What I Learned About Communication From the Dentist
What I really wanted to title this post is, “What my dentist taught me about communication, setting expectations, and education.” That is pretty long, so communication will suffice.
I have had a tough time over the past two months with my dentist.
To be clear, technically speaking, the dental work itself has been on point. My dentist and his staff are the nicest folks around, sincerely.
The problem is that every single time I went in, I had no idea what was going to transpire, what that day’s appointment would include, and ultimately how long the entire process would take.
This resulted in a continual pattern of misplaced hope that the end was nigh, only to be told that I had to come back in a week, or two days, or three more weeks.
I was also unaware of how invasive the overall process would be.
I was going to be numbed, stuck, drilled and x-rayed; essentially traumatized (yes I am a big baby) for four out of five of my visits. Lastly, the financials were reviewed right at the beginning, but when they were to be collected was not clear. It was a surprise for my wallet and me each visit. I would assume I was paid in full and then, surprise, another hundred was due for this or that.
I will spare you my rant on the absurd joke that is called “dental insurance.”
So, it occurred to me as I sat in the chair for my fourth visit how this experience could have been dramatically improved. I began by thinking about how I interact with clients in my role at SME Digital. I mentally catalogued what steps I take to ensure the client is fully vested not only in the project, but also in the process of that project.
With that structure and process in mind, here are a few communication pieces that my dental practice could have been leveraged that would have really added value to my overall experience. Not to mention settling some dental anxiety along the way.
- A Statement of Work should be created, outlining the costs associated with each part of the treatment process.
- A treatment roadmap, including a tentative timeline for each appointment that would be needed.
- A treatment dictionary that explains each procedure involved and would include:
- Best practices for between procedure care of your teeth (to floss with a temporary or not to floss, to chew on that side or stay clear, what foods to avoid, etc.)
- Details about what medications would be administered during the procedures
- If the patient will be placed on any antibiotics
- If any of the procedures will require pain management or prescription pain medication
- A full performance review of the procedure should be conducted at the end of the process to evaluate the treatment and edify the patient of the results.
A few standardized pieces of collateral that could be handed out or even emailed would certainly upgrade the patient experience significantly. Having solid expectations would also help to alleviate anxiety on behalf of the patient…well, it at least would have done so for this patient.
The lack of basic acumen for those of us not in the medical or dental industry makes communication even more important.
My dentist and his staff likely did a great job of explaining things to me in their own technical jargon way. But I probably missed most of it trying to understand the first sentence. Having something to refer back to would have been fantastic. Having something to review at home, when I was calm and my pulse was not racing because of the giant needle that was about to be thrust into my mouth…yep, that would have helped.
Regardless of the industry, a good customer experience can make or break a business.
For the medical/dental industry, the focus is on the technical skill and treatments. You know, science and methodology and complicated things. I understand that the technical skill should be the focus; we are talking lives here, not dog food.
I would never argue that the services provided by medical providers are on par with what I am doing, for example. One quote often heard around these parts is “We are not curing cancer.” Those working in the medical community, um yeah, they are trying to cure cancer. At minimum, they are dealing with things way higher up on the life and death scale.
But I wonder, is there room for these essential services to borrow some of the tools that serve project managers and marketers so well?
I say yes. What do you think?