Sometimes when patients leave a dental practice, it’s for unavoidable reasons — like a move or change in insurance. Other times, it’s related to a negative experience. What are the top reasons patients make the switch? And, more importantly, how can you use that knowledge to keep current patients satisfied and adjust your marketing to reflect a practice new patients will want to join?
Top Reasons Patients Switch
In 2016, Jakari Care analyzed a sample of 400 new dental patients who indicated a previous dental relationship and their reason for switching. These were the top 10 reasons:
- The patient moved. (30%)
- The patient’s insurance changed. (12%)
- The practice location was inconvenient. (8%)
- The dentist retired, passed away, or moved. (7%)
- The patient had a painful experience or otherwise lost confidence in the dentist’s skills or knowledge. (7%)
- Fees were too high and/or the patient had surprise fees or billing disputes. (7%)
- There was a disagreement with the treatment philosophy or plan. (6%)
- The practice offered inconvenient hours or appointment times. (4%)
- The patient felt that the dentist did not care about them as a person. (3%)
- The dentist did not do needed procedures in-house. (3%)
- Other reasons, including patients outgrowing their pediatric dentist, a family member switching or recommending another dentist, and dissatisfaction with hygienist or another office staff member. (12%)
Lessons to Apply to Your Dental Practice Marketing
When reviewing the list above and stripping out unavoidable factors, there are a number of insights that can help you adjust your messaging and reach new dental patients while positioning your practice as an experienced and helpful partner in their health.
1. Display Sensitivity to Their Financial Situation.
You need a clear picture of your target patient audience, including what their income and insurance situation looks like. For instance, affluent, single patients may have more to spend on high-end cosmetic procedures that can be advertised as improving their quality of life, whereas a family of five on a tight budget will be looking for a dentist with more affordable offerings. Say your audience is the latter, and you offer a payment plan system or other financial assistance. It ought to be mentioned in radio and digital ads, with more information on your website.
2. Remember that Your Treatment Philosophy Matters.
People are looking for more than a cleaning in a dentist. A mother is looking for a professional who can make her child feel safe while ensuring a healthy future. A patient with a cavity is looking for someone to stop the pain and agitation, while an older patient may be looking for help to get their old smile back. The language you use across marketing channels should convey the trust and personal touch of the dental professionals in your practice, especially on your website. When it comes to radio and digital advertising, use an authentic, honest tone to help patients envision the care they will receive, and know what to expect when they visit your office.
3. Do Your Utmost to Avoid Painful Experiences.
Obviously, some dental procedures do come with physical discomfort. However, there are also psychological, emotional, and social pressures and pain points involved with making appointments, checking in and paying, being seen, and follow up communications. When these regular and necessary experiences are awkward, embarrassing, or frustrating, the patient will be less likely to return. They’ll also be more likely to say so on social media or social review sites. Bad ratings and reviews will hurt your practice’s reputation and discourage potential patients who are doing research about you. Always take feedback seriously, and make efforts to correct any bad experiences. Online, that means engaging the person who left the poor rating or review, and working to rectify the situation to build back trust.
4. Maintain and Share Your Clinical Skills and Medical Knowledge.
Don’t hide what makes your practice special behind standard medical advertising and boring tactics. You’re an expert in your field, and you want your patients to know it. Your website should note any degrees or awards, as well as any recognizable and exemplary service (e.g., participating in a charity effort to help underprivileged children receive dental care). Your practice should also provide helpful and educational content through blog posts, videos, and downloadable resources like ebooks. This can serve to build a foundation of trust, keep your brand top of mind when potential patients are researching dental issues, and give your current patients something to share with their friends and family that points back to your practice.
Patients will come and go, but understanding why is the key to attracting new patients. The Jakari Care analysis illuminates the why quite clearly, and our tips stem naturally from that. Being sensitive to patient financial needs will be a big first step in defining the language and imagery you use, while framing your treatment philosophy with your ads gives them a clear picture of what they can expect from you. Take control of your digital reputation to mitigate bad reviews while applying feedback to ensure the optimal visit. Sharing your medical knowledge will also demonstrate your expertise while making your practice useful to them beyond their appointments.