Have you ever wondered what really matters to patients when they are choosing a dental provider? In this highly competitive dental market, knowing what your patients really care about and being able to deliver that can be a simple key to achieving patient satisfaction.
Dental patients have all types of different reasons for choosing you or your dental office. It can be as simple as proximity to their workplace, a personal referral by a family member, or as complex as thorough research through reviews online and internet searches. Let’s face it; going to the dental office is not normally high on the list of things people want to do. So maybe we could make it a better experience if we understand what patients really value.
I have comprised a list of 10 things patients feel are important when choosing a dental provider. I’m sure you are probably already doing some of these things. If not, take notes and see if implementing some of these will help your patients feel more comfortable and valued, open to accept more treatment recommendations, and possibly even see your new patient numbers increase.
1) No Wait Times
When scheduling appointments, most patients prefer to have them in a timely manner, and block scheduling can certainly help achieve this. Patients also do not want to wait when they have a scheduled appointment. They expect to be seen on time.
We all know life happens, and sometimes we may run behind. Please make every effort to make the patients informed and their wait more tolerable and comfortable.
At this time, some offices may still have patients waiting in their cars. If so, be sure to pop out and chat with the patient to assure them that you are working diligently to seat them. Offices that are observing social distancing in the reception areas can be chatty with patients and demonstrate the extra measures of disinfecting and wiping down common areas, chairs, door handles, pens, etc.. The patients can view this cleanliness as they are waiting.
In the meantime, offer patients bottled water and the wifi password so they can check emails, play games, or scroll Facebook while they wait. Obviously, always apologize if the appointment has a late start. Consider giving the patient a gift card to a local coffee shop if the delay was lengthy, acknowledging that their time is important.
2) A Friendly Staff
DUH! No brainer, right? Patients feel welcome and relaxed when they see and hear smiling faces, pleasant phone conversations, great customer service, greeting patients by name, asking about family members, making small talk, offering patients bottled water, blankets if they are cold, and opening the doors for patients.
3) Appointment Reminders
Most patients are busy with daily life and enjoy the reminder about upcoming appointments, whether it is a phone call, text message, or email. It is also a great tool for keeping the schedule booked, especially if confirmations are done 48 hours in advance.
Having prior notice about a patient needing to change or cancel appointments allows the office to work from the past due list (we all have one right now) and fill those open spots with the appropriate treatment.
4) Finance Options
Patients want and appreciate options to help them pay for their care. Most patients want to invest in their oral care but need a little help on the investing part. There are third-party companies to help with financing options, or you can be creative with in-house discount plans. I have seen offices that offer a yearly “discount plan” with a set fee for being a member annually and then a 20% discount on all procedures.
5) Explanations of Treatment
Patients need and want complete explanations about what is going on in their own mouths and how to treat their issues. Take adequate time to thoroughly explain and answer any questions that patients may have about their dental needs and upcoming treatment so patients will be comfortable in your care.
If your office has visual aids, whether in written literature form or software programs that demonstrate procedures, some patients may appreciate those as well. Patients do not appreciate being rushed through this process. So please take your time, and let them ask questions.
6) Personalized Recognition
Remember dates that are important to your patients and send appropriate correspondence − birthdays, weddings, births, graduations, funerals, or retirements. I work in a small town, and we are able to keep up with certain things through our local newspaper, mutual friends of patients, and family members.
We also have a list we can generate of upcoming birthdays for the month so we can send out cards to those patients. If a patient happens to come in on their birthday or anniversary, we usually will send them home with balloons and plenty of birthday wishes from our staff.
Patients like to feel that they are more than just another patient. Taking the time to recognize special events in their lives emphasizes that you care.
7) Follow-up Calls
Nothing impresses patients more than having their dental office call and check on them after a procedure. The biggest impact is made when the provider − either the dental hygienist or dentist − personally calls to check on the patient and review any concerns with them. Brownie points galore!
8) An Online Presence
In our tech-oriented world, most patients want their dental office to have an online presence. A website that offers an introduction to the office is a wonderful idea. It can show pictures of the office, give directions, and provide short biographies of doctors and staff for the patients or potential patients to view.
I believe that the website should encourage the interaction of making/canceling appointments or sending insurance information and required paperwork. A website that allows viewing before-and-after photos of completed cases or a social media page with giveaways from time to time is also fun.
9) A Safe Environment
Patients appreciate an office that takes the health of their patients seriously, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Educate patients about how your office has responded to the pandemic, changes you have implemented, and ways you are keeping them safe as they trust you with their care.
Some patients may ask specific questions about how you are handling instruments, what items are disposable, what you do to clean the air and rooms, and why you may be wearing different PPE than they are used to seeing. Be prepared to answer those questions and help to reassure the patients their safety is our main concern.
10) An Authentic Experience
Patients are loyal to a dentist or hygienist that they feel truly cares about them and their needs. Develop rapport, have fun with your patients, always act with integrity, be truthful when answering questions, and let the patients know you are concerned with their dental health and overall well-being.
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- Mickelson, M. 25 Things Patients Really Want from Their Dentist. (2019, February 6). Prosites. Retrieved from https://www.prosites.com/dental-marketing-wisdom/2019/02/25-things-patients-really-want-from-their-dentist/.