Patient Retention: Keeping Patients Happy (& Knowing When They're Not) 

DATE: Nov 26, 2018
AUTHOR: Ryder Waldron DDS

Marketing your practice to attract patients and convincing them to return to you for quality care are two distinct challenges. One key part of patient retention is patient satisfaction, but it can be a hard metric to measure.

What Types of Tools and Services Are Available to Measure Patient Satisfaction?

There are a variety of print and online tools for gathering information on patient satisfaction, a process called patient relationship management. According to the International Journal of Travel Medicine & Global Health, the concept of patient relationship management comes from the world of business, where the term "customer relationship management" encompasses efforts to measure customer satisfaction, such as surveys.

Gauging patient experience doesn't have to take time out of your day. You can contract with a company to send custom surveys to patients via text, email and sometimes on social media. There are a number of online tools that allow you to make and send your own surveys for free, but you'll have to send and monitor the responses for each note yourself.

Some patient retention surveys are as simple as a rating and short comment, while others give the option of asking several questions. Some services allow the reviewer to post their reviews to different search engines and social media sites. Many services will notify your office when a patient completes a survey, with a good or bad review, so you can celebrate with your staff or discuss if improvements need to be made.

What Are Some Questions That Should Be Asked in a Survey?

Sometimes patients will let you or a staff member know how they felt about their visit, but often they will feel more comfortable taking a quick, no-pressure survey after they leave your office. I like to ask open-ended questions. Very little can be gleaned from asking, "Did you enjoy your dental appointment today?" Instead, encourage patients to share responses about specific aspects of their visit, such as how they think your booking system could improve or whether the staff made them comfortable.

I often include the following questions:

  • What did you like best about your visit today?
  • What would you like to see our office change, if anything?
  • Are there any treatments, products or services that you would like our office to offer that we currently do not?
  • Why would you recommend our office to your family and friends?

How Should You Deal With Negative Reviews?

Negative reviews are upsetting for any dentist to read, but you can look at them as an opportunity to improve. Most patient relationship companies will alert you when you get a poor review so that you can take the discussion offline and address it personally with the patient.

If you collect data yourself though email, you can keep these negative reviews from being posted online for anyone else to see, which can put your mind at ease. However, if you are repeatedly seeing similar concerns voiced by your patients, it may be time to initiate change with patients and staff.

What Should You Consider Before Choosing a Patient Survey Service?

Survey services may require a year-long commitment, so explore several options and ask your peers what they like before committing to one that suits your needs. Choose a company that can customize your survey to get the patient feedback you want. Be aware of your region's laws regarding contacting your patients by email, text and social media. Ask for your patients' permission before doing so. Finally, make sure all of your patients receive a survey. Dentists often focus on getting and retaining new patients (which is a good thing), but don't overlook the returning patients who are the foundation of your practice.

Your patients are your practice's most important asset. Getting feedback from them is not only easier and more convenient than it used to be — it is vital to the health and growth of a practice. Choosing the right way to gather feedback and asking the right questions can help you celebrate the things your office does well and make the necessary positive changes.