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Christina Villarreal: Top 5 Ways to Improve the Patient Experience

Christina Villarreal, Patient Experience Manager at Dental Associates, interacts with patients and practice team members every day.  She discusses five phases of the patient experience and how to make these five phases a wonderful experience.

Phase 1: Pre-Contact Online Research

The first thing we have to keep in mind is that patients want to research everything. "Having your website up to date, having information that they want is important," says Christina. "So we have videos of our doctors. We have patient reviews on our website. They can find out about the different specialties that we offer and request an appointment at one of our locations. If they have a good experience right away on the website and they know that we are very current with what we do, that helps them take the next step--either requesting an appointment online or calling us."

The Tip: Keep your website up to date and inform the public about the ways in which you are current with the highest standard of care available.

Phase 2: First Phone Call

This leads to the second place where patient experience can completely fall apart. It is that first phone call. "Taking care of patients on the phone is extremely important," says Villarreal. Dental Associates uses Patient Prism to "make sure that we are doing our best on those calls-- listening, building rapport, talking up our doctors, our hygienists, the staff and letting patients know that we are the place they should come to have their dental care. "

The Tip: Use Patient Prism to monitor new patient phone calls and get the coaching feedback your team needs to develop highly effective communication skills. 

Phase 3: The First Visit

Again, you need to make a good first impression to give patients confidence and win their trust. Villarreal says, "Look at the reception area. Is it up to date? Is it clean? Listen. What are the patients listening to? Are the front desk staff members smiling? Are they welcoming and taking care of patients? Are they keeping patients up to date if there are any delays? This is all important."

The Tip: Look at fresh eyes and hear with fresh ears what patients are experiencing when they arrive in your office. Based on your own senses, make improvements in the environment and coach your team members to be personable and helpful, to think about how they would want to be treated if they were the patient..

Phase 4: Interaction with the Clinical Team

When new patients are brought back to the operatory area, how is the interaction between them and your team members? "Patient interaction with the dental assistant, the hygienist and the doctors is vitally important," says Villarreal. "If at that moment the patient just isn't feeling like they're being cared for, they're not going to come back. It's just extremely important to make sure that we are doing our best and taking care of the patient and working together as a team. We don't want a patient to see that there's a disconnect between anyone on the staff. 

The Tip: Stay on your toes to be personally attentive to the patient. Show the patient you care about her or him as an individual. Always strive to work well as a team. 

Phase 5: The Ending of the Appointment

Then there is the last part of the appointment with the patient being escorted out, "thanking the patient for choosing us as their dental provider and making sure that their experience went very well."

The Tip: Make sure the patient experience was a good one. Develop the habit of sending patients off to enjoy their day and really thank them for making you their dental home.


About this Industry Leader:

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Christina Villarreal

Patient Experience Manager, Dental Associates


Christina Villarreal joined Dental Associates in 2007 and quickly rose to the position of Patient Experience Manager. Christina is constantly looking for ways to improve the patient experience at Dental Associates' 14 practices in Wisconsin. She works closely with every team member both in the practices and in corporate support roles to identify issues and implement strategies that will increase patient satisfaction and employee morale. Christina is usually in the practices, talking to team members and observing them in action. The hands-on knowledge leads to more effective training techniques and ensures everyone on the team understands the goals and how success is tracked. She uses a series of key performance indicators and reports the findings to the executive team monthly.


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