CDS News

  • September 14, 2016

Patient surveys, Part 2

Practices interested in “getting inside the heads” of patients use patient satisfaction surveys to glean helpful information, observations and reactions that can be used to make tangible changes.

But what to ask? Can you get all you want to know from your patients in 5 or 10 questions? Is such a short survey too superficial to be helpful?

Make no mistake, surveys telegraph to your patients that you care what they think. Acknowledging and responding to survey results also convey that it matters what they think.

So what matters to patients? A 2013 nationwide survey of adults by Futuredontics was able to pinpoint issues that carry weight for dental patients as well as perceptions that color the relationship with their dentist.

Cost is a huge issue, the survey revealed. Some highlights:

  • 90% say dental work is expensive
  • 91% will go back to the same dentist if they get an upfront conversation about cost
  • 93% will go back if they receive a clear explanation of required vs. optional treatments
  • 87% say that a dentist taking financial concerns into consideration is important
  • 80% indicate insurance is an important factor when choosing a dentist
  • 63% are influenced by financing options, and
  • 31% think dentists try to sell unnecessary treatments
Take a few minutes for a mental evaluation of how your office explains financing or how you and your staff explain which treatment – and its cost – is better for the patient. Understanding these statistics could help you tailor satisfaction survey questions to improve how and when financial information is conveyed to your patients.

Hours and availability are also important, the Futuredontics survey found. Patients want flexibility in their dental home.

  • 74% say getting an immediate appointment is a top reason to choose a dentist
  • 57% look for a dentist who offers extended hours during the week, and
  • 46% consider weekend availability when choosing a dentist
Similarly, a survey could reveal whether your patients may want to see longer or weekend hours. But don’t include the question unless you intend to accept the results.

Another category – online information – also drives patient decisions, the survey found. A few glimpses:

  • 70% want to read online reviews from other patients before choosing a dentist
  • 30% say their choice of dentist is influenced by a practice’s website
  • 74% say recommendations from others influence their choice of dentist, and
  • 60% turn to search engines to find a dentist
Your survey could reveal how important online information is to your patients and whether you need to tinker with your web page or track and encourage online reviews.

Knowing what to ask – and how – on a survey can reap important “intelligence” on your patients’ concerns and perceptions. Listening to and acting on that knowledge gives your patients confidence that they’re valued by their dental home.

The views expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily the opinions of the Chicago Dental Society. CDS presents Front Desk, a column addressing problems dentists and staff members experience in the office. Front Desk is prepared by Stephanie Sisk, a freelance journalist. Suggestions? Email suggestions for topics to be covered to the Chicago Dental Society.