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1.25.08 Issue #307 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague


Belle DuCharme CDPMA
Instructor/Consultant
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Listening Techniques for Treatment Plan Acceptance

A new patient represents an opportunity to do more dentistry.  The dental practice has the clinical skills, the team, and the equipment. The patient has the need and the desire. After all, the patient called the office to schedule an appointment.  Why do we assume that every patient would accept the total treatment plan, when only 60% of treatment proposed is actually performed?

Ongoing monitoring of the treatment proposed and treatment accepted is crucial to understanding where the practice can improve its treatment presentations and delivery techniques.

Studies show that few dental practices have provided formal training to those responsible for communicating dental treatment plans to patients.  The responsibility usually falls on the Dentist because he/she is the only person licensed to diagnose treatment and present the best options based on the overall health and estimated long-term success for the patient.  After the patient is given treatment plan options and has made a choice as to what course of action to take, he /she is escorted to the front office to schedule appointments and discuss financial options.  The Business Administrator has a treatment plan in front of her/ him but has not heard a word that the dentist has said to the patient.  Usually what transpires is “Let’s get you appointed and how would you like to pay for this?”

Questions arise because the patient was, in many cases, unable to absorb all the information necessary to make an informed decision and perhaps was embarrassed to ask the dentist to repeat.  How the questions are answered by a very busy not so clinically educated business administrator who just wants to “get them booked” can determine whether the patient makes a qualified appointment or wants to “think about it” or “call you back after he/she checks the schedule or asks the wife/husband, accountant, spirit guide, etc.”

Time necessary for the patient to take notes, probe for understanding, get clarity of the situation and get empathy must be worked into the appointment time and a qualified, trained team member such as a Treatment Coordinator needs to facilitate this process.

The process of presenting the treatment involves patient education and can be provided by video, flip charts, drawings, models, radiographs, computer imaging etc.  The patient must be able to take some of this education with him/her to fully “digest” the phases of the treatment.  Often, a patient leaves with just a computer generated treatment estimate that is not phased to show the order of the treatment, length of appointment times, post-op period, or estimated healing time between phases, any specialists that will be involved and a person they can count on to answer their questions without “bothering the dentist.”  The old school way of “do what I say, I am the doctor” is no longer valid in this information driven world.

For practices ready to “take it to the next level”, training in treatment presentation techniques is essential.  Being a good listener is not just letting someone else talk. Precision listening is more than getting the “gist” of what was said but represents the recording of the speakers’ exact words.  In paraphrasing what was said during the dentist’s presentation, the patient may lose the meaning of what was said to them.  Studies show that there are limits to short term and long term memory.  When a patient has not fully understood what was presented to him/her the chances of remembering why having this treatment is so important to them becomes diluted quickly. If a patient leaves the office without securing an appointment it could be due to this lapse in communication.

 Studies show that when patients call to schedule an appointment they need to be seen within a week to two weeks. The motivation is there and they want to buy.  If the practice can not accommodate with an appointment, they may call another office.

 Active or precision listening during the new patient interview will give insight as to what the patient wants from the dental practice. Writing down “exact” or key words and then repeating back to the patient will enforce the patient’s belief that you are truly “listening” to what is being said. The patient knows that there isn’t any way that you can remember what he/she said without taking notes. After all, you see many patients in a day.

Interested in tuning up your listening skills? Call for information about the Treatment Acceptance Training today.

 Why not improve your performance in 2008 by increasing your treatment acceptance:  Email training@mckenziemgmt.com or call 877.777.6151
Interested in having Belle speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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