Patient Experience: A New Competitive Battleground for Dentists
In today’s consumer-driven environment, it seems that everyone expects an “experience” and not just of the find-yourself variety (a.k.a. that gap year trip across Europe). Perhaps it’s because busy schedules make time more valuable than ever, or that younger generations have simply become conditioned to expect more – the jury is still out on if realty TV or helicopter parents are to blame – either way the bar has been raised and patient experience is the new competitive battleground.
If you think that a patient’s experience begins when they step through your door, we’ll have to politely disagree – it begins at their first point of contact with your practice. And, for most of your patients, that first interaction isn’t with your friendly, front-desk staff – but rather it’s online, on your practice’s website. Your website is an invitation to current and prospective patients to choose you, so ensure it conveys the right message.
Beyond providing 24/7 access to essential information (e.g. office hours, insurance plans accepted, etc.), your website sets patient expectations. Think about it this way, if you received an evite to a backyard gathering, you would likely assume that the event was casual. However, if you received a formal, printed invitation to the same event, you would (hopefully) skip the cut-off shorts. The same is true of your website. If a prospective patient visits a modern, mobile-friendly (FYI – 80% of Internet searches are done on a smartphone) professional website, they assume that persona will carry over to both the physical practice and the care they receive. What if they don’t have a good website experience? Chances are you’ll never know, because many prospective patients will simply move on to another practice’s website. In fact, according to Kissmetrics, 42% of users will go to a competitor’s site if they have a poor experience on yours.
Ok, so you’ve got patients in your waiting room, now all you must do is wow them with your cavity-filling acumen, right? Again, we politely disagree. While your clinical skills are at the root of patient care (see what we did there?), a number of components factor into overall patient experience. Some are on the peripheral (complimentary bottled water and WiFi are nice, but probably not prerequisites for most patients) while others, like patient interaction with doctors and staff, are more central. Generally, patients are more likely to excuse an outdated copy of People Magazine in the waiting room than they are a habitually late doctor or overly aggressive hygienist.
The visit is over, the patient schedules their next appointment and the experience is complete, right? By now you know where this is going – yes, we have to politely disagree. Trust us when we tell you that the patient experience extends beyond their time in the dental chair. Post-visit communication is a great way to differentiate your practice and show patients that you care about their wellbeing.
Emailing or texting post-procedure instructions (or pre-visit medication reminders) will not only be appreciated, but will reduce the risk of complications. Another way to extend the patient experience is to ask patients for their feedback by sending a follow-up patient satisfaction survey and/or review request after general hygiene appointments. In return, your practice receives valuable patient feedback and online reviews, which is more important than ever given that 70% of dental patients surveyed by Dentistry IQ said that online ratings influenced their choice of dentist.
In the end, customer understanding is at the core of patient experience. Whether you’re practicing in Beverly Hills or Dubuque, patients want to feel valued and respected.
Looking for more ways to enhance patient experience and increase patient loyalty? Check out our free whitepaper, How to Increase Retention and Lifetime Value of Dental Patients.