Is your dental practice suffering from frequent communication breakdowns? Miscommunications aren’t something to shrug off. They can frustrate staff members, cause confusion and reduce productivity. They can even endanger patients’ health and safety. Consider these frightening facts:
- Poor communication is a contributing factor in 80% of all medical errors.
- Some 30% of all medical malpractice suits are caused by miscommunication.
How can you reduce miscommunication in your dental practice? Follow these tips.
Prioritize good communication. Provide training to enhance your team’s communication skills. Include communication skills in your employee review process so your staff can work on improving in this area.
Focus on clarity. Emphasize the importance of conveying information clearly. For instance, teach employees to be direct and concise when making a request. Type documents instead of handwriting them to reduce the chance of misinterpretation. If you don’t understand something, ask a question to clarify it. Repeating the speaker’s words back to them in your own words can ensure accurate understanding. According to the ADA, nearly one-third of dentists have hearing problems, so it’s easy for background noise to compromise clarity.
Involve everyone. A dentist who gives the impression they’re too busy to be bothered may intimidate hygienists or front desk staff from bringing up problems or communicating in a timely fashion. Remind employees to save non-urgent communications for slower times of day but emphasize that no one is too busy to stop and listen when there’s an urgent matter at hand.
Use automation to streamline patient communication. Don’t rely on a handwritten list or sticky notes to make sure you notify patients when their next appointment is due. Lighthouse 360 can automatically remind patients when they’re due for a visit, send appointment confirmations and reminders, and more. Want to keep patients up to date on bigger news? Use Lighthouse 360 to create email newsletters and send them to targeted patient lists.
Tailor your communications to the individual. Learn how your employees prefer to take in information so you can communicate in a way that suits them. For instance, some people take in information verbally, but others need to see it written down in order to comprehend. Let your patients choose how they prefer to hear from you—such as by phone call, email or text. Using their preferred communication method makes them more likely to pay attention to your messages. You can use Lighthouse 360 to send communications in all of these formats.
Take your time. Allow enough time to communicate effectively with patients during their visits. Throughout the visit, from X-rays to hygiene and dental exams, the provider should ask patients if they’re experiencing any problems, clearly communicate the treatment options and explain what they’re doing. After the treatments, provide directions for post-visit care and give the patient time to ask questions. (This can be especially important when you’re dealing with difficult patients.)
Reinforce key verbal communications in writing. Putting important communications in writing can help avoid any confusion. Here are some examples of how to do this:
- After a root canal, verbally explain post-root-canal care to the patient. Then give them a written handout or send them a follow-up text with the same information.
- If a patient shows interest in a cosmetic procedure you mention, send a follow-up email with more details. (It’s easy to customize your emails using Lighthouse 360.)
- After a staff meeting, put the key points you want employees to remember in writing by sending a company-wide memo or email.
- Instead of telling employees what to focus on, give them a checklist of daily tasks. The Front Desk Task List feature in Lighthouse 360 reviews each day’s schedule and automatically generates Smart Recommendations for tasks that need completion. You can review the list, assign tasks to employees and track when tasks are completed. (Get more tips on how to use checklists to make your practice more efficient.)
Communicate online. When you don’t respond to patients’ posts or comments on social media and ignore their reviews of your practice online review sites, you’re communicating a lack of caring. By simplifying the process of managing your social media, your website and your online reviews, Lighthouse 360 helps keep your online presence current and make the most of the communication that takes place online.
Considering adding new technology to improve office communication? Here are some factors to think about when choosing new technology for a dental office.