The Information Age

It’s an online world we live in – a transparent world. Whatever product or service we want or need, we can now get with a click of the mouse. But it’s not simply the availability of products and services that has radically altered everyday life.

Information Age

Every product and service you can think of is accompanied by a wide range of accessible information, from reviews to detailed descriptions. Now, before we consider purchasing anything, we can access everything about it, including the experiences and testimonials from those who have previoulsy purchased the item or service. There are hundreds of sites dedicated to providing this information, including Yelp, Angie’s List, Facebook, Google+ and more. This shift has made us into more knowledgeable, practical consumers with higher expectations.

With all of this taking place, the need to share information online is no longer a preference for dentists, it’s a requirement. Recognizing this, Heartland Dental is taking the necessary steps to help supported dentists increase their online presence. This includes creating partnerships with successful, established companies to assist in this area.

Modern healthcare “consumers” are no different, including dental patients. Let’s say a prospective patient is interested in making an appointment at your office. Within a few minutes, he or she can look up your complete background, office information and past patient reviews or ratings. This information will play a big role in whether they choose your office or keep searching. In a whitepaper released by 1-800-DENTIST, in 2010, 53 percent of dental patients said that online ratings and reviews influenced their choice of dentist. Today, that number has increased to 70 percent. That may seem intimidating, but this can be very beneficial if used to your advantage. This is an excellent opportunity to show others your background, what you do, why you do it and the standards you and your team value. This also allows past and current patients to describe your level of care to others first-hand through positive ratings and testimonials.

On the flipside, this transparency also means that negative reviews and ratings left by unhappy patients can also be seen by prospective patients. This is a big reason why many dentists and other health professionals are uncomfortable with online reviews in general, and often causes them to question the accuracy or relevancy of this feedback. In some cases, this concern is warranted. Because essentially anyone can leave reviews, it can be difficult to recognize what is true and what is false. Some professionals scorned by negative reviews have even taken to suing upset patients for defamation of character.

Information Age

Regardless of what’s positive or negative, this transparency has become the standard for business to consumer (as well as consumer to business) interaction and something that dentists cannot ignore. When searching for a specific dentist online, reviews and ratings often show up at the top of the results. Additionally, with rising health insurance costs in the U.S., more and more people are turning to online searches to ensure they’re making informed, sound decisions regarding their healthcare. Because of this, more and more health professionals are creating sophisticated, eye-catching websites and participating in other listing/review sites in order to attract modern patients.

With all of this taking place, the need to share information online is no longer a preference for dentists, it’s a requirement. Recognizing this, Heartland Dental is taking the necessary steps to help supported dentists increase their online presence. This includes creating partnerships with successful, established companies to assist in this area.

As previously discussed, reviews and ratings have become a major influence over which dental provider patients choose. Also discussed in the 1-800-DENTIST whitepaper, a recent study shows that 63 percent of consumers are more likely to patronize a business website if it has ratings and reviews. What’s more, when it comes to quality of service, people are willing to pay up to 99 percent more for a service with an “excellent” rating than one with merely a “good” rating depending upon the product category. The survey found that the number one difficulty people have choosing a dentist is that “It’s hard to know the quality of the dentist’s work.” Another major concern is that “It’s hard to know if a dentist is trustworthy.”

“We’re excited to help supported offices use this valuable patient feedback on a whole other level. Now supported offices can showcase their commitment to high-quality care – directly from existing patients to prospective patients.”

Pat Bauer
Patrick Bauer
President and Chief Operations Officer at Heartland Dental

Creating Transparency for Supported Offices

Prospective patients want to hear what current patients have to say; they need to see that dentists have established credibility. Online reviews and ratings help dentists build this credibility, offer free advertising for their offices, establish trust with patients beforehand (which can create long term relationships and increase case acceptance), provide fair and balanced viewpoints of their offices and enhance SEO and search rankings. As a dentist (or any professional), you don’t want to see bad reviews online, but they can be an indication of areas to improve upon. A main goal is to enhance patient experiences, and if there is something that can be done to directly affect that, it’s important to know. Bad reviews should be taken as constructive criticism, ultimately helping advance your office and level of care. This is also an opportunity to drive more positive reviews.

To help supported offices benefit from this rising trend, Heartland Dental has started posting patient reviews and ratings to supported office websites. These reviews and ratings are taken from patient survey responses administered by Press Ganey, a leading provider of healthcare performance improvement solutions, serving over 20,000 healthcare organizations nationwide, including more than 60 percent of U.S. acute care hospitals. The company partners with a variety of healthcare providers across the continuum of care to offer effective patient experience and performance improvement. To ensure the highest level of office support is provided, Heartland Dental works with Press Ganey to monitor patient experiences (both positive and negative). This gives supported offices foresight into what their patients are saying, what their expectations are and what areas can be advanced. Each Press Ganey survey includes a series of questions customized to supported offices, covering various parts of a patient’s dental visit. This custom survey, featuring both rating scale questions and written comments, is emailed or mailed to patients of supported offices within a few days of their visit. Once the surveys are completed and processed by Press Ganey, supported offices evaluate the feedback.

“Transparency of performance data not only affords patients an objective rating of the provider experience but it increases caregiver accountability and drives improvement,” stated Patrick T. Ryan, Chief Executive Officer of Press Ganey. “With more consumers than ever relying on online resources for health information, Press Ganey is proud to partner with Heartland Dental in their mission to better serve patients and enhance the care experience.”

Once processed, the Heartland Dental marketing team converts a supported office’s mean score into a star rating and publishes that rating along with comments taken from the survey. To give prospective patients an accurate representation of a supported office, positive, negative and neutral responses are posted to that office’s website. Publishing all comments that are pertinent to a patient visit, whether positive or not, will show potential patients that the office is not censoring or faking reviews. This adds a level of trust to the site and in turn, trust in the supported office. However, the marketing team does monitor all responses received and does not post comments that are slanderous, libelous, profane or inappropriate.

“For several years, Press Ganey has helped Heartland Dental supported offices identify areas of advancement, gain an understanding of what patients want and benchmark themselves against their peers,” said Patrick Bauer, President and Chief Operations Officer at Heartland Dental. “Now, we’re excited to help supported offices use this valuable patient feedback on a whole other level. Now supported offices can showcase their commitment to high-quality care – directly from existing patients to prospective patients.”

Extending Transparency for Supported Offices

Dentists and other health professionals have a great opportunity to share information with prospective patients on their own websites, but there are a number of other search/rating/review sites out there that are continually increasing transparency.

Along with featuring patient reviews and ratings to supported office websites, Heartland Dental is also parterning with Healthgrades, the leading resource for objective information on doctors and hospitals. Healthgrades is dedicated to providing content and information that brings a new level of transparency to healthcare. Currently, more than one million people a day use the site to research, compare and connect with physicians and other healthcare professionals, including dentists. In addition, over 21.5 million searches occur annually to oral care provider profiles on Healthgrades, and more than 14 million visitors will make an appointment within one week of their site visit.

"As this online transparency trend continues to evolve, we need to ensure that supported offices are at the forefront of this movement and are able to take advantage.”

Rick Workman
Rick Workman, DMD
Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Heartland Dental

“Today, consumers have unprecedented access to information and tools to make more informed decsions, so it’s more important than ever that providers differentiate themselves online to become more relevant and discoverable,” said Mike Rosenberg, SVP, National Advertising Sales, Healthgrades. “We’re pleased to be working with Heartland Dental to help supported providers improve their online visibility so that they can be more accesible to patients.”

Through Heartland Dental’s partnership with Healthgrades, supported dentists will have access to premium provider profiles to increase visibility for their offices. Premium provider profiles include a local phone number listing, exclusive profiles with no competitive advertising and encouragement of patient ratings through CRM (customer relationship management).

“In addition to the support provided in-house from our Home Office teams, one of the great aspects of Heartland Dental is our commmitment to building relationships with outside sources who can also benefit supported offices,” added Rick Workman, DMD, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Heartland Dental. “As the trend to online transparency continues to evolve, we need to ensure that supported offices are at the forefront of this movement and are able to take advantage. Healthgrades is a prime example of how supported offices can improve their online presence.”

To reiterate, this new age of patient communication is here to stay. In fact, it will most likely progress even further. With access to information increasingly becoming easier and more extensive, patients will expect dentist information to be readily available online. Dentists must embrace transparency in this area. Who do you think patients will choose, an open dentist who provides information and is backed by reviews and testimonials, or a dentist who remains a mystery?