Here’s Why Your Dental Practice Must Prioritize Patient Satisfaction

Straumann May 14th, 2019

Patient satisfaction matters–a lot. 

After all, today’s health care market has put consumers in control. Patient choice can impact more than 60% of health care spending, according to a report published by the Harvard Business Review. 

That stat should catch your attention. 

Because patients can simply go somewhere else if they don’t receive the care they want at your dentistry practice. 

If you haven’t been focusing on patient satisfaction at your dental practice, rethink your strategy. Becoming a patient-centered practice is not only the right thing to do, it’s also key to building a sustainable operation. 

Here are the reasons you must prioritize patient satisfaction. 

 

Patient-Centered Care Models Achieve Better Health Outcomes 

 

Research published by the Journal of Dental Education attests that “patient satisfaction influences treatment cooperation, and better cooperation leads to healthier patients in the long term.” 

Moreover, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine details a link between taking into account patient needs and improved health outcomes. Here’s what researchers found: 

Researchers identified 157 contextual factors while treating patients. Out of those 157 contextual factors, patient-centered decision making (PCDM) addressed 96. Of these, 71% of patients had improved health outcomes. Conversely, PCDM didn’t address 61 of the 157 contextual factors. Of these, only 46% of patients had improved outcomes. 

No wonder patient-centered care has been gaining momentum, given its potential to improve health outcomes and therefore reduce readmission rates. 

As Klea Bertakis, M.D., M.P.H., and professor at the University of California, Davis, states, patient-centered care has been recognized as “one of the key actions for improving our nation’s health.” 

Clearly, your dental practice should make patient satisfaction a core goal. Patient-centered care can enhance the experience and yield better results. It’s a win-win.

 

Patient-Centered Care Improves Efficiency 

 

Patient-centered care emphasizes the individual’s specific health needs and desired outcomes, as well as their values and preferences. It encourages shared decision-making to design a personalized treatment plan that will benefit the patient physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. 

Considering that, it’s not surprising the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found patient-centered care can decrease the use of medical services. The agency says this stems from patient-centered care allowing people to achieve their own desired health outcomes (and making the possibility for another medical visit less likely). 

For instance, when a dentist and their auxiliary team gives attention to the patient’s issues and circumstances, the likelihood of solving the patient’s needs increases. In turn, this reduces the potential for that same oral health problem reoccurring. 

Yet it’s not just that reducing the number of visits lowers expenses. Patient engagement experts say that quality patient-centered care enables “coordinated, effective, and timely diagnosis and treatment.” Additionally, patient-centered care educates the patient on how to take better control of their health. 

Furthermore, the New England Journal of Medicine posits that patient-centered care boosts the productivity of clinicians and the rest of the team. That’s because happiness is contagious, as so much research has discovered. And happy workers have greater productivity. 

Also, with improved efficiency, dentists and their associates can better allocate their resources and time. This reduces workplace stress and prevents your team from becoming overburdened. And it allows you to focus on what matters most: treating the patient effectively. 

So, patient-centered care can truly improve the operational efficiency of your dental practice in a number of ways. By teaching your patients how to care for their oral health, you can prevent unnecessary issues too.

 

Patient Satisfaction Boosts Your Bottom Line 

 

Focus on cash, and your dental clinic won’t succeed, asserts Dental Economics, a publication covering dental practice management. Instead, make relationships the most important aspect of your business. 

Good patient relationships and improved health outcomes mean happier patients. And smiling patients lead to business success. 

In addition to increasing profits through greater productivity and lowered costs (as mentioned in the previous section), high patient satisfaction can help you get loyal customers. 

When patients leave your dental clinic happy, they have a greater likelihood of returning the next time. That benefits your business with more cash flow. 

As an article published by the Modern Medicine Network notes, your revenue mostly comes from loyal customers. And it’s up to 65% easier to sell a service to a loyal customer than a new one. Retain your patients by solving their needs, and your dental practice will reap the benefits. 

By prioritizing patient satisfaction, you also open up another growth avenue for your business: the potential to obtain customers through word of mouth. 

Remember: people talk. Through online review sites, social media, and old-fashioned word of mouth, folks will find out about your dental practice. 

When those potential customers read and hear good things, they will call you when they need a dental check-up. That’s not just more revenue for your business (new patients spend $700-$1,250 in year one), it’s also a high-quality patient you’ll acquire–one who has taken the time to find a dentist they trust. 

 

High Patient Satisfaction Improves Your Reputation 

 

Understand the importance of what your patients say online and offline. It outweighs a lot of the marketing and advertising you may do. Statistics from Nielsen prove it: 

  • Ninety-two percent of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family. This makes word of mouth the most trusted source of information for consumers. Such recommendations for your dental practice may occur on social media platforms like Facebook. 
  • Online consumer reviews represent the second most-trusted source of information. When prospective patients see Facebook likes, four- and five-star ratings on Google and Yelp, and quality reviews on niche dentistry sites like RateMDs, it makes them more likely to call and book an appointment. 

You can’t ignore the importance of online conversations and reviews, especially in the health care sector. Just consider this: The Brookings Institution finds that patients prefer online reviews to even government ratings of health care providers. When it comes to choosing a dentist, people trust the recommendations of the people they trust. It’s that simple. 

So, you want your patients to have such a good experience that they tell friends and family about your dental practice. It will benefit your reputation and create referral business. 

At the end of the day, ensuring patient satisfaction builds a positive brand image. With a positive reputation in the community, you’ll have a much greater chance of building a sustainable practice that doesn’t just survive, but thrives. 

 

Improving Patient Satisfaction at Your Dental Practice 

 

While you may have to spend money to upgrade amenities and train your team, you can achieve incredible return on your investment from focusing on patient satisfaction. It can help you build a sustainable dental practice that improves health outcomes, performs at a high level, and develops loyal patients. 

But how do you improve patient satisfaction? 

It’s easier said than done. Your practice must first create a patient-centered culture. Your team must understand the dental practice exists to serve the patient. 

You must not only address the oral health needs of the patient, but you must do so in a manner that aligns with their unique situation, preferences, values, and finances. This necessitates active communication, listening to the patient, and explaining things in a clear way. Interpersonal skills play an important role here. 

Cleveland Clinic, which ranks among the top health care providers in the nation, offers guidance. Here’s how they achieve better patient satisfaction: 

  • Emphasizing communication between caregivers: Patients want to know that the dental hygienist has communicated any issues with the dentist (and vice versa). This shows you value giving them high-quality care. 
  • Treating everyone with respect: Patients that have a personal connection to their dental care provider will feel more confident in their hands. Engage with patients on a personal level. 
  • Ensuring workplace happiness: Patients feel more comfortable talking with a dentist or dental hygienist who’s in good spirits. If someone seems tired, stressed, or even angry, the patient will be less likely to communicate their issues. Implement strategies to reduce workplace stress and make the dental clinic a happier place. 
  • Getting feedback: Know that quality of care and genuine concern for the patient, along with keeping them informed, hold the most importance. 

As you can see, great customer service skills can help your dental practice retain and attract patients. Even methods you see with more retail-oriented businesses work. 

For instance, sending out thank-you emails to patients or mailing calendars before the new year shows you value their business. 

You can even run fun marketing campaigns. Many dental offices offer referral prizes under the slogan of “The very best compliment you can give us is the referral of your friends or family.” Marketing campaigns like these boost engagement by involving the community and offering something in return. They may even motivate folks to take control of their dental health. That could equal more business for you. 

Now that know why you must prioritize patient satisfaction, and how to improve it, there’s only one thing left to do: Create and implement the right strategy. 

 

Bringing In Technologies to Enhance Patient Satisfaction 

 

Many people think dental clinics have fallen behind when it comes to technologies. Make certain your dental clinic stays up-to-date. Because technology can give your patients a better experience. 

For instance, you can enable digital communications through an online platform. Patients should have the ability to make an appointment, check personal records, and even ask questions and describe issues. This saves a lot of time for patients. 

You should also regularly check your reviews and engage with clients on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Google, and other platforms. You can see where you can improve, respond to concerns quickly, keep patients updated, and demonstrate that you value your patients. 

When measuring patient satisfaction, technology can help. To allow your team to actually use the data from surveys, questionnaires, review sites, and social media, set up an analytics platform or at least a central place for analyzing that data. The point is you should have quantifiable and actionable data at your fingertips. 

Finally, use tools that improve communication among not just within your practice, but also between your dental clinic and others. 

For example, when a general dentist has to refer a patient to a surgical specialist, patient satisfaction relies on detailed collaboration between the two providers. Using a tool like LOOP, a digital communication platform that makes treatment collaboration easier, ensures the patient receives necessary care in a quick and effective manner. 

LOOP gives restorative practices an online window into the specialist’s office and real-time visibility of digital charts. Each party knows exactly where the patient is during treatment, elevating the team approach and the patient’s experience. 

Learn more about how a platform like LOOP can help your dental practice in this ebook. You’ll see how the right collaboration tool can enhance the patient’s experience and improve oral health outcomes. 

Ultimately, achieving great patient satisfaction depends on having a patient-centered culture, a smart strategy, and the right technologies. This way, you can empower your dental practice to make changes that will improve patient satisfaction–and therefore improve your dental practice. 

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