Treatment Presentations: Moving Past the Introduction
Dentists like to believe that they are the ones presenting treatment to their patients. But in reality, most are merely introducing patients to the concept of recommended treatment. The patient is listening intently to the doctor, and s/he believes the patient comprehends what is being proposed. But in the majority of cases, once treatment recommendations move beyond the “you have a cavity that needs to be filled” stage, patients have a host of questions that the doctor typically never hears. We see this occur in practice after practice, and it is a disconnect that is detrimental to treatment acceptance across the board.
If the dentist wants to move beyond introducing treatment to the patient into true treatment presentation, to do so effectively is going to require far more of the doctor’s time than s/he realizes. It is for that reason that we recommend practices make the most of a trained treatment coordinator. Why? Because the doctor’s time is much better spent diagnosing and delivering treatment, as opposed to talking about it.
What’s more, the treatment coordinator is on perpetual patient watch, meaning no one falls through the scheduling cracks. The doctor has recommended treatment; the treatment coordinator has further explained and answered the patient’s many questions. Next, the treatment coordinator makes sure the patient is scheduled. If the patient doesn’t schedule that day, it is the treatment coordinator who follows up. At no time is the patient left to figure it out on their own. In fact, the treatment coordinator is in many respects the patient advocate. They break down the barriers that prevent patients from pursuing recommended care. They offer reassurance and unlimited assistance to the patient in helping them fully understand the treatment, the need for it, and the benefits of pursuing it.
As practices are doing more phased treatments, this requires more patient monitoring than in the past. This too is the treatment coordinator’s responsibility. This person oversees the patient’s progress throughout the course of treatment. Additionally, the treatment coordinator monitors production, keeping close watch on key practice statistics, practice goals, and specific treatment measurements. The treatment coordinator keeps the doctor informed, on a regular basis, of how the practice is doing in meeting its production objectives. Moreover, this person is tracking trends in the office. If patients are not pursuing a particular course of treatment, the coordinator is responsible for learning why, thereby enabling the practice to make necessary adjustments in the presentation process.
In addition, the individual is continually learning about procedures and new techniques that the practice uses in treating patients so they can continuously improve the treatment presentation process. Each time a new type of product or service is introduced in the practice, the treatment coordinator sits down with the doctor, who explains what is being done and how it benefits the patients. The two identify what specific aspects of this treatment will be most important to the patients and how that should be communicated during the treatment introduction and presentation.
But effective treatment presentation doesn’t stop with the treatment coordinator. While one person is primarily responsible, others in the practice are trained so that if the coordinator is out of the office, the process doesn’t come to a halt. This requires the development of a procedures manual that covers each procedure performed, the process, the fees, and the script for expertly discussing various treatments with patients to ensure that this knowledge is shared among the team.
The dental office thrives or struggles based on treatment acceptance. It can be argued that this is the most critical system in the practice. Take steps to ensure that you and your team are thoroughly presenting treatment to the patient, not just introducing it.
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Get Your “Gravitas” In Gear
I recently facilitated a corporate leadership development program. In two separate conversations, two different participants told me that they wanted more gravitas. Having never heard the word, I was struck by the synchronicity and did some research.
One of the keys to becoming a gravitas leader is realizing that your patients and your staff notice everything you do – or don’t do. Perhaps you overlook the significance of your words and gestures, but I assure you that it is your energy level that determines the atmosphere in your office. This doesn’t mean you need to be effusive or disingenuous. It does mean that you need to think of how you act and decide to be a positive role model. We all have bad days. When it’s a “dark day,” minimize the damage you impose. When leaders with gravitas don’t get the results they want, they look inward before flying off the handle. They know that most of the time they are part of the problem and that, through their actions alone, they could have altered the outcome significantly.
How do you command this very important position with the best intention and the highest of integrity? Remember that your employees take their cues, spoken or implied, from you - their leader. Your people look to you each day for direction, guidance and training. You are important to them. Unfortunately, many dental leaders don’t acknowledge or embrace this influence. They act as if they are just another member of the team with a different title. The title puts them in charge, yet they don’t understand the responsibility and influence that is required for gravitas.
Your title as “boss” does not give you respect. Gravitas must be earned through what you say and do, don’t say and don’t do. Think about a supervisor, mentor, teacher or sports coach you’ve had in your life that you respected and trusted. You had confidence in that person because they inspired you to grow and achieve. Keeping that individual in mind, ask yourself these questions:
The most common answers are:
Gravitas is how you create and lead a team with passion, integrity and excellence. It is influencing others with confidence, not arrogance. Secure leaders don’t have to prove themselves. They treat others with respect and foster collegial relationships with the people around them.
To be successful, you need to know how to lead and how to follow. Be open to suggestions from your staff, and be ready to listen to new ideas. Furthermore, make the effort to get to know the people around you. This creates a positive atmosphere that motivates, encourages and gives confidence.
Be aware of yourself. Monitor what you say and do, especially the nuances of communication, your non-verbals. Humans are sensitive to things like body language, facial expression, posture, movement, and tone of voice. Observe the impact you have on others by attending to how they react to you. Listen with your eyes and your heart as well as your ears.
Gravitas is the invisible quality of leadership. We know when people have it, and we know when people don’t. Get yours on!
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
So many times when we are thinking about educating our patients, we are thinking only about the person in our chair, and what their specific circumstances are at that moment. However, as we have all come to learn over the last few years with the ever-changing economy, people’s circumstances may not be the same from one month to the next. They may have insurance at the time you treatment plan a crown needing to be done, and they may not have insurance one month later.
We need to educate the patient on what their needs are the moment they are in our chair, and explain how the benefits they have at the time will play in helping to pay for their needs. Here is a challenge for all of us to take on - educating our patients about what they don’t need, and how it may work to not have insurance.
For example, Mr. Smith was at the dental office today and had periodontal probing throughout his entire mouth that was within normal limits - no bleeding upon probing, no recession, and he has never had a cavity. Mr. Smith is also lucky enough to have an employer that purchased and pays for a very good insurance plan with excellent benefits. What could we as dental professionals ever teach Mr. Smith when it comes to periodontal disease, cavities, and insurance benefits?
Mr. Smith made the comment that he always worries about coming in and being told that he has a cavity, because he has never had one. The hygienist may immediately reply with a statement similar to the following: “That is great that you have never had a cavity, but when it comes to gum disease and cavities, if I had to have one or the other, I would rather have a cavity because we can fix cavities. We cannot cure gum disease. We can only slow down the progression of it. Of course I would prefer to not have either in my lifetime.”
The hygienist should consider continuing from there by saying: “I always find it sad when I have patients that come in and have gum disease as the result of not having insurance for a period of time. The thing that most people don’t realize is that they may have to pay more now than they would have if they had come in and done the preventive care and paid cash. The reason why is because now they most likely will need to pay a percentage of the treatment being done, and the cost of the treatment is higher. Not only that, the patient has lost the health of their mouth, and will be fighting gum disease for the rest of their life.”
The other thing to consider when talking to patients is that with so many employers picking insurance plans that pay less benefits and make the employee pay a larger portion out of pocket, it may be more cost effective for them to put their contribution in a separate bank account every month and not even pay for insurance. This account would be used to pay for their dental appointments when needed. This is a very good way for quite a few patients whose oral health is similar to Mr. Smith’s good oral health. Insurance is not the end all.
So, when you have a patient in front of you, consider that word of mouth is one of the best referrals into your practice. Current patients may take the education you give them and share it with a friend, family member, or remember it when it applies to their life circumstances.
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