The 7 Value Factors That Patients Look For in a Dental Office

Dr Hendrik Lai

Does this resonate with you? "I'm offering all these great services, I have the latest technology, and my fees are low but I'm still not getting any traction with patients". It is certainly something I hear a lot when I begin the consulting and coaching journey with my dental and healthcare clients.

Now, these dentist and healthcare clients are generally very experienced and technically excellent at their chosen craft, so commonsense would hold that acquiring new patients and retaining their existing ones should be a no-brainer right? Unfortunately, as is the case in most aspects of business, things are not so cut-and-dried.

If a dentist’s prices are competitive, their technical skills are solid and they have all the latest and greatest technology, but they're still not gaining traction with patients, perhaps patients don’t place the same level of importance on the same factors that dentists do.

What is it that then that patients hold to be most important? In terms of the “Client Value Pyramid”, the following factors are what research tells us our patients consider most important when visiting and choosing to stay with a dentist or any health professional. In order of importance these are:

1. Communication/care and attention/Putting them at ease. This may seem like a no-brainer to patients, but it is a huge factor that tends to be overlooked by busy healthcare professionals. Dentists need to remember that when patients attend the dental office they are often at their most vulnerable and are as much seeking reassurance from the dentist and their team, as they are seeking treatment for their condition. In fact, communication was rated as important by some 90% of survey respondents. From a client value perspective this factor informs and reduces anxiety.

2. Pain control. Let's face it, many medical and dental procedures can be uncomfortable for patients and for the most part, no one likes to be in pain. It is no wonder then that 73% of respondents rated this factor as important to them. Clients see value in this as it addresses needs around reducing anxiety and reducing their risk.

3. Safety/Infection Control. Beyond your business's duty of care to your patients, one of the key tenets of health care is to “do no harm”. For the most part, infection control can be considered a core business for a dental office, and this is the way patients see it too. Addressing this concern adds client value by reducing risk, reducing anxiety and enhancing wellness. Nearly 73% of survey respondents rated safety as important.

4. Technical Competence. This is the factor that dentists and health professionals tend to pay an inordinate amount of attention to. The reality though is that patients simply expect a minimum level of perceived technical quality and competence. Once that minimum level is met, any further gains in patient satisfaction are marginal as patients find it difficult to evaluate technical quality. This factor addresses value derived from therapeutic value, anxiety reduction and quality. It may also add value by enhancing attractiveness depending on the nature of the health professional.

5. Convenience/Extended Hours. Research has found that three of the four least important factors when patients make a decision about their health professionals were opening hours, waiting time and time spent with the health professional. That is not to say however, that this factor should be ignored as it adds value by providing access, simplifying client activity and reducing the effort clients need to expend.

6. Facilities. Again, this is a factor to which an inordinate amount of attention is paid by dentists. The reality is that the importance of facilities is more of a factor for staff than patients. Certainly, research suggests that it is not considered to be as important as other factors in determining patient satisfaction the clinic facilities, for example the neatness, comfort of seating, magazine selection, background music etc. have been shown to influence patients. Value is added by addressing client sensory appeal, and may contribute to the perception of safety.

7. Cost/Price. For most businesses this cannot be ignored but comes in low on the list of factors that patients consider. For the most part patients use cost as a proxy for quality. The two lowest-rated items are 'Knowing in advance what the fee will be' and 'Believing that the fees are appropriate'. Again, cost is seen as a proxy for quality and value can be gained by thoughtful pricing strategies.

The Sage Advice Takeaway The seven factors above address certain consumer value elements. The more value elements that a dental office (or any business for that matter) can satisfy the greater will be the clients' loyalty and the higher the business' sustained revenue growth.

Let's Talk If you’re ready to take the next step in growing your dental office or DSO we’d love to hear from you. Click here, or follow this link to schedule a time to speak with Hendrik.

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