Our survey says….

Too often we’re so concerned with what’s going on in our patients’ mouths that we forget we would benefit more from understanding what’s going on in their minds.

Last month I wrote about a new survey carried out by Steven Anderson of the Total Patient Service Institute and The Crown Council (see www.totalpatientservice.com and www.crowncouncil.com). Steve has been associated with dentistry for over 18 years, beginning by starting a dental boot camp with Walter Hailey.

The survey revealed patients’ thoughts regarding dentistry, with the top five being:
1. Tell me more about oral cancer
2. Tell me more about periodontal disease
3. Don’t tell me to floss
4. I love my dental insurance
5. The most important form of marketing is word of mouth.

Mouth cancer awareness
Eighty-five per cent responded that they wanted a check for oral cancer, however only 51% said they had been checked. Thus a third of these respondents either had not had a check or were not told it was being done. Checking for oral cancer and not telling the patient is terrible for business. The day will come when the patient will move on if they feel they are not getting a thorough service.

Periodontal disease
Again, 85% reported a desire to know more about periodontal disease. Seventy-one per cent related their dental health to overall health, whereas only 51% of dentists made that connection. Rather than patients leading the way, we should be guiding them by communicating the links between heart disease, stroke and poor periodontal condition.

Home hygiene
Patients ranked oral health tasks in order of ease of carrying out the task. Unsurprisingly, flossing was last. X-rays also scored low. Where does the apparent contradiction between this finding and the patients’ wish to know more about oral cancer and periodontal disease come from? I believe it can be explained by the reams of information that can be accessed using the internet.

Patients are no longer willing to accept what we ‘tell’ them. We must communicate why the patient needs X-rays and the benefit of interproximal cleaning, and suggest alternatives to traditional floss, such as interdental brushes and the Hummingbird.

The insurance factor
Eighty-seven per cent of patients with insurance had attended for a check-up in the previous 12 months, as opposed to only 60% patients without insurance.

With the GMS issues remaining unresolved, we must remember that it is not the patients’ fault that the scheme is poor; our attitude must not show our frustration with the problems we are facing. We must let our patients know that we will do our best to maximise their benefits and continue to care for them even where schemes do not cover necessary treatment. Patients do understand and respect the fact that we are running a business.

Getting in contact
Twenty-seven per cent of respondents sought a dentist on-line, 40% looked in the phone book, 55% decided based upon the availability of insurance and 81% asked friends and family.

This last statistic proves that it is all down to providing a great service in order to generate referrals.

Also worthy of note is the 27% who searched for a dentist using the internet; it is an interestingly high statistic for a relatively new medium and will be worth reviewing over the coming years.
Hopefully these findings will provide the stimulus to re-energise us and our teams to improve our practices in these challenging times.

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