October 5, 2022

How to combat diminished member satisfaction with dental plans and win with employers

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Member satisfaction with dental plans is at an all-time low – how can dental payers effectively respond?

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of American life, from the way that people conduct business to the way that they shop and visit friends. The oral health industry has undergone significant changes as well, following a period that saw many practices delaying or even putting a complete halt on all non-emergent dental procedures. The dental insurance industry is still feeling the ripple effects of the pandemic, with the recent J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Dental Plan Satisfaction Study highlighting how dental plan member satisfaction is at a historic low.

There are numerous studies on the link between receiving regular dental care and maintaining overall health and quality of life. Dental insurance is an important element to support this. What the J.D. Power study indicates is that many patients aren’t feeling the value of their dental plan for themselves. Fortunately, there are concrete steps that payers can take to increase engagement and boost member satisfaction, such as enabling members to objectively compare the performance of in-network dentists.

Dental insurance, quality of life and member satisfaction

More and more studies show that good oral health supports overall health, and having dental insurance can provide emotional, physical, and financial benefits to consumers. According to the recently released 2022 State of America's Oral Health and Wellness Report, almost 9 in 10 American adults are in agreement that having dental insurance gives them peace of mind and provides relief from worrying about what they would do in the case of a dental emergency. Even millennial workers, somewhat ambivalent about their health in the past, have started placing a new emphasis on traditional benefits like dental insurance, post-pandemic. There is an opportunity for dental payers to engage with plan members and deliver important oral health information, and by extension, demonstrate a commitment to the overall health of members. Doing so can help differentiate one payer from another and even translate into greater sales success with employers.

Although a high percentage of adults surveyed in the State of America's Oral Health and Wellness Report agreed that having dental insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic provided them peace of mind, when it came to how satisfied patients are with their dental plans, perceptions were more mixed: the J.D. Power study revealed that dental plan members’ overall satisfaction is down 15 points (on a 1,000-point scale) from a year ago.

Increased transparency as a path to higher member engagement

One area where payers can work to build plan satisfaction is by promoting transparency in provider information through actionable data that helps members choose a dentist that’s right for them. When consumers feel like their dental plan is helping them make informed oral healthcare decisions, they may be more likely to experience satisfaction with their dental insurance and make the best use of their plan benefits. Dental payers who utilize the power of big data in delivering consumer engagement tools will have greater success in showing members that high-quality care is their top priority and that they value transparency in provider information. Publishing objective dentist performance ratings from a trusted third party in their online provider directory is one of the easiest paths for payers to take.

Not only can objective dental performance metrics help payers respond to an increased interest in transparency in provider information, they can also help protect their in-network dentists from the random — and sometimes capricious — subjective ratings and testimonials that have little to do with how a provider practices dentistry. The availability of large data sets aggregated from across multiple payers and the application of statistical analysis means that consumers can now have access to truly objective means of comparing the performance of dentists in their area. And when members are engaged and satisfied it can help payers to stand out during employer sales discussions — it can transform the conversation around plan value.

Elements of an effective objective dental performance rating system

We’ve identified 5 key elements of an effective data-driven, objective dental performance rating system:

  1. Treatment Outcomes: Measure a dentist's treatment success rate including the likelihood of repeat procedures and post-treatment problems.
  2. Commitment to Best Practices: Evaluate how well a dentist follows established dental standards and treatment methods, including sequence of prescribed care.
  3. Cost-Effectiveness: Compare the types and number of prescribed treatments as well as the average cost per patient for submitted dental fees and treatments.
  4. Patient Retention: Evaluate the degree of patient retention and loyalty as well as active sanctions, if any.
  5. Treatment Recommendations: Compare how a dentist recommends treatments in relation to other dentists in their three-digit zip code and specialty.

The last point is especially important for a truly objective performance rating system. The system must only compare dentists practicing in the same specialty and in the same geographic area, since practicing norms do vary in different regions.

Demonstrating plan value in the market with member engagement tools

P&R Dental Strategies can add real value to your online provider directory, help enhance member satisfaction through tools like star ratings and score cards that allow consumers to effectively compare dental provider performance, and better manage costs by encouraging the use of in-network providers. Member engagement tools like these are increasingly being adopted by leading dental payer organizations. To learn more about how our data-driven dental quality and performance measurement solutions can help dental payers stand out, contact us today.