More than 8 in 10 patients who switched dentists reported that their dental office’s social media influenced their decision to make the change, according to a study published on June 6 in BMC Oral Health.
Those who changed practices in the last five years had interacted more with a dental practice’s social media than those who switched more than 11 years ago. When it came to choosing a practice, other factors, including facilities and technology and online reviews, influenced their decisions the most, the authors wrote.
“Although there are other factors that influence the selection of a dental practice, in recent years the social media of clinics have become more important,” wrote the authors, led by Dr. Ana Suarez of the European University of Madrid in Spain.
The healthcare industry, including dentistry, has leveraged social media to communicate with patients and colleagues. However, no studies have examined whether patients view a dental practice’s social media before they move on to another dentist and whether their usage affects their ultimate decision to change, according to the study.
To evaluate the influence patients’ use of dental practice social media had on their decision-making, 503 patients responded to a questionnaire, which asked questions about sociodemographic data, their use of dental practice social media, and factors considered important when changing dental practices.
Of the respondents, 118 patients (23%) reported viewing a dental practice’s social media before changing practices. Of these 118 patients, 102 patients (85%) reported that social media affected their decision to change. Also, respondents who had changed practices in the past five years had interacted with dental practice social media more than those who made the change more than 11 years ago (p < 0.05), they wrote.
The most valued factor in choosing a dental practice was facilities and technology, with 70% of respondents deeming it very important. Recommendations from friends and family also mattered a lot, with about 63% deeming it very important. The third most important was online reviews, which was considered most important by 44%, the authors wrote.
The least valued factors associated with choosing a practice were website quality, for which about 22% reported it as very important, and social media presence, for which only 8% of patients reported it as very important, according to the study.
Nevertheless, the study had limitations. Only one country was included in the study. Since internet and social media use varies by country, the research should be repeated in other places, they wrote.
In the future, studies should be conducted to investigate patients using social media as an educational tool, for appointment scheduling, and communicating with dental professionals, the authors wrote.
“Different factors affect the selection of a new dental practice, but respondents who changed practice in the last few years were more likely to have made use of dental practice social media, which, for some, influenced their final decision to change,” Suarez and colleagues wrote.