What Makes a Patient Buy into a Treatment Plan?
Priorities. When your priorities and the patient’s are in sync, treatment acceptance increases exponentially. Why? Because the patient feels that you “get it.” You understand their wants and needs and the patient feels they have control because you have talked to them; you have taken the time to get to know them. There is no pressure. There is no “selling.” You are delivering on the patient’s needs and desires.
But how do you get to this place in which your priorities and those of your patient are in sync? It begins with taking the time to truly understand the patient, starting with the new patient interview. The most important objective of the new patient interview, which should be conducted by the treatment coordinator, is to gain a clear understanding of what the patient wants.
Additionally, you are carefully building the foundation for what you hope will be a positive, long-term relationship between the staff and the patient. And, perhaps most importantly, you open the door for the patient to have a frank and honest conversation about his/her oral health. You can tailor the questions as you wish, but the patient should feel safe in expressing how they truly feel about their smile. Here are some examples:
In what way is your smile important to your professional and personal life? Does your smile give you confidence when interacting with people, both personally and professionally? What, if anything, bothers you about your smile or your oral health in general? If I gave you a magic wand, what would you change about your smile? Do you ever have problems with chewing or with pain in your mouth? Have you ever had a negative experience in a dental office? If so, can you share with me what happened and how it was resolved? On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you place the value of keeping your teeth and oral health in optimum condition?
As the patient answers the questions, the treatment coordinator should enter the patient’s comments into his/her electronic record, so that the doctor can review and discuss them further with the patient during the exam. Understanding the patient’s feelings about the appearance of his/her smile and attitudes toward oral health and dentistry, enables the doctor to walk into the exam much better prepared to quickly establish rapport with this person. Moreover, the doctor knows the patient's specific priorities. From there, common diagnostic tools including the intraoral camera enable the doctor to discuss how s/he can address the patient’s oral health priorities as well as educate the patient about the condition of her/his mouth.
If a patient is unhappy with the appearance of their smile, it's important to give them the opportunity to point out specific areas that they would like to change, explain why, ask questions, and feel that they are beginning to establish a positive relationship with the doctor. In educating the patient about how they might achieve the desired priorities, the doctor can explain the disparity between what the patient has and what the patient wants or needs. For example, a patient with large MOD silver fillings may never have noticed the blackness that appears on the sides of the teeth and in between when smiling. Based on the patient’s expressed desire to have a beautiful smile, this person may be far more interested in considering porcelain crowns after being shown how his/her smile actually looks to others.
The plan presented to the patient by the doctor should include the number of visits, length of each visit, how that pain will be managed, and how the patient will look upon completion. Make sure the appointment allows plenty of time for the patient to ask questions. Discussions about the cost of treatment, expected payment schedule and applicable financing options should be turned over to the financial coordinator. However, if treatment presentation is delegated to a well-trained treatment coordinator, s/he should be able to effectively explain all aspects of recommended treatment as well as all financial options.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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