Dental practices are no longer limited to offering routine appointments. With the advancement of oral technologies comes the ability for practices to provide an ever-growing selection of services for patients, ranging from cosmetic dentistry, such as veneers and implants, right through to emergency dental care.
This is nothing less than an opportunity for practices to build, expand, and diversify their patient base. However, it’s also important to remember that patients have more choice than ever to choose who delivers their treatment. In 2001, research from the American Dental Association found that there were 57.34 dentists per 100,000 people. By 2019, that figure had risen to 61.06. So, how can dental practices ensure they’re attracting – and retaining – their valuable patients?
The answer: by gaining more patient reviews and positioning their practice as an authority in their specific niche or location.
The Importance of Patient Reviews
To acquire and keep hold of patients ultimately means one thing: understanding what they are looking for. According to the Patient Preference and Adherence journal, the most important factor that patients look for in a dental practice is dentist competence, which was cited by 22% of respondents. This highlights just how important it is for dentists to position themselves and their practices as an authority.
Interestingly, the second most commonly cited aspect that patients look for is a recommendation, which was important to 20% of respondents. This highlights patient reviews as a vital way to boost authority.
How to Get More Patient Reviews
While reviews are commonplace in retail they’re not quite considered to be the norm in healthcare. Yet they should be. Reviews are essential for growing practices, and there are many ways to collect them:
1. Develop an Online Presence
The first and most obvious aspect to consider is the fact that patients – even ready and willing patients – won’t leave a review of your practice if they don’t have a platform that allows them to do so. Building and developing a strong online presence not only helps to boost the visibility of your practice but perhaps—even more importantly—creates opportunities for patients to share their experiences. At the end of the day, if you want patients to leave reviews you need to make it easy for them to do it. If you haven’t already done so, consider creating your own website, or at least listing your business with Google.
2. Make it a Natural Choice
It might sound obvious, but one of the fundamental basics of encouraging patients to share positive experiences is simply to offer positive experiences. Right now, with competition fierce, dentists should be making more effort to offer exceptional levels of care, going above and beyond what’s typically expected. Competitor analysis can go a long way here. This doesn’t have to be in-depth, but it does mean keeping a close eye on what other practices in your area are doing. Are they introducing new technologies or software that enhance the patient experience? Then you need to do the same.
3. Highlight the Human Side
As many already know, appearances matter, and it’s been scientifically proven. Research published in the British Dental Journal confirms that patients feel more reassured when their dentists are ‘formally dressed’, usually wearing protective equipment like facemasks and safety goggles. The only problem is that formality can take away the human side of your practice. If you want to encourage your patients to leave reviews try to maximize the real, human side of your practice through improved patient engagement, and by connecting with patients on a deeper level.
4. Follow up with Patients
Post-treatment follow-ups are absolutely essential for delivering optimal results. A study in the Patient Preference and Adherence journal confirms that ‘patients do not recall as much advice and agreed-on actions about future dental care as dentists believe they have discussed’. So, follow-ups are not only important in terms of care but also provide a great opportunity to request feedback.
5. Go Local
Given the situation that many businesses have found themselves in since the global health crisis, the public is now actively seeking to support the local economy in whatever way they can during these challenging times. Happy customers are generally willing to promote good services—either by word of mouth or by reviews.
So, now is the time to start establishing your practice as a local leader. Your online presence is valuable here and by adopting a local SEO strategy on your website for marketing you can attract audiences from your geographical region. This includes optimizing your homepage and metadata as well as creating pages for every service, product and location you offer. Keep your content fresh by sharing local industry news on your blog through guest posting opportunities and add a section for reviews. Be sure to claim your Google Business page, which also supports consumer reviews by including them to your listing.
The importance of reviews has already been touched upon in terms of gaining and retaining new patients, but they’re also essential for positioning your practice as a leading authority within the field. The secret here is to realize that collecting reviews from patients is just one part of the equation. The second part of the equation is actually using the feedback provided to grow and develop your practice.
Patient reviews are an excellent form of peer-to-peer content, sure. They can help to back up what you say about your practice, and act as a form of ‘social proof’ that you are who you say you are, and that you do what you say you do. But they’re more than that. Patient reviews are patient feedback; they’re an opportunity to listen to what patients like—and don’t like—about your practice, enabling you to adapt your approach to meet their evolving needs. A data-driven approach to growth and development is just one of the tools you can use to grow your business and ensure you’re moving forward in a way that appeals to new and existing patients.