Big Picture: Cue the Review

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Like it or not, we live in a review-driven culture. It’s almost reflexive. When faced with the need to make a major purchase, enter Google search. Or when simply in the mood to try a new restaurant, to Yelp we go. The same is often true of how people select a dentist or physician. A damning review on Healthgrades. com or a similar review site can cast a shadow on practices’ new patient recruitment efforts.

Realizing this truth, many dentists are not taking being thrust into the harsh glare of the patient review spotlight lying down. For instance, one New York dentist sues patients who write negative reviews, citing the “Mutual Agreement to Maintain Privacy” the dental practice asks patients to sign. By signing the agreement, patients promise not to comment on the dentist’s practice and the dentist promises not to share patient information with marketing firms. The contract also states that if a patient makes comments about the dentist, the contract transfers the copyright on his or her comments to the practice. Owning the copyright to patient reviews enables this dentist’s office to ask review sites to remove offending comments and enables the dentist to sue patients for copyright infringement. Talk about playing hardball!

I’m not sure about the legality of such a nuclear response to negative reviews. But putting the law aside, what are the optics of being a dentist who comes after patients who have unkind things to say about them? They can’t be good. In the case of negative patient reviews, an ounce of prevention is likely worth more than a pound of cure. Thus, the $1 million question is: what can dentists do to prevent bad reviews in the first place? An article published in 2012 found that there are three components of patients’ satisfaction with their dentists1:

  1. “The first component constituted items describing the patient’s immediate experiences during the visit. This includes the perceived interpersonal relationship between patient and dentist and several questions related to comfort during treatment.
  2. “The next component described a combination of patient involvement in treatment decisions and perceived value of the treatment.
  3. “The final component was related to the sensory experiences following the procedure.”

You may be wondering, what does patient satisfaction have to do with me? Well, if you can show how using your product helps a dentist improve patient satisfaction, then you’re tapping into a fundamental need. Effective sales and marketing should persuade dentists that your product minimizes discomfort during and after treatment, while providing superior, patient-pleasing results. And the more clearly you can explain to dentists which of your products is the optimal one to use for Patient A in Situation X, the better. Doing so helps dentists tailor their treatments, which leads to more satisfied patients.

I’m sure this makes good sense to you, but convincing dentists that the use of your products will lead to a better patient experience is table stakes. It may be difficult to stand out from the competition just by arguing for your products’ ability to improve the patient experience. There’s more you can do to help improve patient satisfaction — and in the process become, dare I say it, a true hero in the dentist’s eyes. Besides the materials and technology a dental office uses, there are many other factors that contribute to a high-quality patient experience. Manufacturers and distributors should look to add value not only by offering physical tools for dentists to enhance the patient experience but also mental tools, as well.

From MENTOR. August 2017;8(8):6-7.

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