Going to the dentist can be stressful enough by itself, but as two different surveys have noted, the patient loyalty that dentists depend upon is largely influenced by two factors: how dentists communicate with their patients, and how much trust patients have in their dentists — particularly when it comes to the cost of treatments.
The first survey, conducted online by market research company Software Advice, found that the way in which patients prefer to be contacted about appointments is primarily dependent on each patient’s age group.
While the greatest percentage of respondents (30%) said that they preferred to be reminded about appointments via text message, this trend seems to be more prevalent among younger patients, between ages 18 and 34. From 34 to 54, the majority of patients preferred to be reminded via email, and this same group also had the highest preference for scheduling appointments online. For those in the 55+ age group, phone call reminders were the leading preference, followed closely by email reminders.
It probably comes as no surprise that letter reminders sent through the mail were the least preferred option for contact.
And in the second survey, which asked 1,000 British patients about the level of trust they have with their dentists, particularly regarding costs, the findings were a bit more alarming. This survey found that one in every five patients were overcharged by their dentists, and about 50% of patients were never told the price of treatment before receiving it.
Even more astonishing was the finding that 20% of patients didn’t actually trust the advice given to them by their dentist, and 40% of patients didn’t know which treatments they could receive under their dental insurance plans.
While the dental industry may differ quite a bit between the U.S. and Britain, one thing is clear: modern dental practices need to adjust to fit the needs of their patients — which could mean adopting more transparency in their practices — or else they run the risk of losing patients.
“Building a relationship with patients based on trust is foundational. How do we build trust at Kirkland Dentistry? Transparency, caring, and attention to detail,” says Michelle Richardson of Kirkland Dentistry. “Every dental patient should expect a detailed and understandable treatment plan before treatment begins, including all costs. Some treatments may inherently have some uncertainty until the time of procedure, but these cases should be identified and fully explained. Whether it’s attending to your preferred contact method or meeting your treatment needs, you deserve to feel comfortable and confident about your relationship with your dentist.”
Many dental practices have found a great deal of assistance through technology, using automated message systems that send out customized reminders based on each patient’s preferred contact, as well as giving patients more online resources that provide the cost and details of each treatment.