12 truths of patient satisfaction

March 8, 2012
Linda Drevenstedt, RDH, MS, clearly steps through 12 facts about patient satisfaction that can help you relate more effectively to staff members and patients. Read about how being aware of these truths can make an enormous difference in your dental practice.

By Linda Drevenstedt, RDH, MS

Reprinted with permission from Linda Drevenstedt.

1. Patient satisfaction is a combination of BOTH clinical quality AND customer service quality. Patients do not care how wonderful the crown margin is if they have been treated rudely by staff members, have not been informed about the fees, have been kept waiting, or hurt. Patient satisfaction is a complex mixture of patients’ past experiences (good and bad) as well as their personal needs and values.

12% is the magic increase in productivity when you achieve high patient satisfaction — patient satisfaction from the patient's point of view.

Profits in high patient satisfaction practices are 10% higher.

4.Dissatisfied patients TELL at least 11 others. With today's instant "rants" on Facebook, Twitter, and email, it is best "not to go there." Do you know WHAT dissatisfies your patients? Here are 10 known culprits:

  • Using technical language or jargon.
  • Having a condescending tone, attitude toward them. Even if they don't floss, you can't talk to adults like they are children.
  • Long monologues without a break to include patients’ questions or concerns.
  • Not taking care of their insurance and helping them understand it all.
  • Jumping into a treatment plan without building rapport and knowing "who" they are.
  • Keeping them waiting past 10 minutes.
  • Lack of enthusiasm or emotion in your presentation. This may be the hundredth time you have presented a crown as a solution, but you have to make it fresh for this patient.
  • Not having a time and private place to discuss financial options.
  • Overbearing or pushy doctor or staff.
  • Not taking care of their chief complaint first.

Only super satisfied patients will tell others. The bar of customer service is high. Dental practices are generally very good at the basics. It takes EXTRA effort for the patient to sing your praises.

6. 70% of people will pay more for exceptional service. How can you and your team WOW your patients? First and foremost is to pay attention to the patient as an individual. You have to be present and aware of their individuality, needs, pain threshold, and limits at this time.

7. Painless is a key component to patient satisfaction. Are you acutely aware of any discomforts and do you take measures to assure patient comfort with injections, hygiene procedures, decay removal, etc. Dentists and hygienists often think this should not hurt so they ignore the signs that the patient is uncomfortable. Learn to be PAINLESS and to pay attention to the patient's pain threshold. Check out www.onpharma.com.

Satisfied and enthusiastic staff AND dentist are the forerunners of patient satisfaction. You are not allowed a bad day. A "SOAP opera" team cannot focus on the satisfaction of the patient.

9.Study emotional intelligence, selling psychology, communication, and positive attitude to improving patient satisfaction. These are "soft skills" and are often neglected when you are signing up for continuing education. It is always much easier to take another clinical course.

Truth — You need REAL feedback to make improvements. Conduct a formal survey of patients AND staff (and referring dentist if you are a specialist) at least biannually. Use an outside firm to achieve confidentiality. Contact Valmont Research at www.valmontresearch.com. Since feedback is the "Breakfast of Champions," the survey process provides you and your team with hidden information that can help you improve your patient satisfaction. And, many patients will not tell you about their dissatisfaction unless they are given a confidential format. Your website surveys can only go so far since there is a lack of confidentiality.

Use your staff meetings to BOOST customer service. Buy everyone a copy of one of these books. Ask them to read it; they are short but powerful messages. Then, request they bring one point from the book to the staff meeting that will improve patient satisfaction.

  • "Soup" by John Gordon
  • "The Fred Factor" by Mark Sanborn
Email me at [email protected] if you would like a Reading List of Patient Satisfaction books.

Dentists want tips on internal marketing. The TRUTH is, all actions, communication, attitudes, and deeds are internal marketing. You cannot build patient satisfaction with gimmicks. It boils down to having a true, sincere interest in serving the person in your chair — serving them from their point of view.

Love your patients this month and EVERY month!!

Author bio
Linda Drevenstedt, RDH, MS, is president of Drevenstedt Consulting, LLC. She uses her wit and wisdom to coach, consult, and create courses that assist practices in reaching their potential by developing leadership in each person. Her experience spans dental assisting, dental hygiene, practice administration, and consulting, and she is a member of numerous speaking, consulting, and management organizations. Reach her at (800) 242-7648, send her an email at [email protected], or visit www.drevenstedt.com.