As a practicing dentist like you, I know all too well the importance of treatment presentations. Whether or not your patients accept your care is one of the biggest determinants of your success or failure.
As a certified professional coach to dentists, I also know too well the myriad 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.
What do I see as the most common mistakes and what can be done to improve your patient’s acceptance of treatment recommendations?
Mistake #1: Failure to listen to the patient. People want to be heard and understood. In dental school, patients presented themselves in an academic setting, and we diagnosed and prescribed treatment, pretty much without any input from the patient. In the “real world”, if you aren’t listening to your patient, your patient will leave you and find someone else who will. Change your ways by asking open-ended questions and listen. Until you are willing to help them in the way they want to be helped, they will not accept the many things you can provide which will help them be healthier.
Mistake #2: Incomplete diagnoses. It is a grave mistake to be “tooth-focused” in your care for patients, as this way of caring for people ends up doing them little service besides addressing what the patient perceives as the need for treatment. They are 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.
Mistake #3: Herding patients in – and out – of your practice. One of the top complaints that patients make is that the doctor does not spend enough time with them. You can change that. That 5, 10, or even 60 minutes you spend with your patient, giving them your undivided attention, will build trust and pay huge dividends.
Mistake #4: “Explainitis”, better known as explaining, explaining, explaining with little feedback, time for questions, and more from your patient. Dentistry is technical and complicated; the better you can be to-the-point, use patient-friendly terms, and pause to allow for questions, the faster you’ll get rid of this dentist affliction.
Mistake #5: Rushing the presentation process. However you schedule and complete your evaluations, you must allow time for the patient to process how you are trying to help them. Most people will encounter “sticker shock” upon presentation of a complete treatment plan, and they need time to process the information. Additionally, the cost of care may be something they need to spend time deciding how they will pay for it – and sometimes whether they want it or not.
Mistake #6: Delegating the treatment presentation. If you were a patient, would you want the doctor’s nurse or assistant to review your necessary treatment? I think not. Patients want to hear your treatment recommendations from you. Do it.
Mistake #7: Diagnosing based on prejudice. We can be prejudiced in our diagnostic and treatment planning process by how much money we believe the patient has, by how they are dressed, by how they have taken care of themselves in the past, and more. Your job is to take care of the patient in the best way you now how and according to the standards and ethics of our profession.
Mistake #8: Not answering patient’s questions directly and truthfully. It’s purely unprofessional to sway your responses based on anything but the patient’s wants, needs, and concerns. There are always at least two ways to solve a patient’s needs, and many times much more than two. Be thorough and allow the patient choice. Give them voice in the treatment planning process.
Mistake #9: Substituting media-based treatment explanations for developing a trusting relationship. Volumes can be written on the importance of developing a healthy doctor-patient relationship. So why would you have a patient watch a video about their treatment needs? Sure, additional materials can help, although they are not a substitute for your relationship with your patient.
Mistake #10: Promising treatment you cannot reliably deliver on. With the unfortunate competition going on within our profession, it’s too easy to promise treatment results you can’t deliver or would best be handled by someone else, all because of allowing money – and your want of it – to poison your thinking.
Presenting treatment is not rocket science. It is a matter of listening to the patient, asking questions to understand them and their needs, completing a through diagnosis, and then talking to the patient in ways they understand and can be involved in. They came to you for your assistance and expertise, so go ahead: have that conversation that you would want your doctor to have with you, and do it in a way as if that patient were your own family member.