As one of the essential services permitted to remain open since the first lockdown, dental practices have been welcoming back more and more patients over the past few months and safety has naturally been the number-one concern.
However, now that COVID-secure safety procedures are firmly embedded, practices find themselves in a position to be able to once again widen the breadth of treatments they can offer. The question now is whether your practice is offering a high enough level of patient care, to keep your patients loyal?
What does it take?
Although always an essential factor, it has long been recognised that excellent patient care is not just about safety. Many practices that have tended to equate good patient care with clinical excellence have had to re-evaluate their perceptions, recognising that satisfactory clinical outcomes are no longer enough to qualify as first-rate patient care.
In 2008 the NHS definition of ‘quality’, published in the Department of Health’s High Quality Care for All1, outlined 3 dimensions that must be present in order to provide a high-quality service; clinical effectiveness, safety and patient experience. This definition went on to be enshrined in legislation through the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
And of course, the Care Quality Commission’s five key lines of enquiry, which inspectors use to assess quality, probe into whether dental services are not only safe, but also effective, caring, responsive and well-led.
So, aside from excellent clinical care and regulatory compliance, what are patients now looking for from their dentist?
Accessible and convenient
Accessibility is an essential element of good patient care. Patients should be able to access dental advice and treatment easily and this is most effectively achieved through an efficiently run appointment book that allows time for short-notice emergency appointments, as well as routine and pre-booked treatments.
In a world where customers expect to be able to access services 24/7, it’s important to provide convenient ways for your patients to book appointments out of hours. An online booking facility on your website that sends confirmation of booking back to the patient, along with detailed information on all the services your practice offers, will satisfy the expectations of patients who demand an immediate response from the services they engage with.
Patients will also value automatic reminders, recalls and other timely communications to prompt them to access dental care.
Efficient and reassuring
Minimising social contact and spending the minimum amount of time in your practice remain important priorities for patients as the pandemic continues and regulations remain in place.
There are many ways of achieving this goal, including remote form filling via a patient portal, which updates patient records and provides access to consents online, at home before entering the practice premises.
Providing remote check-in facilities using a QR code will also reduce contact when patients arrive and ensuring that you run on time will keep waiting to a minimum, not to mention making your patients feel valued and well looked after.
After the appointment, instant communication between the surgery, front desk and contactless payment facilities will speed up departure and the booking of follow-up care.
A smooth patient journey
To provide a high standard of care, it’s important to make patients feel supported and looked after throughout their entire journey with you. So, from their first contact online, through their visit and treatment, right through to post-treatment follow-up, patient care matters and should be front of mind when thinking about every point of patient interaction.
Achieving a seamless practice workflow is best accomplished using dental software which joins up every aspect of your practice, including website, appointment book, patient records, treatment plans, payments, email, texts and marketing. Dental software is now so sophisticated that it affords practices numerous opportunities to make efficiencies and streamline processes, which in turn create a smooth, convenient and reassuring patient journey for patients. Combine that with excellent clinical care, and there should be no reason for your patients to look elsewhere.
1 High Quality Care for All: NHS Next Stage Review Final Report, Department of Health, June 2008.