Survey: What patients like about dental office experience

Dec. 7, 2012
RDH eVillage readers reflect on what patients comment on about dental offices, as well as the moods of their colleagues.

Treating dentists generate the most positive comments about a dental office among both male and female patients, according to a survey of dental hygienists in RDH eVillage. The fees assessed by dental offices prompt the most negative comments by patients of both genders.

Overall, 276 dental professionals participated in the RDH eVillage survey, including 262 dental hygienists.

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Male and female patients vary slightly in positive comments on other aspects of a dental office. Male patients will typically praise another staff member, for example, while women comment on the appearance of the office (see Figures 1, 2 below).

Figure 1. If you are unable to view chart satisfactorily, click here for larger image.

Figure 2. If you are unable to view chart satisfactorily, click here for larger image.
In addition to the five options depicted in the above charts, dental hygienists were encouraged to list other items that generate positive comments. Overall, hygienists said patients appreciate being “treated like family” by the entire staff. But specific perks about dental office appointments included:

Female patients like
• Warm lavender towels at end of appointment
• Updated decor in operatories
• Dental technology
• Time management

Male patientslike
• Time management
• Televisions, games in office
• Dental technology

On the flip side, the costs associated with a dental appointment are the most likely to generate negative comments, with a greater percentage of male patients leading the grumbling. A third of the hygienists said female patients comment negatively on another staff member (see Figures 3, 4 below).

Figure 3. if you are unable to view chart satisfactorily, click here for larger image.

Figure 4. If you are unable to view chart satisfactorily, click here for larger image.

The RDH eVillage readers were encourage to submit other issues prompting negative comments from patients of both genders.

Female patients dislike
• Having to be on time
• Parking issues
• Insurance coverage
• Office hours
• Former staff members

Male patients dislike
• Home care instructions
• Limited appointments in desired times
• Insurance coverage

A majority (60%) of the respondents said dental staffs are in a “good mood most of the time during office hours.” The other 40% did not agree with the “most of the time” evaluation. The survey inquired who is the most likely to be the “dark cloud” hanging over the office’s mood. In chronological order, the staff members who are the most likely to be in a bad mood are the office manager, dental assistant, front office staff member, the doctor, another dental hygienist, and the hygienist responding to the survey.

We asked the respondents to offer a reason why the staff member was moody, and 236 dental hygienists responded to the question. A sampling of those answers based on the occupations can be viewed by clicking here.

The survey also asked who is the most charismatic member of the dental staff. In chronological order, doctors, other dental hygienists, dental assistants, office managers, and front office staff members were voted most likely to be sought out for pleasantries, even if uninvolved with treatment.

What makes a dental staff member charismatic?

• Friendly and approachable. Not condescending.
• Friendly listener.
• Ask about what is going on in the patient’s life. Makes it all about the patient, and listens to them.
• His true sense of caring. Patients feel it.
• Bubbly and fun to be around, always laughing even though her life is not perfect.
• Her ability to see issues from the other person’s point of view, her empathy, her gift for explaining things in a clear, friendly language.
• She shows concern for the patients themselves, not just their dental concerns.
• Doctor is great at breaking down barriers and making patients feel comfortable and happy.
• I have worked with our office manager for over 15 years. She had minimal dental experience when she started, but she has fantastic people skills. Patients love her fun, friendly, upbeat personality and so does the staff.

Finally, the survey concluded with a question regarding what change would a respondent initiate if they could influence that change. More than 70% responded to the question, and a sampling of those comments can be viewed by clicking here. Yes, there were a lot of “so-and-so needs to be fired” types of suggestions. We left those comments out, and focused on other types of improvements.