Taking a step back can drive any business forward. Louise Bone explains why looking at your practice through the eyes of a patient provides valuable insight.

When did you last take a look at your practice? Within any competitive consumer-driven market, businesses thrive on the principles of remodelling what is broken and enhancing what works. But first these elements need to be identified.

Dentistry is a fast-changing industry, with regulatory expectations that require dental professionals to safely meet the needs and demands of a patient base more informed than ever.

Being complacent is a business killer. By regularly assessing your practice, you will better understand your customers’ perspectives and experience, allowing you to meet expectations and keep them returning.

The need for continuing professional development is a given if a practice is to maintain standards. A clinical audit – with the aim of advancing patient outcomes – is very much part of this process.

NICE best describes a clinical audit as ‘a quality improvement process that seeks to improve patient care and outcomes through systematic review of care and the implementation of change’.

In the ‘busy-ness’ of running a practice, finding time to examine and evaluate the business side of things can be sidelined.

In essence, any audit is designed to bring out a simple answer to one key question: ‘Are we actually doing what we believe is the right thing, and in the right way?’

By stepping through your practice doors as a patient and ‘walking in their shoes’, you effectively examine your processes as well as those of the team.

With regular reviews, you can take your business to the next level, increase the ‘spend’ of existing patients and attract new ones. Here’s how…


1. Are you attractive? Take a look at the décor, practice literature, signage and overall branding. Do they reflect your current practice ethos and professionalism? Of course, the main emphasis should always be on patient benefits, but, as with any clinical outcome, aesthetics matter just as much as function. Additionally, if you fail to update your practice website or regularly test out its functionality, you run the risk of losing credibility. If navigation is tricky and its appearance unappealing, it may be time for a redesign or some fresh content

2. Do you give a good reception? Sit with your reception desk team. Are they smiling when a patient walks through the door? Listen to how they answer calls. Is there a script they follow? Do they use initiative when helping with queries? Are there opportunities to sell other treatments? Is data safeguarded? The GDC’s Standards for the Dental Team maintains that dental professionals ‘keep patients’ information secure at all times, whether your records are held on paper or electronically’. Do you?

3. Are you a good listener? Patient relationships are developed over time and through good communication. By encouraging active listening, any patient issues can be raised informally and answered immediately rather than escalating into something bigger

4. Can you change? A culture of openness is a key component of maintaining the high standards patients grow to expect. Encourage feedback and react well to both the positive and negative. Consider anonymous patient audits and act upon them. Identify best practice, measure performance, and make and sustain any improvements.

The opportunities to expand your skillset and hone your professional standards are boundless. If auditing your practice is not currently a key part of your continuing professional development, then I suggest you begin today. An honest look back is always a prerequisite to a successful move forward.

DPAS is a specialist provider of practice-branded dental plans for your practice and patients, offering everything the team needs to implement and promote plans effectively. For further information, visit www.dpas.co.uk, email enquiries@dpas.co.uk or call 01747 870910.