In the practice of dentistry, we spend a good deal of time in data collection. Anyone involved in any type of health care practice needs to make sure that they are doing everything they can to get every piece of important data they can. This can make a tremendous difference in forming the proper diagnosis & treatment plan.
Along those same lines, it is also important to gather as much data about your practice as possible. We've been doing this for a few years now through the use of practice surveys that patients fill out electronically and return to us. They can send them to us anonymously or with their name, if they prefer. We've learned tons about what we are doing… both right and wrong. The information has allowed us to make some changes as well as to know where our strong points are.
Today I'd like to present a bit of information from Smile Reminders that deals with this very subject. It is shared here with their permission:
The Importance of Automated Patient Surveys
If you’re not progressing, you’re regressing. In the business side of dentistry, your practice either moves forward or falls victim to competitors and the increase of patient empowerment.
As patients become smarter, more aware and more empowered, dentists must continually improve patient satisfaction. That includes treating every patient like a customer who chose you, instead of a patient who needs you.
How do you improve patient satisfaction? It’s easy: combine technology with good old-fashioned communication. Administer automated patient surveys and react to the responses.
How Patient Surveys Improve Business
Two male dentists have competing practices in the same town. Each has 100 regular patients to start 2013. Dentist A offers a better selection of filling materials and a nicer staff. Dentist B, however, invites patients to take a quick survey and critique his practice.
By the end of March, Dentist A still has a wider selection of products and a nicer staff. But Dentist B has 130 patients and Dentist A is down to 70.
How could that be? Dentist A had a great practice! The problem is that Dentist A didn’t listen and adapt.
Dentist B studied his patient surveys. He asked open-ended questions and read the responses. He soon discovered that patients loved quicker service. Nobody complained about his product selection and the staff was nice enough. But time is money in this town; patients didn’t want to spend all day at the dentist’s office. So Dentist B implemented new protocol to get patients in an out fast.
Meanwhile, Dentist A improved nothing and stuck with what he thought was working, not realizing why his patients ditched him for Dentist B.
Automated patient surveys can also benefit healthcare practices when added to your office reviews. Many patient engagement services, like Smile Reminder, can automatically post open-ended survey responses as reviews on sites like Google and Yelp, boosting your searchability rankings and increasing new patient inquiries.
Listen and React to Succeed
Fact: Patients who have their compliant resolved are up to 8% more loyal than if they never had a problem in the first place.
In today’s patient-empowered, choosy world of healthcare, the dentist who listens and acts on patient opinions wins the game.
A patient survey does nothing unless it includes at least one open-ended question. Include the simple multiple choice questions like “On a scale of 1-5, how satisfied are you with today’s visit?” Then correlate those results with your open-ended questions, like “Was there anything about today’s visit that you found irritating or frustrating? If so, what was it (were they)? Please be direct so we can resolve the issue for the future.”
Not only will open-ended questions help you understand what your practice does wrong, you can use these surveys to find out which problems have the greatest impact on patient satisfaction.
What about those 10 not-completely-satisfied patients? Seven of them complained of the doctor being “distant”, “impersonal”, or “quiet”. You’ve got a real problem. You don’t open your mouth to patients enough.
How do you react to this valuable insight? First, resolve the issue with the most dissatisfied patients. Call them personally and explain why you were so impersonal. It doesn’t matter your excuse, the fact that you’re apologizing is enough. You could even say that your dog messed the living room rug that morning, sending you to work irritable. Apologize sincerely, personally, and fully. Then invite the dissatisfied patient in for another visit, perhaps at a discounted rate or with a special offer. The patient will forgive you and return another day to see what you’re really like. In fact, they’ll probably share the story with friends and send more patients your way. “My dentist was so apologetic! He even offered half-off my next visit! What a great guy!”
What About the BIG Problems?
That example, of course, shows how a mild problem can turn a dissatisfied patient into a satisfied one. But what about the big problems? Like a patient and a staff member arguing? Calling the upset patient to apologize and fix the issue may work, but if the patient’s complaint can’t be resolved, how do you react? Do you “count your losses” and move on? No! You work with the patient to find a mutually beneficial result. You still offer a discount for another visit. Treat all dissatisfied patients the same, no matter the level of their dissatisfaction. Don’t forget to discuss with the staff how to properly handle an irate patient next time.
How to Maximize Completed Patient Surveys
To maximize the number of completed patient surveys, mention them personally at the end of the patient’s visit. Be the first to invite them to critique you. Don’t let that first invitation come from the staff or simply in the email or text you send the patient. Tell them, face-to-face, that you’ll send an email (or text message or phone call) to the patient, asking a few questions about their experience. Tell the patient that you’d love their honest feedback, negative or positive.
To make things easier on yourself and your staff, utilize patient engagement software to automatically send feedback surveys to patients following their visits. These automated services will collect the completed survey responses and send the reports to you and your staff. Some patient engagement systems, like Smile Reminder, even offer automated phone surveys that allow patients to touch phone keys for their multiple choice responses, and speak for their open-ended responses.
The best dentists use patient feedback surveys to steer their practices. The results always boost patient satisfaction and revenue. Your patients will love you and share that love with their friends, growing your practice exponentially.