Evaluating the quality of your practice model based solely on patient starts and treatment finishes overlooks the most substantial portion of the care you provide, the patient’s journey. The time spent with our patients throughout is the most impactful portion of the treatment process, yet it often receives the least amount of attention. How your patients’ feel about your brand and what they tell their friends, as well as their desire to do so, is the result of all their interactions with your practice, so delighting patients at every step of the way should be your mission.
An integral part of designing exceptional patient experiences is also considering the appliances and treatment approaches that are used to achieve similar goals. Yet, all too often I hear dismissive statements like “all appliances can deliver the same outcome” and decisions being made on the basis of the doctor’s comfort level with a particular treatment. Experience driven treatment is not appliance drive treatment. It is simply the recognition that appliances should be selected in order to provide the best possible experience for the patient.
To develop a better understand how our decisions impact the patient’s journey, it is helpful to map out the patient’s (and parents’) entire treatment experience and examine what they thinking and feeling throughout the process. This should be based on a real information about their behavior, thoughts, and feelings throughout their journey, paying attention to key “stress points” like an initial phone call, initial appliance placement, repair appointments, etc. A very basic example of what a various treatment journeys might look like for different appliance choices is show below:
On one end of the spectrum you see a treatment approach where the patient’s experience has been exceptional across the board; while on the other end, we see a fairly generic brand experience where uncomfortable, outdated appliances are used, creating a substantial decline in the patient’s experience during the treatment phase. The cumulative differences between the two experiences represent a huge missed opportunity to drive word-of-mouth referrals and better patient motivation.
Ironically, most orthodontists are completely unaware of any problems in their approach because their patients are all on similar treatment arcs and there is little outside perspective. Both the doctor and the patients have simply accepted things as the way things are, and the only way to break the cycle is by actually performing a critical examination of patients’ treatment journeys using qualitative and quantitative measures.
By visualizing their journey in this fashion, the focus can now be on engineering an optimal customer experience that drives value and practice growth. Unnecessary pain points can be identified and eliminated, and investments made to create more positive movements in the patient’s journey. Treatment goals are extremely important, but the patient experience is just as important so it should not be overlooked.