Does the Value of Dentistry Sell Itself?
“We’re health care providers, not salesmen/saleswomen. Dentists shouldn’t have to ‘push’ patients into accepting treatment.” —J.B. Jones, DDS (not real name)
Dentists are in a quandary when it comes to improving treatment acceptance. The clinical diagnosis and recommended treatment explanation appear to be accepted by the patient. The evidence was the nod and the “I see what you are saying,” but it resulted in the acceptance of the minimum treatment—the replacement of two cracked fillings on the left side. Forget that the patient is missing three molars (key chewing teeth) on the right side of his/her mouth, is losing supporting bone in those areas and is overcompensating by chewing on the left side instead—he/she doesn’t seem to think that it is important enough to do something about now.
Picture this same patient shopping for a new car. The car he/she has is still drivable but major repairs costing possibly thousands of dollars are looming in the near future. He/she hasn’t had a car payment in five years and the freedom from that financial responsibility has made it possible to buy other items, such as a new HD TV. Time is almost up for the car and for the teeth.
As healthcare providers, dentists are competing for the same discretionary consumer dollars as car dealerships. The difference is the “value” of an automobile is easier to judge than is the value of dental services. Dental providers’ advertising budgets pale in comparison to the advertising budgets of Ford, General Motors, etc. As small business owners, most dentists have to be frugal with their advertising and marketing expenses and careful with how it is targeted to get the best return. The Community Overview Report offered by McKenzie Management is a must-have before embarking on a marketing plan for any dental practice. Today’s patients look at price, quality and value and question if they are receiving their dollar’s worth from the dental office just as they would question the salesman at a car dealership.
Measuring dentistry for those buying factors is not only challenging for the patient, but also for the dental team. How does the dental practice communicate value to the patient and win by having the patient accept the treatment truly needed to improve overall health?
It is important to understand that promoting dental benefits is not “pushing” a patient to purchase services. Even a patient who is a sophisticated consumer is frustrated when trying to evaluate clinical expertise and skills that he/she knows little about. One of the most effective ways to communicate the value of the practice and the services of the practice is through a professionally trained Treatment Coordinator. There is a higher perception of value, a clearer understanding of the recommended treatment and both new and recall patients are educated when they experience a skilled, professionally trained Treatment Coordinator. This individual can help educate the patient as to the benefits of the practice, the clinical skills of the dental providers and the quality of the treatment delivered in the practice. The Treatment Coordinator is also seen as a “patient advocate” or an ally that the patient can contact with questions and concerns about treatment.
A patient who had just completed a three-phase treatment plan was asked about her experience and this is her response:
“Before working with Dr. Smith’s Treatment Coordinator, Alice, I always felt as though Dr. Smith was speaking to me in Greek. I couldn’t come to a decision about the treatment because I had questions that I was afraid to ask him. I know he is a busy doctor and I just felt that it could wait ’til another time. Now, Alice explains the treatment in language I can relate to; I feel more confident in my decisions and feel I am doing the right thing for myself.”
A knowledgeable Treatment Coordinator has strong interpersonal skills and in-depth knowledge of the practice, its providers and services. She/he is very instrumental in creating an environment that fosters trust and caring. As healthcare providers, we should understand what it takes to get our patients over the hills of fear and procrastination. Your patients should see the dentist and the team as experts in dentistry on whom they can rely for what they perceive as the best dental care in town. Any member of the dental team would benefit from being professionally trained as a Treatment Coordinator because there isn’t any area, clinical or business, that cannot benefit from improved communication skills.
The value of dentistry does not sell itself without the help of skilled dental professionals.
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