As a practicing dentist like you, I know all too well the importance of presenting treatment. Whether or not your patients accept the care you are offering them is one of the biggest determinants of your success (or failure) in your practice.
As an ICF professional certified coach to dentists, I know too well the multitude of differing philosophies of practices, the plethora of “do it my way” treatment presenting methods, and the challenges we dentists have in working with our team members, who are vitally important to our success.
The following are a list of oversights I hear as I listen to dentists converse with their patients that could be greatly improved:
Oversight #1: Failure to listen to the patient. People want to be heard and understood. If they don’t feel understood, they’re not going to listen to much else of what you have to say. If you aren’t listening to your patient, your patient will likely leave you and find someone else who will. Change your ways by asking open-ended questions and listen. Simple questions such as “How may I help you?”, “What concerns do you have?”, and follow-up questions like “What else?” asked until the person has been able to state everything on their mind are essential to truly listening to your patient.
Oversight #2: Incomplete diagnoses. Most patients today are very “tooth-focused” in their approach to receiving care for many reasons, the biggest of which is money, and we as dentists respond to their concerns by being “tooth-focused” ourselves. Long term, this way of caring for people ends up doing them little service, resulting in higher treatment costs, having more extensive treatment needs, and poorer treatment outcomes. Consider participating in one of many courses available to improve your diagnostic skills and then help you improve your ability to relate these findings to the patient in a way they can understand.
Oversight #3: Spending too little time with your patients. One of the top complaints that patients make is that the doctor does not spend enough time with them. That 5, 10, or even 60 minutes you spend with your patient, giving them your undivided attention, will build trust and pay huge dividends. Consistently I receive feedback from patients that “no doctor has ever sat down with them for very long”. You can change that, and in return, develop a loyal patient base.
Oversight #4: Trying to explain things to death when reviewing the patient’s treatment needs. Dentistry is technical and complicated; be to-the-point, use patient-friendly terms, and encourage questions. Give the patient time to wrap their head around what you are saying. It would be like you listening to your malpractice insurance carrier rattle through the ins-and-outs of the details of choices you have for your insurance; if you’re like me, it can be mind-boggling because we don’t always understand the lingo, and we don’t visit the topic very often. That’s what dentistry is like to your patients.
Oversight #5: Rushing the presentation process. Most people will encounter “sticker shock” upon presentation of a complete treatment plan – and many times even a partial treatment plan – and they need time to process the information. You only have one chance for sticker shock, so be thorough, slow down, and “dot your i’s and cross your t’s”. The cost of dental care may be something they need to spend time deciding how they will pay for it – and sometimes whether they want it or not. Be persistent without being obnoxious, as you are now competing with their desire for the latest electronic gadgets and so much more. Look for ways to help them receive the care they do want now, which will create future opportunities for additional care later.
Oversight #6: Substituting media-based treatment explanations instead of spending one-on-one time with the patient. We would all agree on the importance of developing a healthy doctor-patient relationship. So why would you have a patient watch a video about their treatment needs instead of spending time with them one-on-one? Additional materials can help, although they are not a substitute for your relationship with your patient. Judicious use of materials to help them refresh their memory or read at home when they are more relaxed are beneficial, but nothing substitutes for that one-on-one conversation. Most people are too busy or just plain disinterested in spending time to read what you send home with them.
Start with developing more fully these areas of your examination, relationship-building, and treatment presentation, and enjoy greater fulfillment, loyal patients, and improved productivity.