Is Yours a Culture of Acceptance?
Treatment Acceptance That Is
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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From the front door of your practice, to the operatory, to the team that you surround yourself with, whether you realize it or not, you have created a “culture.” Perhaps you feel your culture is warm and inviting because you’ve decorated the waiting area in appealing colors. Or maybe you’ve equipped your treatment rooms with state-of-the-art technology that you believe conveys a culture of modern dentistry. And possibly you’ve hired some of the nicest staff you could find, creating a culture of warmth and compassion. Most importantly, you know that the quality of your dentistry is truly superior, creating a culture of excellence. So why is the culture of acceptance – treatment acceptance, that is –lacking, and well below the 85% benchmark?
Many dentists have nice offices and are truly excellent clinicians. Many more use modern equipment from digital X-rays, to intraoral cameras, to laser handpieces, to computerized records, etc. Still more have nice people working for them, but the fact is patients expect those things. It takes far more than good dentistry and a gentle hygienist for patients to invest in your care.
Creating a culture of treatment acceptance starts with creating a culture of desire, which begins with education. If patients don’t know what you offer, how can they want it? Take Dr. Gregg, for example. He is a truly excellent dentist and is certified by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He has a framed certificate at the front desk proving that he is, indeed, credentialed by AACD. Yet, day after day, after day, after day, patients come through his hygiene department for their six-month visit with Ann, his wonderful and ever gentle hygienist, only to be locked into the same old routine.
Ann talks about her kids, and the patients’ kids, and vacations, and the weather and the latest movies, but only once does she ask the patients about their teeth. “So are you having any problems?” Most of the time, the patient says “No.” Ann has excellent rapport with patients. She is in a perfect position to educate them. They trust her. They respect her, and while they may enjoy her soccer mom war stories, they’d appreciate learning a bit more about practice services as well.
Before the end of the visit, Dr. Gregg pops in, takes a perfunctory glance inside the oral cavity. Tells the patient “Good job, see you in six months,” and promptly scoots back to his chair.
Simply handing the patient a mirror, and asking them “if they could change anything about their smile what would they alter?, can open up numerous opportunities for the hygienist or the doctor to educate patients about advancements in periodontal care, implant dentistry, veneers, orthodontics, and even basic whitening options. When dismissing the patient, the hygienist provides them with a few practice brochures about the treatments she discussed.
Hygienists also have ample opportunity to reinforce the dentist’s treatment recommendations as well as learn more about why a patient may be hesitant to proceed with recommended care.
Other members of the staff also can play a key role in creating a culture of treatment acceptance. At your next staff meeting, consider steps you can take to create a culture of treatment acceptance, starting with patient education. For example, pull together those before and after photos you’ve been storing on your computer and put them in an album in the waiting room. Make it a point to open the album every morning, and place it on a table next to brochures about the services your practice offers.
Encourage patients to ask questions. Hang an 11 x 17 frame in every treatment room. Type a bulleted list of a few of your services in a large enough font that patients can see it when they are sitting in the chair. For example, “What would you like to know more about? Veneers, Implant Dentistry, Whitening Options, Orthodontics. Just Ask Me.”
Educate the team – business and clinical – on specific treatments, such as implants, so that they understand the value of care, are prepared to convey a positive attitude about the benefits of that treatment, and can explain to patients that the doctor has extensive training in delivering this type of treatment. Prepare a list of frequently asked questions and their answers. Give the information to each staff member so that everyone can answer basic treatment questions.
Next week, find out what a “buzz” can do for your practice.
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