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Amanda Ellis is the dental intern with Advanstar’s Dental Products Report. She is a pre-dental student studying biochemistry at John Carroll University. She is president of John Carroll’s Pre-Dental Society, a member of the American Student Dental Association, and is involved with the Jefferson J. Jones, DMD, Health Legacy of Cleveland Pre-Dental Mentoring Program. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dental systems research firm Software Advice recently shared the opportunity for dental practices to communicate the risk of traveling abroad for dental care to patients. As “dental tourism” becomes a growing trend in the U.S., Software Advice surveyed a random sample of 1,155 U.S. patients to see which patients are most likely to travel for dental care, and what might cause them to reconsider. Check out the survey results...
It is not surprising to see that the patient’s primary concern is the treatment cost because the prices of many dental procedures reach thousands of dollars. The appeal of “dental tourism” is saving money because procedures abroad could be two-thirds less in cost.
Other major concerns that patients have with getting dental care are treatment and recovery time and the fear of pain. Although these are common patient concerns, they did not show a significant influence on the sample population. Thirty-five percent of patients surveyed did not share these three main concerns, but some shared the concern of dentist-patient communication.
This concern can be easily overcome by opening the communication channel between all members of the dental team and the patient. Developing communication can help practices address patient’s concerns of the cost and pain associated with the treatment plan, and help patients to understand the importance of receiving treatment in the US.
While many assume that only the uninsured patients travel abroad to receive dental treatment, the average dental tourist does have dental insurance and can afford treatment. Seventeen percent of insured patients shared their interest in traveling abroad to receive lower costs for treatment. Software Advice shared that dentists should take this opportunity to help patients reconsider traveling for dental care because of the risks associated with receiving care abroad and the long-term benefits of receiving American dental care.
When survey, 25% of Americans in the Western states were willing to travel abroad for cheaper dental care. Software Advice shares that patients in Western U.S. are most likely to travel abroad because of the proximity to Mexico, so less money would be spent in travel costs.
When the patients were asked what would persuade them to travel abroad for dental care even if the cost of the dental procedure was lower, 56% of patients said that nothing would persuade them. Health risk was the main reason patients said that they would reconsider receiving the more expensive healthcare in the U.S.
Dentists should use this as an opportunity for dentists and their practices to share the health risks with traveling abroad for dental care. Risks include possible worsening the existing problem and the need for further treatment which could eventually lead to higher long term costs. If practices see that the main concern for patients is the cost and that patients are willing to stay in the U.S. for care, this opens the opportunity for discussion of payment plans.
From this survey, patients prefer in-office conversation when discussing the health risks associated with dental tourism. It is beneficial to the dental practices to use in-office discussions because these are more personable ways of communicating with patients and it is an effective way to learn about and discuss the patients concerns.
Because posters and brochures are the second highest method, dental practices can use these tools as a way to draw the patient’s attention to the subject and start the conversation of the risks associated with dental tourism.
For more information regarding dental tourism and to see how to start the conversation, click here to see the full discussion of the survey performed by Software Applications.