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Everything You Need to Know About Patient Loyalty Program Ethics

A patient loyalty program can help your practice grow its customer base and increase patient retention. Learn what to consider when creating a program and best practices of what to offer.

Dental Intelligence


November 2, 2022

Patient care comes first, but your dental practice is still a business. You cannot provide adequate care to your patients or employees without sufficient revenue. Patient loyalty programs are an excellent way to boost customer retention, as long as you do so ethically. 

Patient loyalty program ethics is not a topic that dental practice owners tend to dwell on. However, understanding the potential ethical issues of customer loyalty programs is vital to ensuring your practice benefits patients.  

How Does a Customer Loyalty Program Work for a Dental Office?

Dental loyalty programs are similar to any other customer loyalty program. They encourage patients to continue using your service by providing various incentives.

For example, many dental practices give loyalty plan members a discount on services. Other incentives include free toothbrushes with every appointment and rewards cards. Dental practices love patient loyalty programs because they increase patient retention rates. They also improve the overall customer experience, making patients more likely to recommend your practice to their friends.

Dental Intelligence's patient loyalty program helps dental practices grow their customer base and patient retention.

What Are the Ethics to Consider Before Initiating a Loyalty Program?

Before gathering the team to discuss loyalty program ideas, it is vital to understand patient loyalty program ethics. You should consider three main ethical issues: deception, conflict of interest, and fairness. 

Suppose your practice initiates a loyalty program that offers patients credit toward treatments for every referral. In this situation, a patient named Jill brings in several new patients to take advantage of the offered credits. Although she is not receiving cash for her referral efforts, she still gets a monetary incentive. 

To earn another credit for her next dental appointment, Jill convinces her friend to schedule a visit with your dental practice. Her friend is unaware that Jill receives a credit for everyone she brings into the office, hence the question of deception. Does it matter if her friend knows about the financial incentive? 

The financial incentive issue also poses the ethical question of a conflict of interest. To convince her friend to go, Jill will praise the dentist at your practice and say you are the best in town. Since your practice is providing a financial incentive to a current patient, it creates an ethical dilemma when Jill starts praising you. However, there would be no question of ethical practices if she were praising you without a financial incentive at stake.

Fairness is another consideration. For instance, if Jill comes in for an appointment while the dentist is still with another patient, it would be ethically wrong for him to stop what he was doing and attend to Jill simply because she brings in multiple referrals. Additionally, loyalty programs should be equally available to all patients.

What Types of Loyalty Programs Can Your Dental Office Use?

The situation above focuses primarily on referral programs, but dental offices can employ various types of loyalty programs. 

For example, establishing a loyalty points system is a great way to encourage patients to come back. Using this model, patients accumulate points after each visit. They can collect these points and use them for promotional items at the front desk, like t-shirts or dental hygiene products.

Another option is employing a tiered loyalty program. Here, patients enroll in the loyalty program and work their way up through different tiers. Each tier offers unique benefits for members, like birthday gifts, gift cards, and other perks.

What Are Ethical Reward Programs?

The above reward and referral programs are great ways to encourage customer retention and reach new patients. However, some loyalty programs completely resolve the question of ethics by eliminating direct customer incentives. 

Ethical reward programs focus on charitable causes. For instance, your dental office could promise to donate a certain amount to a local charity if the office schedules a certain number of cleanings in a month. This method encourages patients to return for routine cleanings knowing that they are indirectly contributing to a good cause.  

Dental Solutions That Benefit Your Patients and Staff

While many practices overlook patient loyalty program ethics, it is something worth considering. The benefits of customer loyalty extend beyond consistent revenue. When patients come back, it means they trust your practice to help them care for their oral health, which is the primary goal of any dental professional. 

At Dental Intelligence, we understand the value of patient relationship management, and we offer digital solutions to help your practice achieve its goals. Contact us today to schedule a demo and see what we can do for your dental team.

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