This month, Tracie Barnett discusses her top tips for effective communication and offers eight reasons why it’s so important for treatment coordinators (TCOs).
Effective communication is about more than just exchanging information. It’s about understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information.
As well as being able to clearly convey a message, you need to also listen in a way that gains the full meaning of what’s being said and makes the other person feel heard and understood.
As a dental treatment coordinator, the way that we communicate with our patients and team members can have a real impact on the success of our role. Effective communication is essential in providing excellent service to patients and ensuring smooth coordination between various dental team members. It not only allows informed consent, but it can also help reduce the number of complaints a practice might receive.
Here are my top tips for effective communication:
1. Active listening
When a patient is expressing their concerns or questions, make sure to listen attentively. Maintain eye contact, nod, and provide verbal cues to show that you are engaged in the conversation.
Letting the patient speak rather than speaking over them shows that you are interested in what they have to say. This makes them feel at ease, and if they feel you are listening, they will start to trust you.
2. Use clear and concise language
As a TCO we can often relate to our patients more than the clinician. This is due to dentists talking in dental terminology and causing confusion. Avoid dental jargon and use simple, easy-to-understand language when explaining treatment options, procedures, and costs.
Using visual aids like photos or a 3D scan can also help them understand the benefits of options discussed. Seeing is believing! This helps patients feel more comfortable and informed.
3. Empathy and compassion
Show genuine care and understanding towards patients’ needs and concerns. Be empathetic and validate their feelings, especially if they have dental anxiety or fear.
Patients will open up more if they can see that you’re genuinely interested. This will uncover the real reason that they are sat in front of you. Patients say they would like a nice smile, but what’s the real reason behind that?
By showing emotion you are allowing them to show theirs. Once the real reason is established, you can then offer them the treatment options that will change their lives for ever.
4. Non-verbal communication
It’s not all about what we say. I don’t know about you, but if I’m speaking to someone and they are scrolling on their phone or gazing out of the window, it makes me think that they are not interested in what I have to say one bit!
With this said, pay attention to your body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Maintain a friendly and approachable demeanour as it helps create a welcoming atmosphere and builds trust with patients.
5. Ask open-ended questions
Some patients that we see like to talk more than others, some will tell you all you need to know within the first 10 minutes of meeting you, and others will be more reserved. These patient types need more questioning than others.
But instead of yes and no questions, ask open-ended questions to encourage patients to express their thoughts and concerns in-depth. This allows you to understand their needs better and tailor treatment options accordingly.
6. Provide written information
During our consultations, we give so much information verbally that it can all seem a little overwhelming.
Give patients written materials, such as brochures or handouts, that explain treatment details, aftercare instructions, and any other relevant information. This enables patients to review the information at their convenience and ask clarifying questions during subsequent visits.
7. Follow-up communication
During my 29 years in the dental industry, I have found that following up is just as important as the initial consultation. We must follow up with patients after their consultation to check on their progress or address any concerns they may have.
This shows your commitment to their care and helps build long-term relationships. Not all patients will decide to go ahead with treatment on the same day. If we stay in contact with them, they will move ahead when the time is right for them.
8. Collaborate with the dental team
Communicate effectively with the dental team by conveying relevant patient information, discussing treatment plans, and coordinating appointments. This ensures that everyone is working together seamlessly towards the patient’s dental goals.
Regular team meetings are an important part of communicating and daily huddles with your team are an opportunity to discuss the day ahead.
This is also a good way of making sure you say hi to each other. So many times in clinic I have got to the end of the day and not even seen some of the team.
Weekly management meetings are a chance to discuss future plans and any issues that may need addressing. Monthly team meetings should be carried out with all staff members. Those that are not present should receive the meeting minutes by email.
Protected time should be allocated for all meetings. From experience, not feeling included can cause low moral in the workplace.
Effective communication is crucial for a TCO to ensure patient understanding, trust, treatment plan acceptance, collaboration among the dental team, and maximum efficiency in dental practice operations. But remember, effective communication is a vital skill that requires practice and continuous improvement.
Read more Tricks and Tips from a TCO columns:
- Why are systems so important to dental practices?
- Imposter syndrome in the practice
- Transitioning from dental nurse to TCO
- Three common TCO communication mistakes
- Five reasons why your practice needs a treatment coordinator in 2023.
Follow Dentistry.co.uk on Instagram to keep up with all the latest dental news and trends.