Even when they have insurance, 25 percent of consumers haven’t gone to the dentist in the past year over fear of the cost despite the fact preventive care is usually fully covered.
That’s according to a new research series focused on dental care from Lincoln Financial Group, which also finds at least some of the reasons consumers choose and stay with a dentist have nothing to do with actual treatment issues.
Of course, quality of care, office environment and being in network for insurance are all crucial factors, other factors drive consumers to pick and choose with importance varying from generation to generation.
For instance, dentists need to be concerned about the quality of their websites, as well as the care they provide. That’s particularly true in the case of millennials, 40 percent of whom say a dentist’s website is “very important,” compared with just 14 percent of boomers.
On that website, consumers not only want to see a list of accepted insurance providers (75 percent), but they also want to be able to schedule or change appointments (73 percent) and view costs of dental procedures (67 percent). And if that’s not enough, 77 percent of millennials say it’s important for a dentist’s website to be mobile-optimized, and 51 percent say they would “absolutely” find value in a mobile app from their dentist.
Patients also want to be able to schedule immediate appointments — nearly 40 percent of all consumers want that — and about a third look for a dentist who offers extended hours on weeknights or is available during weekend hours. The numbers go up even higher for millennials, at 46 percent and 44 percent, respectively.
Getting back to the little matter of those with insurance who still don’t go for preventive care: it’s a question of education. And consumers aren’t just looking for that education from the employer providing their benefits; they want it from their dentists, too, with 96 percent of those surveyed saying they would find it valuable if their dental office could provide guidance or take the time to help them better understand their dental insurance plan. In fact, 62 percent say they would find this support “very” valuable.
When it comes down to it, they don’t necessarily rely on their employers to provide that education. While most agree dental insurance is a key employee benefit — 82 percent cite it as “very important” and 54 percent as a “must-have” — many lack knowledge about their insurance plans, and only half say their employer is a good resource to understand what’s covered.
Related: Medicaid hit or miss on dental care
But they’re not letting their employers off the hook for information on dental care. Sixty-five percent of consumers want their employer to provide general information about what’s covered by their dental insurance plan, 54 percent say they’d like their employer to provide a list of local in-network dentists, and 34 percent say they would appreciate ratings or rankings of in-network dentists.
Both employers and dentists will have to up their game to satisfy all these expectations.