How the Patient Experience is Driving the Future of Dentistry

The value of the patient experience can be best understood in the context of the consumer-mindset. Choice, access, freedom, and basic expectations have much to do with how you capitalize on your dental patient’s interaction with your practice. 

A recent survey of more than 2,000 dental patients confirms a gap between experiences that consumers are expecting in retail versus in dentistry. In fact, dental providers are finding themselves playing “catch-up” to experiences that are delivered by retailers—experiences that are shaping expectations for all industries, including dentistry. 

With higher patient expectations, it’s a good time to revisit the unique patient experience that your practice is delivering. There are many learnings and best practices to leverage from the retail industry so you can set your practice apart by improving the patient experience in tangible ways.  

How have expectations changed?  

In the consumer sector, companies like Apple, Amazon, and Zappos have been shaping consumer expectations through better experiences. And for good reasons, too. By offering less friction and customizing experiences, consumers are feeling heard and appreciated by brands. The result of these better experiences is more loyal customers and higher satisfaction rates.  

As you might guess, these general consumer preferences apply to dental patients, too.  

It’s natural for your patients to be influenced by their consumer tendencies when seeking dental services. Two major reasons why dental practices should take stock of their own patient experiences include:  

  • The growing number of available dentists increases competition for acquiring and retaining patients 
  • An increasing amount of service-related information through online ratings, reviews, and comments. 

Online ratings and comments in particular are driving patient perceptions and decisions when it comes to healthcare. In fact, according to one survey, over 80% of patients surveyed trusted online reviews more than personal recommendations. More than one third of patients surveyed said their doctor’s online reputation is very important. The same survey also found that nearly 60% of respondents selected a doctor based on positive online reviews and over 60% reported that they would avoid a doctor based on negative reviews.

The long-lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic also cannot be ignored. Patients are reading reviews to determine how practices have adapted to changes, impacting whether they choose to postpone dental appointments.  

Adherence to safety protocols are the baseline of their expectations. Improvements to the patient experience will likely be what compels a higher percentage of patients to return for care. 

By applying learnings from the consumer sector, dental practices can adjust its patient experiences to meet higher expectations from patients, fuel better online reviews, and increase patient loyalty.  

How to deliver a dental patient experience that drives your future success 

Listen and learn from your patients 

To find out how your practice can make your patients feel heard, create opportunities for patient feedback often and implement ways to make improvements. Avenues for feedback include post-visit surveys, asking for feedback at checkout, and online reviews.  

By giving your patients a voice, you ensure that any negative feedback is immediately responded to and improved while also understanding where your practice is meeting or even exceeding expectations. Other ways to monitor patient experiences include: 

  • Monitor online patient reviews – yours and fellow competitors. Read between the lines and extract what’s useful to improve the patient’s experience. 
  • Refine your requests for reviews and referrals. Make your ask more conversational and compelling so patients are more willing to give feedback. 
  • Revise your post-visit patient surveys. Ask for feedback that’s informative and actionable towards the patient experience.  

Align your goals and strategies with improving the patient experience 

Other areas worth reassessing are your goals and strategies. Ask yourself if your annual, quarterly, monthly, and daily goals include measurable goals to improve the patient experience. Auditing these areas can help align your practice to goals and strategies that deliver a better patient experience.  

For example, if one practice strategy is to modernize through new technologies, consider how they will improve the patient experience. Implementing innovative technologies can bring increased convenience and lower costs for patients, such as teledentistry or mobile dentistry 

Online registration, payments, and scheduling can also increase convenience for patients as more are expecting self-serve websites for healthcare. Staying connected through customized, timely, and meaningful communications can also boost convenience and patient satisfaction.  

If your practice struggles with delivering consistent patient experiences from one appointment to the next, especially on busy days, consider using an interactive checklist to help streamline appointments for your staff and your patients. If case acceptance rates are inconsistent, approach a solution from the patient’s perspective. Read our blog to learn how you can ensure that you’re hearing and addressing patient concerns to increase case acceptance.  

Expand your scope of patient engagement 

Your patients’ experience encompasses a broad set of interactions that reach beyond their time in the dental office. The complete patient experience involves other players including payers, dental care product vendors, software solution vendors, and others. Each of these entities can offer ways to improve the patient’s experience.  

Knowledge gained can help you improve the patient experience in other tangible ways. 

  • Talk to your product vendors, suppliers, and support networks. Ask for relevant user data to compare with your services. 
  • Train your team to recognize clues your patients leave about product and service preferences. Discuss your findings and how you can improve the patient experience. 

The future of dentistry will be defined in many ways by the patient experience. Your dental practice has opportunity to learn from your patients and the broader consumer environment to improve the experience you provide.  

Explore the following resources to reframe the patient experience and exceed your patient’s expectations: 

Create Loyal Patients by Improving the Patient Experience 

How to Improve Your Chairside Manner and Create an Elevated Dental Patient Experience 

Meet patient expectations with Planet DDS solutions 

You might find a cloud solution like Denticon to be effective for data monitoring, dental practice workflows, and overall dental practice management. We also offer cloud-enabled advanced imaging solution, Apteryx XVWeb 

Request a demo to learn more about how Planet DDS solutions can help your practice deliver better patient experiences to meet changing patient expectations. 

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