups post treatment and aftercare.
In order to get to grips with your patient journey and understand how this affects your patients and their decisions, it is crucial to analyse each interaction, deciding what you want those exchanges to say about your practice and what the desired outcome of each is.
To get this right you will need to focus on your brand and consider exactly what it stands for. You might decide your brand is clinical and professional, or friendly and welcoming, but whatever message you want to deliver must be consistent throughout each and every interaction; from the tone of voice to the way your practice is described.
Each point of contact will likely have a slightly different key message, so it is also vital that this is clearly communicated. For instance an email sent to a prospective patient should have a very different message and content to that of a phone call to arrange a follow-up.
Whatever the message, medium or content of your interactions, it is crucial that each one works to build trust in your practice and services.
Most dental patients don’t understand what they’re buying – they know their teeth hurt, or they look bad, but they don’t understand how to make the right choice. This means you have to assure them they can trust your practice and every member of your team.
To do that you need to be consistent: have the same branding everywhere, with every communication to the same standard, and all the team in the same uniform. You must be accurate, having the correct pricing on every document, good spelling and grammar, and their paperwork ready when they come in. You also need to be up-to-date – not having pictures of old team members on the website; and provide all the necessary details when asked, explaining exactly what’s going to happen, and what the differences between treatment options are.
Once you’ve spent time considering and designing your patient journey, looking at the ways you build trust and communicate with your patients, you will need to find the best way to implement these changes. This is where turning to a proven solution can help. 7connections, along with software giant Infusionsoft can assist your practice in implementing the ideal patient journey using the much-discussed Artisan Lifecycle Marketing approach. A marketing and lead generation system, it addresses the patient journey from start to finish, so that you can begin to grow your business through increased efficiency, higher productivity and more satisfied patients.
A strong patient journey is one of the most fundamental aspects of creating a successful practice. By spending time focusing on how your patients experience your practice from start to finish, you will ensure the service you provide is always of the highest calibre.
Alternatively, please visit the new website www.7connections.com.
 The Patient Perspective, 2009. Available at: http://www.gdc-uk.org/Aboutus/policy/Documents/RevalidationThePatientPerspective.pdf [accessed 29.4.15]