The Extraordinary New Patient Experience with Dr. Ankur Gupta

Dr. Gupta shares his experience of starting a dental practice from scratch and the importance of creating an extraordinary new patient experience. He emphasizes the need to exceed patient expectations and personalize the patient experience. Dr. Gupta also discusses the importance of preparing patients for realistic expectations and using technology to enhance patient understanding. He provides practical tips and strategies for creating an exceptional patient experience.


  • Starting a dental practice from scratch allows for more flexibility and the opportunity to maximize profits.
  • Creating an extraordinary new patient experience is crucial for building trust and loyalty.
  • Exceeding patient expectations and personalizing the patient experience can lead to increased patient satisfaction and referrals.
  • Using technology, such as AI and digital imaging, can enhance patient understanding and transparency.

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Full transcript provided by Riverside AI

Dayna Johnson (00:00.33)

I’m your host today and we are coming to you live from Denver, Colorado. We are here live at the Rocky Mountain and Donald convention and I’m gonna be speaking tomorrow and super excited and I’m even more excited because I have a guest with us today We are interviewing and Dr. Gupta from Cleveland, Ohio and Dr. Gupta graduated dental school in 2004and started a startup practice in 2005 from scratch. And so Dr. Gupta, tell us all about your experience starting a dental practice and from scratch. I know we’d all love to hear your experience.

Dr. Ankur Gupta

Yeah, sure. Thank you, Dayna, and thanks for having me. You know, back then, and this was 20 years ago.

Starting a practice from scratch wasn’t as unusual then as it is now, but it was still unusual. And so my wife and I, we graduated down the school together, we did residency together, and probably one of the biggest reasons why we decided that we would start a practice from scratch was because we knew that while one person was at the office, the other person could actually be marking somewhere and making actual money. And so that was the reason that we did that.

And in retrospect, I kind of feel like we use that as a crutch. And we didn’t allow our startup practice to really thrive the way it should have, because we knew that we better that I worked for a place called Sears Dental. She worked for Aspen Dental, you know, really common places to work at right out of school. Yeah. And…

We were able to pay our bills with those. By truly, in retrospect, I would have rather just been a little bit poorer and put more effort into really developing the small business in all aspects and maybe make it look great a lot faster than we actually did. It’s perfectly successful now but it just could have happened a lot faster if we thought about it more. Yeah it’s true we don’t hear very many doctors that start scratch practices anymore and with a little guidance from you know some business minds you know we can help them grow a little bit faster but congratulations now 20 years later your practice. Yeah, thank you. So great job.

Dayna Johnson:

so what we’re going to talk, be talking to you about today is I was reading through the speakers and the courses coming up during Rocky Mountain Dental Convention and your presentation really stood out to me. You’re going to be speaking on the Extraordinary New Patient Experience and that title just really struck a chord with me. It sounds very exciting.

And so if I was sitting in your audience tomorrow in your course, tell me what my top three takeaways might be during your course tomorrow. Sure, sure. You know, before I do that, I just want to tell you a very brief story.

Dr. Ankur Gupta:

My kids are old now, but when my daughter was really young, when she was like nine months old, she kept on getting sick. And we kept on giving her antibiotics, and she got sick again, and antibiotics, EU infection, strep throat, all that kind of stuff, right? And finally, the doctor, the pediatrician said, let’s just do some red tests because she gets sick a lot. And they did the red test, and they found that she had, I don’t remember, either a higher lymphocyte count or a lower lymphocyte count, I don’t remember.

the Rainbow Babies Children’s Hospital in downtown Cleveland and speak to the oncologist that’s there. No, I’m sorry, the hematologist that’s there. Okay, yes. So in our minds, we were thinking of a hematologist, a blood doctor.

The only thing is, the thing that we didn’t put two and two together at the time was that hematologists are also oncologists. And so when we drove down to downtown Cleveland and got to the hospital, we took the elevator to the floor where this hematologist was. When the elevator doors opened…

All we saw was a bunch of those post-it, like, um, clear parts that have, you know, where you can post up flyers. Yeah. And all of the flyers were either parents or children who were suffering from cancer. OK. All of them. Super group meeting every Wednesday for parents who just lost their child to cancer. Super group meeting every Tuesday morning for kids who are on chemotherapy. Yes.

And so all of a sudden we went from being relatively nonchalant about this appointment to being incredibly scared, incredibly vulnerable. Because all of a sudden this little kid, we thought was pretty fine, just would get ear infections a lot. All of a sudden we thought, oh my gosh, what if something much more severe is going on? And we felt incredibly vulnerable, and we walked up to the person who was sitting behind the counter.

And the person sitting in the island of counter did to us what probably you’ve had plenty of people do sitting in the island of counter. This person was on her computer tapping away. She felt like we were in, she acted like we interrupted her. The very first words out of her mouth was name and then we said our name and then what do you, you tell me what’s the second word out of her mouth?

What’s your insurance? Insurance, yeah. Yeah. She didn’t even say what’s your insurance. She just says insurance. Yeah. So we can handle the card and then she grabbed the card, she gave us a clipboard to fill out. That’s pretty normal, ain’t it? It’s normal. It’s just how it’s done. Right. But I was so pissed because I just felt like…

I was so, and you know what, the doctors were great, the nurses were great, but I came out of that situation just like, I was just pissed. I was really dissatisfied with that interaction. And I went back to my office, and I know, dental office, we’re not like dealing with life and bad stuff, or gross stuff like that. Yet, we at patient school were incredibly nervous to come in because…

They’re so worried about how we’re going to judge them for having taken care of their teeth, or they’re so worried about getting a shot in their mouth, which they’re terrified about. They’re so scared about getting a tooth cut. These are real valuable people. Yes. And I thought, okay, from now on, everybody who comes to our office…

they need to be treated the way I want it to be treated. Yeah, that’s such a- No matter what. Such a great story. And so that’s kind of how this whole concept of extraordinary customer service, extraordinary new patient experience was born. Yeah. So we sat down and at the time, there was only like three employees, right? So little team and we sat down and we’re like, okay, this is what happened to us when we had too many of our babies.

How are we going to do the exact opposite? And here, okay, so you told me to give you three take backs. Let me give you one. Sitting in your audience. Yeah. What am I going to take away from here? Let me give you the first one. The first one is this. If you’re a new person at our office, the team that greets you, the front desk team, they’re required to do five things. Number one,

Maybe it’s more than five things. We’re gonna just go through them. Stand up, make eye contact, shake your hand, and call you by name, okay? Beautiful. Then that person has to get up, leave their little domain with the countertop and the computer, they have to get up, leave their domain, come out into the waiting area, reception area, whatever you call it, and sit down next to the police chute, side to side, shoulder to shoulder. Mm-hmm.

And if there is paper work or consent forms or whatever that still need to be done, they go over it with that patient side to side, shoulder to shoulder. So I don’t know, number two, number three, whatever that was. Then we have a middle cruv-ache. The patient must be offered coffee or must be offered water.

Most patients say no, to be honest. But it must be offered that. Keeping them feel at home. And then number five, and I’m not sure if this is number five, is we have to learn something about the patient, which actually is the hardest one. So getting up, walking around, that might be a hassle. That’s not hard. You don’t have to use a lot of mind power for that. But learning about somebody actually means…

So where are you from? So you told me Dayna that you’re from northwestern Washington. Well, I did a little stint with the Native American reservation in northwestern Washington. And I wanted to tell you that so bad. I wanted to say, oh, you’re from there? Oh, I did that. And that’s absolutely against the rules. Because it’s about you. It’s about the patient.

So we still where you from, patient says where they’re from. And then what my team is responsible for, and this takes a lot of practice. They have to expand on that, showing the patient more and more that they care about them and their story, rather than how my life, my situation might have intersected with that. Yeah, I see that, yeah. It takes a little bit of time, it takes effort. Practice. It’s practice, okay? So, okay, that’s…

That’s number one, extraordinary new patient experience number one. Our goal is that new patient says to themselves, I’ve never been treated like this before. They’ve never even seen me. They’ve never met the dentist. They’ve never met the hygienist. They’ve never even seen our operatories. With whom? Yeah. But the goal is for them to say they’ve never been treated like this before. And to kind of back there this week, physical therapist, kids’ pediatrician, it doesn’t matter. They’ve never been treated like this. OK, so that’s the rule. I love that. Am I going too long? No, you’re perfect. OK.

So then number two, and this gets a little more clinical. This is for us to, bad new patient. When I was in dental school, I looked at the patient with my eyes.

And my little tools, and I looked at the radiograph, and then I turned and looked at them, and I said, here’s all your problems. Dana, I just, I used my eyes and my tools and my loops and my x-rays, and now let me tell you all your problems, okay? That too, I think, isn’t appropriate. Instead, we want the patient to see, where’s C? So every new patient, every limited exam, every consult.

We have these big TVs that are in every operatory, which are quite cheap, by the way. I know, I know, it’s true. No, it used to be like, expensive, you know, this is not a big investment. Bitter to me that the patient is staring at, and then when we take the retracted photo of their smile, that’s what they’re staring at. Big. Could you imagine? I mean, you have beautiful teeth.

You really do. But could you imagine just retract the cheeks out of the way, and now you can see your teeth? Yeah. And our first question to that patient is, what do you see when you look at this? I love that. And even there, eventually we have to do our dental stuff, our scientific stuff, and our discussion about periodontal disease or decay or whatever.

And a lot of times they’re just as concerned, or even more concerned than we are. Sometimes I see a composite, it’s kind of ugly, but it’s fine. And they’re freaking out about it, because it’s got that little brown line around it or something, yeah. So what we want is for them to see what we’re seeing. And there’s one element to that, that we just started about, oh, I don’t know, maybe a year ago, and that is using AI.

to read our radiographs. Okay. Yes. Have you heard of that before? Yes, absolutely. Okay. So the company we use is Pearl. Okay. And so what they do, we take our regular radiographs like we normally do, and somehow the little gremlins in our computer send those images to Pearl. I don’t know. Yeah. Whatever. The AI does whatever it is. And then instead of us looking at these bad wings or this pillar of Pearl X-rays, we where only me, the special dentist, can discern between grill areas. Now decay is separable. Yeah. And if it’s just in the enamel, it’s a lighter show. Yeah. And if it goes to the pulp, it’s a darker show. If there is bone loss or periodontal attachment loss, there’s areas that show the measurements and the colors.

And so what this does is now, you know, it’s still a radiogram. But now at least the patient can see what we’re seeing. Yeah. They can trust us a little bit more. It’s almost like a second opinion from. It’s totally a second. Now, I like it because it catches stuff that I. Yeah, because I’m human, I would admit. But I think what patients like about it is that it’s so transparent. You know, it’s just so transparent. I’m not.

Yeah, it’s kind of like you took your car out of the mechanic and you said, oh, how’s my car? And they say, oh, you need this, and this. And then there’s this part of your brain that says, I really, do I really need all of this stuff? Now that transparency is… I can see that. I can see that for sure. It’s just there, you know? And so, so I would say that allowing patients to see what we see, maximizing on tech that’s available, using the most user-friendly cameras, making it super easy.

to make it so that whatever picture we take immediately shows up on the screen. Uh-huh. That is, that’s been incredibly valuable. I agree. I’m a kind of a technology nerd, so I love being able to show the patients that right up on the screen, so I love that you’re talking about that. It is kind of, you know, it’s funny because, you know, when I graduated dental school, actually, you know, when I graduated I had a cell phone.

But when I started dental school, I only had a landline. Oh, OK. I mean, think about it. When I was learning how to be a dentist, I had a landline. Right? Yeah. Think about how much technology has come. I know. So if I do dentistry, the real it was done 20 years ago, that’s the same as calling somebody using the landline.

Dayna Johnson:

I know. I tell my clients all the time, you know, whatever we talk about like all these new technology, communication, and third party bit software. Like I am so jealous with how much you have available to you now, online booking and forms. I didn’t have that when I was in a practice. And I’m so jealous that it’s here now. And AI is really coming on board this year. So I’m so excited. I wonder if there’s going to be stuff at the conference. I hope so. Now before we segue into number three, number one because what I heard about your story when you were taking your child to Rainbow Children’s Hospital your expectations of the visit, of the appointment, were different than as soon as you walked off the elevator. The reality of the appointment changed. So I’m just wondering, how does your team prepare your patient for a more, for a realistic expectation of what to expect in their visit?

Dr. Ankur Gupta:

So, okay, actually that segues me to number three extremely well. Great. So okay, so let’s take my daughter, let’s take my kid’s analogy again.

So my kids were younger, they would do what all kids do, they would ask for stuff. They’d say, hey, can we go downstairs and play video games or can we do this? And I would say, sure, you can, but first clean your rooms, unload the dishwasher, and then go.

And so basically what I was doing is I was creating expectations for myself. Okay. Then I would go and do my own thing, I would come back, and if they didn’t do both of those things I would be pissed. Right? Because I had certain expectations, they didn’t meet those, but they did as they under-delivered on a promise. Yes. Right? That is correct. Okay.

same situation they say hey can we play video games I go yeah whatever I go and do my thing but they take it upon themselves to unload the dishwasher before they go down there. Now how do I feel? Over. I’m certainly proud of them. Yeah. It’s not like we clean the rules they just they over delivered there. I had no expectations and they over deliver.

Yes, I see that. And so you asked, you asked how do we prepare patients, right? So we actually created a little script. Actually it’s in the handout, but for the people who come and lecture, it was script for what our team at the front desk says when they’re on the phone with patients. And probably one of the key things that they must say every time they’re on the phone with very comprehensive tour of your mouth and sometimes there’s a lot to discuss and if that’s the clues you may not get your teeth cleaned at this appointment or you don’t clear with that. All of a sudden that expectation it’s gone. Yeah.

No, there’s patients that are like, no, I’m not okay with that. I’ll call someone else and that’s fine. Sure. That’s okay. Because I would much rather they never come in and never be dissatisfied. Then come in expecting a cleaning, never being told otherwise. And then having less tell them, you know, 70% of the appointment in, oh, by the way, you’re not getting the cleaning today. Yeah. You know? Yeah. I love what you just said. And I hope that everybody just wrote that down because the world’s a great, it’s a great one.

It’s a great one-liner and I hope you all, because rewind and write it down. The doctors take a very comprehensive tour of your mouth and sometimes they’ll find a lot of things that need to be discussed. As a result, you might not get your teeth cleaned. That was beautiful. And then ask, is that okay with you? Do you still want to make this appointment? Most people say yes. For sure.

Now they have to, I mean, they peak their interest. Yeah. So the other three, so let’s go back to this whole concept of over-delivery, OK? So we have a bunch of little over-delivery tricks up our sleeve all the time, OK? So for example, if a patient waits more than 10 minutes in the waiting room for whatever reason, we always give them a gift card.

Okay, it’s a stand-up skip card. It’s $10, I don’t know, I don’t remember. But that’s, it’s a part of the protocol. You know, the team at the front desk, they notice so-and-so’s been waiting. They don’t like, and so-and-so’s not even coming. Right, they’re just waiting, because we do wait when we go to offices, right?

But in our office, it’s got to be extraordinary. So immediately when that 10 minutes hits, somebody gets up, sits down next to them and say, you know what, the doctor or the hygienist must be running behind. We’re so sorry about this. We got you this little token. But we appreciate how nice you are and how patiently you work. Oh, yeah. So we have a bunch of tricks up our sleeve. Another one, I have a bunch, so I won’t be able to tell you a random number. We’re gonna give you a couple. One or two. So we’re gonna give you two more. Okay.

We have fresh flowers in the waiting room every week. We get delivered by a force, right? You know, but what we do, because our last day of work is Thursday. At either the Wednesday or the Thursday morning, however, we identify a patient. It’s usually an out-of-housing patient, usually a woman, I apologize for usually doing that, but we do, but it’s usually somebody we know is gonna really appreciate them. And so at the end of their appointment,

Hey, Martha, come here. I have something to tell you. Martha comes here and we’re so, you know, we talked about it earlier this week and we decided you’re our patient of the week and we wanna give you these strawberries. Aw. And then, Martha, and a lot of that, you know, let’s say a patient tells us that their daughter’s getting married this summer. Yeah. Oh.

that’s who’s getting the fraud. Oh, I love that. Or, um, a patient tells us they’re concerned their mother just got put into hospice, so was just diagnosed with breast cancer. Immediately. You know, it’s like, it’s like the alarm goes out. Everybody knows. That’s the person of the week. That’s gonna be a person of the week. They’re gonna be over-delivered too. Okay? Um, do I have time for two more?

Dayna Johnson:

Give us, give us one more. One more, okay. We can’t give away all your secrets. So, alright, so.

Dr. Ankur Gupta:

Whenever a patient, expensive treatment, whenever a patient decides to move forward with us for something expensive, let’s say it’s an implant retained overdenture or a cosmetic smile makeover, they’re dropping major dollars, right? For certain. So what we do right at that moment is we assign that patient a spy. So let’s say it’s my dental assistant, she becomes a spy on that patient. Her job is throughout the duration of treatment, she’s gotta get to know him or her, you know? So what’s your favorite?

restaurant, what do you like to do, what do you think you’re gonna do once you get teeth, that kind of stuff. Then on the very last appointment when they finally get their the news delivered or their implant dentures snapped in.

At that appointment, we have this little Amazon box with tissues in it, and it’s got a glyph card to that place. So that patient says, once I get my teeth, I’m going to eat a steak at Norton Steakhouse. It’s the spy’s responsibility to go out and get about 1% of the treatment cost and a glyph card. So if there’s a $15,000 please, they’ll get a $150 card, and then that patient gets to… That’s so special.

they got their team. But then all of a sudden they get this surprise and it’s a substantial amount. And so they’re pretty excited about it. Our team remembered where they should get the gift card from. Yeah, it’s personalized. It’s personalized. The patient had talked about it at some point during their journey in your practice. Yeah, I wish I could talk to you about more but I know the time is… I wish I could get away all your secrets and I wish I could sit in on your course tomorrow. It sounds

Dayna Johnson:

But thank you so much for telling us the story about your children. I love hearing personal stories about my guests because we get to learn a little bit about you. Now we’re kind of part of your family. Thank you so much for telling us your personal stories.

Dr. Ankur Gupta:

You are, by the way, a great podcast host. Thank you. You’re very good. You’re smiling constantly, you’re very welcoming. It’s just been a pleasure, thank you very much. It’s just been like we’ve just been sitting here talking, just two dental colleagues talking about our dental practices. Yeah, it’s been very nice. And I know that I got so much out of our talk today. I can’t wait to go back and listen to it and write down the script and share it. But everybody, I just, I was wonderful.

Dayna Johnson:

So if anyone listening today wanted to maybe reach out to you directly, maybe they want you to speak at their study club, or maybe they wanted for you to do some coaching with them. How would we reach out to you? So my website is the easiest way, because my name is foreign, it’s hard to pronounce, hard to pronounce the right spell.

My educational company is called Be Better Seminars, And actually, all of the handouts that I actually referred to, they’re all there on the website. You don’t have to subscribe or pay me anything or do a membership or anything like that. You just click on the handouts and you can download them and put them up. Yeah. Oh my gosh, what a gift that is. Yeah. Yeah, well thank you.

does contact info in the show notes. You’ll be able to reach out to him, go onto his website directly and get all of his gifts that he’s willing to give. And I hope that your presentation tomorrow at Rocky Mountain Dull convention goes really well. You’re gonna have an amazing audience. Denver’s a great place to speak. Denver is great. It’s a great place to speak. It’s just a magical place. Yeah. Thank you so much. My pleasure. Thank you, Dayna. On my podcast.