How important is the first consultation with a new patient? Very. It sets the foundation for your relationship, which could be long and mutually beneficial…or you may never see the person again. Making a good first impression is all on you, from the staff you hire and how you train them, to the way your office is decorated and the atmosphere a patient feels upon entering. What you say, how you act, what you wear all set the scene for the new relationship. Remember, every new patient has taken steps to secure time with you, so he or she wants the relationship to be rewarding, just as much as you do.
The Personal Introduction
Which employee in your office knows you fairly well and has your trust? This person can be your liaison to meeting your new patient. Teach the point person how to chit-chat with the patient and integrate facts about you. Does the patient have kids? So does Dr. You. Does the patient live in town? So does Dr. You.
The point person must make the patient feel welcome and comfortable, but also know how to handle the hand-off. He or she should make a traditional introduction: Patient, meet Dr. You; Dr. You, meet Patient. Then, the connection: Dr. You, Patient has a second grader at Town Elementary who is a year younger than your daughter.
Don’t skip a beat. In this scenario, you might pick up the conversation with, “Patient, that’s a great school. Have you met Principal Martin?”
The Professional Introduction
Your point person can brief you on the purpose of the visit, and then you can move into dentist mode. Don’t lose that personal, genuine, caring manner, though. Relationships are primarily emotional, so you need to build an emotional connection. You want the patient to associate you with happiness, trust, and optimism. The patient, in turn, wants to be happy and trust you.
The Bulk of the Visit
These six simple steps are an ideal guide to virtually any new patient appointment:
- Ask an open-ended question. “What can I do to make your visit great today?”
- Listen to the response, and don’t speak until the patient has finished talking.
- Ask for more information about what the patient has revealed to you.
- When the patient seems ready (you’ll know), transition to the clinical exam.
- Explain what you’re going to do before you do it, for each step of the exam.
- Don’t use the same vocabulary you use with your colleagues. Use language your new patient will understand, without “talking down.” Instead of periodontal tissue, say gums. Instead of posterior, say back. Instead of temporomandibular joints, say jaw joints.
Then, AFTER the oral exam, in front of your patient, instruct your assistant to take x-rays, impressions, or anything you need, in regards to new records that will be necessary for diagnosis.
After the Exam
Best practices following a new patient appointment have a life of their own, so we’ll cover them in a future blog. If you have any questions about the new patient experience or need help developing procedures for your staff, call The Dentist’s Coach®, Dr. Don Deems, for a consultation.