The latest installment of the Lincoln Financial Group’s 2017 Dental Research Series looks at differences in perspectives between dentists and employers alike, highlighting opportunities for dental offices to gain and retain patients while providing guidance for employers to better meet their employees’ expectations.
“Comparing consumers’ dental needs and wants to the reality of what they’re getting today provides an interesting look at the opportunity dentists and employers have to differentiate themselves in the market,” said Christopher Stevens, head of dental product management at the Lincoln Financial Group.
“Dentists can shape their practices to deliver a customer experience that will attract new patients and keep them coming back. Employers can boost employee retention and satisfaction by offering the right dental benefits and by proactively communicating about those benefits,” Stevens said. “And consumers benefit in the end. They’ll get the right information they need to leverage dental insurance benefits and be proactive about their health.”
Lincoln Financial’s study found that patients’ criteria for choosing and stating with a dentist goes beyond the basics. While quality of care, office environment, and being in-network for insurance are important, technology and user experience are becoming increasingly critical, particularly among millennials.
However, many dentists aren’t necessarily providing the experience that younger consumers say they want. For example, 40% of millennials say that a dentist’s website is “very” important, compared to 14% of baby boomers. While 84% of dentists today have websites, they aren’t always providing the information patients are looking for, such as:
- A list of accepted insurance carriers: 74% of millennials want to see such a list on a dentist’s website, but just 43% of dental offices feature this information online.
- The ability to make or change appointments: 71% of millennials want to do so online, but only 47% of dental offices currently offer this feature.
- Average costs of procedures: 65% of millennials want this information, but just 18% of dental offices offer it on their websites.
Consumers also want guidance from their dentists on understanding and using dental insurance, with 96% of consumers and 99% of millennials saying they would find it valuable if their dental office provided guidance or help understanding dental insurance plans. However, only 34% of dental offices strongly agree that they currently help guide patients on treatments with their insurance coverage in mind.
Employers also play a major role in consumers’ dental experiences, with 75% of employees saying they expect their employer to provide education about their dental coverage. However, only half say their employer is a good resource in helping them to understand their benefits.
To educate employees about dental benefits, 50% of employers provide opportunities to meet with human resources, 45% send emails, and 32% host health and wellness fairs. Also, 65% of employees are looking for general information about what’s covered under their plans, and 54% would appreciate a list of in-network dentists with contact information.
“It’s clear that consumers are looking for information and help in understanding their dental coverage and how it works when actually visiting the dentists. In today’s environment, they want a lot of that information available at their fingertips,” said Stevens.
“Employers and dentists can help facilitate this understanding by providing the information consumers want, where they want it,” Stevens said. “By taking this approach, employers and dentists may help their employees and patients, respectively, get the dental care they need.”