The 7 Things Patients Want in a Dentist

July 13, 2017
Mary Ellen Cagnassola

Understanding what motivates consumers in the competitive dental industry is a top concern for practice owners, who rely on new and returning patients to survive. With all the options available in states like California, Texas and New York, practicing dentists in areas with high concentrations of dental care providers would be wise to practice some active listening. Continue below to find out how to be the perfect dentist in the eyes of patients.

Futuredontics' survey of dental patients reveals what matters most to your patient base.

When it comes to attracting and retaining patients, there are many unknowns. What causes patients to switch dentists? How do they chose providers? Futuredontics, a dental marketing services and software provider, created an online survey of more than 3,000 participants to answer your most pressing questions.

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Here are the top factors that influence patients’ dental health care decisions and what you can do to satisfy them.

Insurance

This may seem like a no-brainer, but according to the survey, insurance is the no.1 consideration for 59 percent of patients when choosing a provider. Even if a patient enjoys your practice’s services, staff and location, if you cannot accept their insurance, most have no choice but to head elsewhere.

Try the following to score points in patient satisfaction:

  • Understand your patient base and consider adding insurance plans to acquire and retain new patients.
  • Be clear about the distinctions between health and dental coverage.
  • Prioritize treatment plans that give patients what they need, regardless of their coverage.
  • Let patients know about their financing options, if available.
  • Be transparent and explicit about the options you have available.

Convenience

Survey says that patients, especially those between 35 and 54 years old, will not go out of their way to patronize your practice. Location is everything when it comes to business, so if you’re looking to save money by purchasing real estate in an isolated area, you could be hurting your finances. Beyond distance, availability of online appointments, extended workweek hours, weekend hours and a sleek website are of utmost importance.

Try the following to increase convenience:

  • Location, location, location. Pay close attention to parking availability, proximity to public transit, street visibility and ease of access.
  • Offer same- or next-day appointments to decrease the likelihood of no-shows.
  • Extend your hours at least one day out of the week and offer weekend appointments.
  • Be searchable. This includes having a social media presence and online bookings.

3. Reviews

While online reviews do not always offer truthful reflections of a business, it is true that what people say about you online can determine whether a patient choses you. A recent article from DMD asserts that Google searches can make or break a practice. If you want to know exactly how influential these reviews are, consider that most people search a business before booking an appointment and place search results over experience, service offerings and where a dentist went to school.

Try the following to improve your search results:

  • Claim your dental practice on all social media. This means Facebook, Yelp, Google Places and more. The more platforms the better, and the same goes for your activity on them. This may sound daunting, but think of it as free advertising that allows you to be creative while promoting your business.
  • Encourage patients to follow and review your practice with signs in the waiting and exam rooms.
  • Ask for reviews, but do not be too pushy. Automatic ratings, like the ones you get after using services like Lyft, and custom emails are excellent strategies.
  • Respond quickly and thoughtfully to negative reviews.
  • Emphasize positive reviews across all platforms.
  • Do your research. There is no set formula to the Internet, and so you will always need to continue learning to keep up.

Technology

Incorporating new technology is not just fun for you — it is important to patients. Busy schedules necessitate the use of advanced devices to save time, reduce discomfort and make dental visits easier overall. In fact, according to Futuredontics, patients say they would discontinue their patronage of a practice if it does not offer the latest technology.

Try following to fit your practice with the latest gadgetry:

  • Clinical writing turns patients off, so talk about your newest technology in a way that the average person can understand.
  • Feature advanced tech in your marketing, web page and social media.
  • Emphasize your devices and how they can make patients more comfortable.
  • Keep up with the latest appliances on the market.

Referrals from a trusted source

Some things remain the same, and referrals from friends and family are one of them. While practices should not rely on word-of-mouth entirely, recommendations from patients with positive experiences of your services will always put bodies in the chair.

Try the following to boost referrals:

  • Just ask! Much like word-of-mouth referrals, direct communication is valued, and many patients will be happy to oblige.
  • Provide motivation for referrals, but be careful. Instead of calling it an incentive, “thank” your patients with reward plans such as discounts or product samples. Futuredontics advises checking with your local board about state regulations to avoid violations.
  • Be grateful. By showing your patients how much you appreciate them the old-fashioned way, you create an emotional connection to your practice. Thank you notes are a cheap and effective way to accomplish this.

Visibility

Dentists used to rely on local papers and publications to get their brands out to the community. In the digital era, this is no longer effective for getting eyes on your practice. Insurance lists, online directories, review sites, online dental referral companies and social media all have a bigger draw than any of the few print sources left.

Try the following to increase your visibility.

  • Optimize your site for SEO and mobile search.
  • Standardize your directory listings for optimal SEO.
  • Put your brand on Yelp and Facebook, as well as social media. The digital era is a visual one, so give some thought to aesthetics.
  • Be active online.

Please the people

Retaining patients is a huge piece of the pie when it comes to the success of your practice. If you cannot build patient loyalty, you may find yourself in trouble. Luckily, the factors that influence a patient’s decision to stay or leave for another provider are within your control.

Try the following to keep patients coming back:

  • Make your practice financially viable by providing varied insurance plans.
  • Build a stellar staff. Your team should have the best training, chairside manner and passion possible.
  • Improve and maintain relationships by maximizing comfort and making patients feel special.
  • Improve convenience factors.
  • Invest in your practice. While that new laser machine may have a hefty price tag, it does not compare to the cost of losing patients down the road.

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