How Dental Practices can Improve Employee and Patient Satisfaction Through Digital Transformation
For many, a trip to the dentist inspires trepidation, even if it’s just for a routine check-up. Despite that, patient satisfaction is an important and often understated facet of dental clinical care. It’s a metric the NHS fastidiously monitors, with 84.3 percent of patients describing their care as positive in the last patient survey, published in March of last year.
Here’s the logic behind it: if a patient is happy with their treatment, they’re more inclined to engage proactively with a service, which is good for their long-term dental health. They’ll stick to treatment plans, and make regular appointments.
Patient satisfaction is the product of a number of factors: from appointment availability, to the ability and bedside manner of the dental practitioner. Digital transformation can also play a major role, improving access to treatments and making visits more efficient than previously thought possible.
Lessons from the world of business
While there isn’t much data on how digital transformation improves patient satisfaction within a dental context, we can look at wider evidence about how consumers respond to digital transformation at large, which apply equally to businesses and clinical environments. Data from Salesforce Research published in 2018 show an appetite for “connected journeys,” with 70 per cent of consumers describing smooth, digital processes as important to them.
How would this work in a clinical context? It makes sense to look at things from a more holistic perspective, encompassing the entire lifecycle of a visit. Something as simple as a check-in form that can be signed from the patient’s own device, to a prescription issued digitally to a nearby pharmacist, can help make a visit feel that bit smoother, as though it’s all part of one contiguous, well-oiled machine.
The same report highlights personalisation as an important priority, with 84 percent describing it as a major driver behind loyalty. This is a bit trickier within a dental context. Dentists are overstretched and overworked. While quality clinical care is the driving factor behind how all dentists operate, you can forget about the white glove treatment — unless you’re talking about the latex kind. It’s also worth mentioning that dental practices aren’t like other businesses, where customers (or, in this case, patients) can be fickle. Loyalty isn’t much of a factor here.
Nonetheless, there are ways in which digital transformation can help nurture that personal touch, making dental care even more patient-centred. Approaches that prove more convenient to patients, like remote video-based calls that don’t require in-person visits, lend favourably here. Other technologies, like text-based reminders, can also help patients feel more engaged with a practice.
Dentists serve the communities in which they operate, and while some demographics may prefer the traditional means of doing business, the opposite is likely true for younger patients, who are digital natives.
For those who grew up around technology, that inevitably means using digital processes over paper-based alternatives where possible.
“In the same report, 70 percent of respondents said that if a business understands how they want to use a product or service, they’re more likely to win their custom.”
Obviously, this data only goes so far. Businesses and dental practices have fundamentally different motivations, with one largely driven by financial metrics, and the other concerned primarily with health. But if the goal is to deliver patient happiness, and ensure they continue to make dental health a priority, improving practice user-friendliness is an important first step.
Keeping employees happy
Digital transformation isn’t just for patients. There’s plenty of evidence it can improve employee efficiency and happiness too, provided it’s executed well. There’s plenty of evidence to support this, with one Deloitte survey showing a 20 percent improvement in employee satisfaction in firms that embrace digital methods. This has trickle-down benefits, especially when it comes to employee retention.
For dental practices, the priority should be figuring out the pain points, and building a solution that addresses as many of them as possible. In practice, this means replacing manual paper-based processes (such as transcribing patient record forms) with digital alternatives, while ensuring they have access to the tools and data they need to do their job. Just like with the patient side of things, this should work seamlessly, with the number of hoops employees are required to jump through reduced to the bare minimum.
Still, it’s important to get this right. Another report from Deloitte suggests that when employees are forced to work across multiple different applications, each with their own user experiences and quirks, they can quickly find themselves encumbered and less efficient. This, in turn, breeds frustration and unhappiness, and may result in them being less willing to embrace the new digital-first regime. One oft-cited figure from McKinsey shows 70 percent of digital transformation projects that fail do so because of a lack of engagement.
Digital transformation? We do that.
At Chiral Systems, we’ve been working with dental practices to bring their operations into the 21st century, improving employee and patient satisfaction along the way. Our all-in-one tool includes everything you need to run your practice: from records management and patient contact, to accounting and finance.