10.30.09 Issue #399 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague


Belle DuCharme CDPMA
Instructor/Consultant
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Survey Says! What Patients Look For in a Dental Practice

If you haven’t surveyed your patients recently or if it has been a year or more, now is the time - before you start the New Year. The recession is still upon us, but recovery is coming and we must determine how we will greet new patient expectations. Patients will be asking for more satisfaction, and have the choice of choosing another provider if your practice does not stack up. Ask patients that come into the office if they will take a couple of minutes to answer your survey and drop the answer sheet into a “suggestion box.” The comments can be anonymous or can be signed; it is up to the patient. Or you can do a more private mail-in survey. There is a patient survey offered on the McKenzie Management website that you can customize to fit your needs. A dental practitioner recently sent me the results of his survey, and the patients in his practice listed the following attributes as most desirable for them in a dental practice:

  1. Friendly doctor and staff.
  2. Staff that go out of their way to show caring and concern, such as evening post-op calls.
  3. Painless injections or skilled trained staff members that are careful not to poke, stab or drop things on the patients.
  4. Cleanliness and a modern updated look.
  5. A location that is close to home and has ample parking places.
  6. Practitioners who are good with children and who treat them with respect.
  7. Staff that explain the procedures in language that the patient can understand.
  8. Fair and honest fees without surprises or hidden costs.
  9. A dentist that accepts the patients insurance and explains how the insurance works for their situation.
  10. An office that does not keep the patient waiting for long periods in the reception room.
  11. The availability of immediate emergency care.
  12. Payment options so that the patient can make monthly payments.

This list of desired practice qualities should already be part of your practice - and yet from what is observed in some practices, it may be lacking in consistency. From a survey of dentists, it is noted that many dentists do post-op calls to patients in the beginning of their practice career, but later it drops off to sporadic or the task is given to a dental assistant. Some dentists are referred to as “rough” because their technique in giving injections is uncomfortable to the patient, yet little is done to improve their skill.  The same goes for working in the patient’s mouth.  A dental hygienist in one practice got a reputation for being rough and cutting patient’s lips with her instruments to a point that several patients asked if someone else could do their cleanings.

A patient who had received a treatment proposal was dismayed that it changed quite radically when the treatment was begun. She wasn’t informed that there was a good possibility that the two fillings she needed would turn out to be crowns, so she had sticker shock at the front desk and was not able to pay the entire amount. She told the business coordinator that she would continue there as a patient, but she would not recommend the practice to her friends or family. Often doctors want to try to be conservative knowing very well that the tooth will fracture during the preparation. It is better to prepare the patient for the worst that could happen, and then if it doesn’t happen they are happier for the cost to be less than to be more than anticipated.

With fewer people seeking regular care because of the effects of the recession, it is imperative that the dental practice provides the best customer service possible for each patient that walks through the door. If you are designing some of the questions for a patient survey, you may want to consider asking some of the following:

  1. Which staff member(s) give the best customer service?
  2. What can our practice do to improve our service to you?
  3. Would you consider referring our practice to friends and relatives?
    1. If Yes, why?
    2. If No, why?
  4. Are there services or products that you would like our practice to provide to you and your family in the future?

Building positive relationships with your patients creates trust that you are the practice where the patients want to hang their hat for a lifetime. Let the patient know that you care about what they think, and that you will listen to their request to improve your service. 

If you would like more information on McKenzie Management’s Advanced Training Programsto improve the performance of your team, email training@mckenziemgmt.com.

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