SmileSource: Connection, Flow and Prizing: The Psychology of Patient Satisfaction

We all know that patient satisfaction is important. But understanding exactly what satisfies a patient will help influence the way we structure our practice, eventually leading to good reviews and patient loyalty. Interestingly enough, satisfaction hinges on three main factors: Connection, Communication and Incentivisation. Here SmileMakers explores why each one is so important and how to implement them into your practice.

SmileSource: Connection, Flow and Prizing:  The Psychology of Patient Satisfaction

In our technology-driven world, automated customer service has never been easier or more efficient. However, as any person on the end of an automated call knows, this process can be frustrating if done poorly. Patients want to feel valued and that they are more than just a dollar sign. A patient who has a genuine relationship with their doctor is far more likely to return and remain loyal. So how do we garner a real doctor-patient connection?

  1. Make the right impression
    Make a special effort with new patients. Be enthusiastic about them and their health goals. From first visits to advanced treatment and procedures, your humor, empathy and trustworthiness will go a long way to solidify a long-lasting relationship.
  2. Ask open-ended questions
    Building a real relationship takes more than standard questions that elicit yes and no answers. You need to engage with each other to build trust, so take the time to ask the questions that encourage real conversation.
  3. Explain things in the simplest terms
    Medical jargon won’t help you when you’re trying to explain why someone needs treatment. You may sound like you know what you’re talking about, but it’s flying over the patient’s head. Break it down, explain why an issue might have occurred, and offer the best treatment method to remedy the situation.

An initial connection with patients goes a long way, but there must be the continued effort of communication to reassure them of your intentions. Research shows that patients feel safer, more content, and that their intelligence is valued and respected when they have their treatment explained to them in simple terms. The explanations give the patient a sense of control, even if they have little alternative to the recommended treatment plan. Additionally, consistent communication and finding things you both can bond over will build trust. Taking a little extra time to talk things out, talk things through, and just talk, will speak volumes.

Ways to communicate after treatment:

SmileSource: Connection, Flow and Prizing:  The Psychology of Patient Satisfaction
  1. Follow-up calls – Show your patients that you care even after they’ve left your office. A follow-up call goes a long way in showing patients they are your priority. And it gives you an opportunity to check in and make sure treatment is going as planned.
  2. Appointment cardsAppointment cards are more than just handy ways to keep track of dates. They also open the door for you to stay connected to your patients. You can customize them with your practice info, so patients can feel free to contact you when they have questions or issues. Some even come as stickers, so patients can stick their appointments directly to their calendars.
  3. Ask for a review – Never underestimate the bond that can be created by asking someone for a favor. If a patient has had a good experience with you, your office and your treatment plan, this is a great opportunity to ask for a review. This can happen at the end of an appointment, or during a follow-up phone call, but they’re always worth the ask.


SmileSource: Connection, Flow and Prizing:  The Psychology of Patient Satisfaction

The purpose of incentivization is closely intertwined with setting goals and earning achievements. Giving rewards for achieving health goals not only motivates patients to stay on task, but also encourages them to remain with the practice in order to earn the reward. Incentivization holds patients accountable for their health while validating their efforts, making their determination worthwhile. And associating these positive feelings with your practice will lead to greater patient loyalty.

Tips to properly incentivize:

  1. Form a partnership – Creating a goal so that both you and your patient feel invested in it creates a partnership between the two of you. You’re in this together, working toward the health of the patient. When they win, you win.
  2. Be ever-encouraging – Encouragement can have a real impact on a patient’s ability to follow through with a plan. As their doctor, you have a keen understanding of just how important their health is. It’s your job to be their biggest fan and number one coach.  
  3. Celebrate success! – Never miss an opportunity to celebrate successes. They’ve worked hard to achieve their goals, or are on the right track. Anything from a high-five to rewards, prizes and giveaways can keep a patient moving in the right direction.
Looking for more ways to reward patients?
SmileMakers has you covered! Check out ourtake home bags to remind patients that their health is always top of mind!


American Association for Respiratory Care Patient Satisfaction Scores: Making the Connection With Your Patients Retrieved from:

Leiter, Michael (1998) The Correspondence of Patient Satisfaction and Nurse Burnout Retrieved from:

Stavropoulou, C. (2012) Physician-patient relationship: A review of the theory and policy implications. In: The LSE Companion to Health Policy. (pp. 314-326). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited. Retrieved from: Stavropoulou_Elgar Companion.pdf

Ware, John (2015, June 17) Defining and Measuring Patient Satisfaction With Medical Care. University of Massachusetts Medical School. Retrieved from: Defining-and-Measuring-Patient-Satisfaction-With-Medical-Care.pdf