Reduce patient dissatisfaction and increase patient retention

By Dr. James V. Anderson, DrBicuspid contributing writer

April 27, 2021 -- Do you ever consider the promises you make to your patients and whether you keep them?

The promises are the statements you make on your website and in your office about providing the best dental care in a state-of-the-art facility, a safety-first environment, a caring professional team of people who put the patient needs ahead of their own, etc. You probably also state that you "accept all preferred provider organization (PPO) insurance plans" and "have affordable financial arrangements available."

Dr. James Anderson
Dr. James Anderson.

Each of our practices has a "brand promise" -- whether we create it and build on it or it develops organically. People form opinions based on how they are treated and served, which becomes how you are defined in the community. Many dentists are not aware of how they are perceived and what is said about them.

A patient survey will often reveal why a patient chooses your practice over the many others in the neighborhood. The results will tell you where you are the strongest but not necessarily the weakest, because those patients have left your practice for good. New patient numbers are significant, but retention of existing patients is even more revealing as to the practice's growth.

According to 1Financial Training Services on LinkedIn, "96% of patients will not complain of poor service, and 91% of them will leave the practice." To prevent poor service that leads to a broken brand promise, consider some of the areas where most complaints are registered and then work as a team to correct them.

Most complaints in dental practices develop from miscommunications at the front desk. Lack of training in answering a patient complaint diplomatically leads to patients being angry and defensive.

Some of the triggers that set patients off are related to billing insurance plans and financial arrangements. It is imperative that patients receive a written treatment estimate and understand how their particular insurance plan works to the best of your knowledge.

Some patients or guardian complaints concern the following:

  • Unresolved repeated billing errors that lead to patient dissatisfaction and unpaid accounts
  • Not explaining the out-of-network stipulations of their dental plan and how their portion is calculated, and then receiving an unexpected statement of their unpaid portion
  • Not collecting the out-of-pocket or coinsurance amounts as services are rendered, resulting in payment disputes and billing confusion
  • Improper billing of insurance leading to nonpayment of the claim

Patient satisfaction in billing and insurance issues is paramount to success and building a trusted brand in the dental community. Some methods to prevent these patient complaints include the following:

  • Before sending out dental claims, carefully check that each entry on the claim is accurate. Ensure that you have included all necessary attachments, clinical notes, or narratives to get the claim paid the first time.
  • Check your clearinghouse daily submission reports to see that claims are going out and if there are errors that need correcting now.
  • Check the report of the unsubmitted claims and make necessary corrections. Then send the claims out.
  • Check the procedures not attached to the claims report, fix, and send out.
  • Check your insurance aging reports weekly and follow up on all unpaid claims regularly.
  • Check the dates on the claims as they age, and make sure to get them paid before the timely filing date expires the claim.

Remember, good customer/patient service is not empty words on a website or other communication. It is how we serve our patients and build trust that increases patient retention and goodwill. If you are unable to service your patients in the insurance and billing arena, it is wise to outsource to professionals who can achieve your goals and keep your patient retention intact.

Dr. James Anderson is a practicing dentist in Syracuse, UT, and is the CEO and founder of eAssist Dental Solutions. He can be reached via email.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Copyright © 2021

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