If ever you find yourself heading towards Plymouth on the Devon Expressway (or the A38 as you may know it), take a moment to divert and visit the small town of Ashburton.
Set on the southern slopes of Dartmoor, Ashburton is an ancient stannary town dating back to Saxon times. If you take a walk along its main street (East Street) the shops you will wander past could (were you old enough) transport you back fifty years or more.
Hardly the place, you might think, to find one of the leading Referral Dental Centres in the West Country. But you would be wrong and Dr Mitesh Badiani who bought the place in 1995 has more than demonstrated what a wise decision he made.
Today the Devon Centre of Dental Excellence is the flagship practice for a group of practices including Plymouth, Bovey Tracey and Portland. More are in the pipeline and dentists are queuing up to join. So what is Dr Badiani doing that is having such an impact and how is he achieving it in what, at face value, is a sleepy rural community?
The answer is deceptively simple. Dr Badiani makes no decisions without carefully considering them. When he does his commitment is total and his business acumen sure-footed. And above all he ensures that the patient experience exceeds expectations. It’s worth taking a closer look at how these values translate themselves into action.
Marketing. With a difference
The ‘marketing’ advice given generally to dentists by any number of ‘experts’ is seemingly endless with the majority of it simply being statements of the obvious. It does not take a genius to work out that there are established ways of communicating with patients, all of which are relevant and applicable to almost every practice (eg a practice leaflet, a website, and so on). The genius comes, not in describing and defining your market, but in developing a product that satisfies its needs.
In this respect Mitesh’s philosophy and skill are clear. It is not about creating a practice that simply flaunts its capability. It is about creating a practice that shows that it listens to and cares about what patients want.
A few examples make the point:
• the reception team greet everyone with a welcome that says ‘we’re glad you’re here’. The smile endorses this greeting and is genuine. It isn’t just a ‘skin deep’ gesture. This can only happen in a practice where the staff is happy and is aware that patients recognise and take notice of body language.
• there is a variety of places (other than reception) throughout the practice in which patients may wait and relax. This provides personal ‘space’, encourages a greater affinity with the practice and builds the patient/dental team relationship
• there is a delightful, spacious and calming garden, which, on a summer day, is a haven of calm and tranquillity. Patients are free to sit and relax there before and/or after treatment. Again it enhances the relationship
• visit the (spotless) toilets and there are bottles of Aramis, Gucci, Hugo Boss for patients. A nice touch and rather more appealing than a bottle of disinfectant
Dealing with anxiety
It is a sad fact that many people fear dental treatment. Mitesh, who mentors and trains dentists all over the country, has this to say “We have for many years treated a great number of patients who are extremely nervous of dental treatment and where a local anaesthetic is required there are various methods we will consider. One of my favoured techniques is the WAND system which is amazingly effective when used by a skilled, well trained dentist. It reduces anxiety and is literally pain free. It is particularly helpful when treating children or those with needle phobia who we find often don’t even realise they’ve had an injection!”
Another concern of some patients is radiation dosage. In reality, risk to the patient may be minimal, but this does not necessarily allay fears and anxiety.
“Low radiation dosage was one of the criteria I had in mind when seeking to upgrade to 3D digital imaging. I was worried that, by referring to the hospital, I was increasing patient concern and in many instances the diagnosis did not warrant the radiation dosage”, believes Mitesh, “so I decided to see what the market had to offer”.
An exhaustive look at CT scanners ended with Mitesh choosing the Picasso Trio from Vatech and E-WOO. “Quite simply the quality, the software, the service and product knowledge are the best” feels Mitesh “and the Picasso is already enhancing our diagnostic capabilities across the range of specialist treatments we offer”.
Working as a team
Dr Badiani’s choice of the Picasso Trio exemplifies the policies of the Devon Dental Centre of Excellence to put quality above cost. He has surrounded himself with something of a “dream team” in the way of specialist clinicians and knows that they, too, want the best.
Mitesh himself concentrates on dental implants, IV sedation and cosmetic dentistry. He also mentors for Osteo-Ti and Ankylos. Andrew Pickering, Linda Blakely, Carol Robinson and Anna-Marie Smith offer general dental treatment and specialists include Professor Nico Louw (Endo), St John Crean (Oral and Maxillo facial), Amelia Jerreat (Ortho) and Matthew Jerreat (Perio and Restorative dentistry).
“Individually and collectively we will benefit from 3D imaging” is the view of Mitesh “Whilst most treatments are straightforward, careful planning is always required and the exceptional quality of the Picasso images is second-to-none. I also value the information it provides for more complex cases where we need to work and assess as a team”.
Mitesh is committed to ensuring all his specialists understand and take full advantage of the additional information provided by 3D imaging. The Centre is currently at the advanced stage of training another clinician to undertake placing implants and the Picasso’s clear imagery is a great asset in teaching and explaining diagnoses. With dentists regularly coming to the practice for training, there are ideal opportunities for budding and practising implantologists to see the clinical capability of the Picasso’s technology.Unquestionably it adds value and interest to training sessions.
Building referral business
A further benefit of investing in state-of-the-art 3D imaging is that it adds to the service that the Devon Dental Centre of Excellence can provide to referring dentists.
Mitesh is very conscious of the trust that other dentists place in him. He recognises the concerns that any dentist has when he or she refers a patient:
“When you build a referral practice, you have to do so clearly understanding that your role is to support and advise, never compete, be-it consciously or unconsciously. You must strive to exceed the expectations of your colleagues in the same way as you do with your patients, always keeping in mind that they are all clients.”
In this way, referring dentists are seen as almost part of the team. They have access to the technology and share in the knowledge, facilities and skills available in Ashburton. Specialist training facilities are available and procedures can be watched at the viewing theatre as they take place and then discussed in the comfort and relaxed atmosphere that are by-words at Devon Dental.