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4 ways dentists hurt patient satisfaction and don't know it

Oct. 29, 2018
Some dentists might be sabotaging their patients' experiences and not even know it. The last thing dentists want is to lose patients. Are you guilty of some of these discouraging moves and don't even know it?
Patient retention is a key component of a thriving dental practice, but many dentists are inadvertently turning away patients. If patients aren’t fully satisfied with their visits, there’s a strong chance they won’t return. In fact, 27% of health-care providers such as dentists have lost patients to other practices, according to the PatientPop 2018 Online Reputation Management Survey.

To create and maintain a healthy practice, dentists must understand what causes poor patient satisfaction levels. Here are five ways dentists unintentionally sabotage their own practices.

1. They’re visibly frustrated with technology.

Electronic health records (EHR) and electronic medical records (EMR) are designed to help dentists provide high-quality of care while streamlining the patient experience. However, all software platforms are not created equal. Frustration with an EHR system and problems incorporating new technology into patient care can lead to low levels of patient satisfaction, according to a May 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. EHRs and other forms of technology are only effective when properly implemented. Dentists must choose user-friendly systems and take the necessary time to become proficient in them.

2. They don’t effectively communicate after appointments.

The time a dentist spends with a patient is only part of the patient’s overall experience. If communication is poor before and after appointments, people don’t feel like they’re a priority. Patient retention rates can be improved by sending automated confirmations and reminders prior to appointments. Promptly distributing patient satisfaction surveys after visits can further open the lines of communication by giving people a voice. Requesting feedback presents a valuable opportunity for dentists to learn what they’re doing well and what needs improvement. After all, the only way to know what patients want is to ask them.

3. They don’t make patients feel heard.

Giving patients a platform to discuss the pros and cons of their experiences with the dentist can boost loyalty, but only if it produces actionable results. When the staff doesn’t acknowledge online reviews or use feedback to make positive changes, people feel ignored. Patients’ time is valuable. Opting to share their thoughts and opinions with a dental practice is a voluntary move made to help the dentist better serve them. Ignoring their critiques is a sign of disrespect that can have a negative impact on patient retention rates.

4. They don’t show good bedside manner.

It takes more than an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan to achieve a high level of patient satisfaction. Whether patients are receiving preventive care or being treated for a serious condition, they deserve compassion and respect from their dentist. A dentist who behaves in a gruff or condescending manner makes people uncomfortable. If patients’ questions are met with a condescending response or they’re kept in the dark about their health, they probably won’t be eager to return. Good bedside manner starts during the appointment and ends with a post-visit follow-up.

Many dentists don’t take the time to assess the health of their own practices. Yet, looking inward can help them learn better ways to serve their patient base. Retention rates are a clear indicator of patient satisfaction. Dentists who lack a high volume of repeat patients need to realize they might be the problem and should look for ways to change for the better.

Kyle Johnson has close to 15 years of online marketing experience. He is the director of marketing technology for PatientPop, the all-in-one practice growth solution that empowers health-care providers to thrive in the digital age. For information, visit
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