Treatment Acceptance and Perceived Need
Clinical findings in diagnosis often point to necessary treatment in the eyes of the dentist and dental team, but can be thwarted by the patient’s perception. It can be frustrating to the treating dentist when he/she hears that the patient did not appoint and wants to “think about it.” “Why do they want to think about it? Is there something we left out?”
Dentists are excellent about explaining dentistry to patients, and if they aren’t they have marvelous educational sources like CAESY or GURU software, plus trained treatment coordinators, flip charts, brochures, models, websites and so forth. It is often not the educational process that is lacking, but rather the perception of the patient that gets in the way. “Need” for some patients is not based in the present - rather it is in the future when there is pain or the crisis of a broken tooth. Why is that? Because at that point the treatment becomes a want, with the patient saying: “I want to be out of pain.”
Because it is difficult to measure this factor, it can be overlooked as an indicator of practice success. Patients often do not think they “need” what you are recommending until it becomes a “want” for them. This want could take some time to develop. Many patients have become accustomed to pain and cold sensitivity, an uneven and unattractive bite, stains, chipped teeth, large broken down restorations with cracks and recurrent decay. To them it is a reality that is not a major concern in their life.
By presenting the facts about a patient’s condition without injecting the word “need” you give control over to the patient to decide whether this need is a want. Building rapport and trust with the patient has a lot to do with whether the patient is treated by you. You may illustrate the need and the patient wants it, but doesn’t trust you enough to have the treatment in your practice. Often patients agree to and accept the treatment, but then they don’t appoint. You may or may not find out later that they have gone to a different provider for their care.
Focus first on the referral source of your patient. If it’s a patient of record, check to see what treatment you did for that patient. This will give you clues to the future expectations of the patient. Secondly, pay careful attention to the chief concern that motivated the patient to call you initially. It could be a chipped tooth or yellow teeth or a consultation about veneers. Whatever it is, make sure the patient has been satisfied in this area as success with the chief concern paves a road to trust and further treatment acceptance.
For some patients, the decision making process takes more time than the dental team allows. Follow-up and an invitation to return for further inquiry about the proposed treatment is very important, along with the patient bringing another family member who may be involved in the decision making process. Treatment acceptance is much lower in practices that have no protocols in place to follow-up with patients that have been presented treatment plans and given written presentations.
I use this illustration based on true events to drive home my point. A dentist known to be excellent at creating beautiful smiles with veneers is referred to a new patient by another dental professional. The patient is welcomed and given a treatment presentation and released to go home and call back with her schedule to set appointments. The patient gets busy at work and with family and forgets to call back. Several weeks go by and the patient decides to get another opinion from her friend’s dentist. She decides to go with her friend’s dentist. The reason she stated is: “The first office never called me back.” The strange part of this story is that the patient had the cash in full to pay for her dental care.
There are many important elements in creating the perception of need that translates into want for your patients. The Treatment Acceptance Training Course was designed to give the Dentist, Treatment Coordinator, Business Coordinator or anyone who presents treatment plans to patients the tools to develop trust and rapport - which equals not just treatment acceptance but treatment completion.Forward this article to a friend
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