Asking the Right Questions for Treatment Acceptance
Today if you come up against rejection, remember: This does not mean “no.” It just means “not this way.” - Lori Deschene
It should be simple. Present the diagnosis and options for treatment, and the patient accepts and appoints before leaving the office. But it often does not work this way, especially for treatment options that require the patient to participate with a higher co-payment or total out of pocket expense. When the patient’s enthusiasm for quality dental care dies with the total at the bottom of the page, it is time to rethink the presentation.
Professionally trained treatment coordinators are expected to achieve an 85% or higher rate of treatment acceptance. This person is responsible for answering the many questions that patients have but often don’t want to bother the doctor with, such as: “Why does the doctor think it needs to be done now? How much is the treatment going to cost me? Can I make payments? How many appointments am I going to need? Is the procedure going to be painful? What happens if I just wait a while?” And there may be many more questions that the Treatment Coordinator needs to be prepared to answer.
Not every personality responds the same way to information that has been presented to them. Often the patient does not know what to ask without appearing as if they weren’t listening. For some people, just asking for information or asking “why” is confrontational so there is little exchange. When information is first heard, often only 20% of it is truly understood. One of the worst actions to take at this moment is asking the patient, “Do you have any questions?” Of course there are questions, but with information overload it is difficult to verbalize. Try this approach: “Jane, you are probably wondering when this treatment needs to be done because you do not feel pain” or “Jane, you are most likely wondering if you can afford this treatment or if a cheaper option is available.”
Ongoing training to learn new dental techniques and technology will boost team confidence in conveying value of good dentistry to the patient. A well-informed auxiliary can help patients better understand treatment recommendations. The more knowledge your team members have about materials, treatment processes and technology, the more information they can share with patients. Educational programs via video clips help to promote understanding and acceptance, as well as other visual and tactile aids such as models and intra oral photos.
Having the patients become involved in their own treatment planning helps them to feel in control of how much treatment and at what cost. Consider building the relationship based on phasing the goal of wellness for the patient, not the disease. If it is necessary to get periodontal health with scaling and root planing of four quadrants, focus on the benefit of healthy tissue and bone needed to support the crowns and fillings that will be placed. Hand the patient a mirror and let them explore as you discuss your findings. Many people need to feel it, see it and touch it to own it.
When they own it, they want to buy it or want information on how to purchase the treatment. This is as sensitive a subject as a sharp probe in the mouth to many. Be ready with this question: “Jane, you are probably wondering what the cost is for the treatment and the options for payment. I have already prepared some payment options for you based on what most of our patients want and feel comfortable with paying.”
Be careful not to guilt the patient or bring unnecessary fear to the table. Have statistics and facts about the disease in understandable form. The question to ask would be “Jane, you are probably wondering what happened to create this problem when you never had it before?”
Always make sure the patient feels in control during the treatment exam and presentation. That you are listening to the questions they ask but also are sensitive to what they are not asking. Be prepared to ask the right questions and avoid “Do you have any questions?” At the end of the presentation try instead: “Jane, have I given you all the information that you need to make a sound decision?”
Want to improve your communication skills for treatment presentations? Sign up today for the Treatment Acceptance Training Course, or to develop and understand the numbers that grow your practice sign up for one of the professional Business Office Training Programs and improve your office performance.Forward this article to a friend
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