How to Educate Your Patients about Your Practice
Patient education is key to improving case acceptance, reducing broken appointments and even boosting patient retention numbers. But while it’s important to educate patients about the value of dentistry and their oral condition, it’s also important to educate them about your practice and the services you and your team can provide.
Patients aren’t mind readers. You can’t expect them to somehow know that you offer implants or Invisalign. You have to tell them. If you don’t, they might assume that a service they are interested in is beyond your practice’s scope and start looking for another dentist to take on their expensive cosmetic case, and then come back to your practice when it’s time for a hygiene visit.
You might be thinking: Well Sally, if patients are interested in a particular service, I’m sure they’ll ask me. If only that were true. While some patients might bring up a procedure they’re interested in pursuing without any prompting from you, a team member or a sign they saw in your waiting area, many won’t. It’s up to you to find out every patients’ dental health goals, and educate them about the services you offer that can help meet those goals. When you do that, not only will patients know exactly what they can expect from your practice and the dental care you provide, they’ll be more likely to accept the treatment you recommend.
If you want to educate your patients about your practice, you will need to invest in marketing. Now I know many dentists think marketing is a waste of time and money, but trust me, it isn’t. You can use marketing tools to educate patients about the services you offer and pique their interest in those services – making them far more likely to ask about certain procedures during their appointment, or at least making them more open to considering these treatments when you bring them up chairside. And when I talk about marketing, I’m not talking about one-time campaigns. Those won’t give you the results you’re after. I’m talking about a continual, targeted effort that includes consistent branding and messaging.
As much as you might not want to hear this, you really have to make marketing a priority. It’s not going to work if it’s simply an afterthought or something you throw a little money at from time to time. You have to invest in this system, and so do your team members. Get them involved and make sure they understand that marketing must be part of every patient interaction, from the time patients call your office to make an appointment until that appointment is over and they’re walking out the front door.
So how should you go about marketing your services? Here are a few ideas:
• Place brochures and signs in your practice that offer information about the various services you provide.
Let me expand a little more on that last one. Your website is another great marketing tool you can use to educate patients about your practice, and it should be complete with short bios and photos of you and every member of your team. But don’t stop there. List the services you offer and information about those services. Include testimonials and before and after photos of successful cases you’ve completed.
Here’s the bottom line: Successful practices invest in marketing and patient education. Educating patients about the services you provide and the benefits of those services will help them to appreciate your practice and your team. And that, doctor, leads to increased case acceptance.
Investing in marketing also goes a long way in strengthening patient relationships, creating a connection between your patients and your practice and ultimately improving patient retention, all vital to your practice’s success and profitability. Remember, for it to work, marketing has to be a priority; it can’t just be an afterthought.
This may seem overwhelming, but it’s important. And I’m here to help. If you’d like more advice on how to do this in your practice, along with other tips to help your practice flourish throughout the rest of 2015 and beyond, download my special report: 5 Ways to Build Your Practice in 2015.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Treatment Plan According To Codes
In dentistry, it seems we are often afraid of getting paid for the work we do. Why is this? Could it be because many people don’t like coming to us as it is? Patients feel that dentistry and medical care are too expensive? Insurance doesn’t pay, so why should we expect the patient to pay? Is it because we don’t even value our own work?
Regardless of the reasoning that some dental professionals have, our education and quality of care are worth every penny we charge. In spite of the cost to the patient, insurance company or parent/guardian, patients have the right to know what the optimum standard of care for their mouth and needs are. They also have the right to know what their other options are, all the way down to extracting the tooth and doing nothing, or extracting the tooth and placing an implant.
It is not up to us to make the decision for patients regarding what they can or cannot afford. It certainly is not our decision to make when it comes to what level of care we offer. We should always be offering the standard of care we were educated to provide and that we would expect ourselves. Nothing would upset me more than to go to a health care professional expecting to be told what is best for me based on my individual needs, only to find out I was given advice based on what would be paid by insurance standards. I am a patient who is willing to pay out of pocket if needed to have what I am told is best for my health. After all, if I don’t have my health what do I have?
I continuously see offices under-treating periodontal disease and over-working hygienists when diagnosing and treatment planning perio disease. In addition, many offices are not being paid a fair fee for the work being done, particularly those offices taking planned insurances. Sometimes they are not even getting paid enough to cover the cost of the hygienist’s salary and the overhead required to just sit a patient in the chair – let alone actually do work on the patient.
I see many offices treatment planning two prophylaxis, a full mouth debridement and a prophylaxis, instead of treatment planning the patient for the quadrant scales that are really needed. There only needs to be one area of radiographic bone loss to use the code for 1 to 3 teeth quadrant scaling. If there is more than that, great. Treatment plan accordingly.
Treatment planning correctly gives hygienists the time needed to provide better quality of care, and it also reduces stress levels when actually performing the work needed. If the patient is numb they will be more comfortable, which again reduces not only the patient’s stress level but the hygienist’s. The patient may not have been in for a couple of years due to fear of pain. If you treatment plan this patient for a couple of prophylaxis or a full mouth debridement, they could experience that pain they were dreading and may not return for a few more years. Giving pain free injections is not out of the question, but when there is a lot of inflammation and/or calculus, the pain from the inflammation is very real.
Your practice will be getting paid for the quality of care you are providing. The patient may even end up paying less out-of-pocket over the next year because of insurance limitations on how many prophylaxis are allowed in one year. Treatment plan it in your computer with a “test” patient and see for yourself how treatment planning according to the numbers and the x-rays may indeed actually save money in the long run of a year.
Do your patients, your hygienist and your practice a favor and treatment plan according to the codes, not by what you think will cost the patient the least amount of money. Yes, maximize their insurance when possible, but let patients make decisions based on treatment planning according to the standard of care and correct coding of that care. For guidance on presenting effective treatment plans, McKenzie Management’s One-Day Treatment Acceptance Training can help.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email email@example.com and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
4 Steps to Grow Your Strengths
Our natural inclination is to focus on negative feedback, or the things we do not do very well, over the positive. Unfortunately this dynamic is reinforced throughout schooling and our professional lives (and too often in our personal relationships as well). Organizational Behavior experts are now asking questions to challenge this way of thinking, as research indicates that a negative focus does not directly lead to positive growth and desired outcomes.
If we spend time and energy focusing on our relative weaknesses, or “areas for improvement,” all we’re doing is spending time on things we already know we don’t do very well, and therefore have little room to grow. Instead, why not spend our time and energy developing and nurturing our relative strengths? These are the things we do well, and therefore can do even better! We think of this much more constructive focus as playing to, or leveraging, our strengths.
The following guide takes you through 4 steps to help you reflect on and grow your personal strengths.
Step 1: Choose people in your personal and professional life to give you personal feedback. These individuals could be your spouse, former professors, neighbors, your child’s friend’s parents, your office staff or your patients. The idea is to be open to receiving feedback, whether it is what you expect or not, from multiple sources to help round out the picture. An example of how to go about this would be to inform select people that you are involved in a personal growth challenge or leadership development program, and you need each of these folks to email or tell you directly their experience of a time when you made an important contribution or added value. You might be surprised to hear about things you have said that were non-eventful for you, but made an impact on someone else. You also might be reminded of something you accomplished, which perhaps you look past or do not remember.
Step 2: Look for patterns in the feedback you have gathered. In this step you pull together feedback, examples or stories from others that speak to certain aspects (strengths) of yours. You may find confirmation of what you already know, or you might find yourself becoming illuminated to aspects of yourself you would not have thought of as relative strengths. Often this step causes people to challenge their doubts or insecurities. For instance, you might not know that people hear or even care about your input. Upon asking around, however, you may be surprised to hear people saying things back to you that you once said, in a very appreciative way! If you are able to gather feedback from patients, you might find that they appreciate some parts of your interaction with them that you take for granted, such as when you notice they’ve had a haircut or that they look well-rested. The nuances of an interaction that people hang onto and appreciate might shed light on something you do naturally and can choose to accentuate for even more positive results.
Step 3: Write down your “Best Self” Portrait. This step offers the chance to integrate and synthesize others’ feedback into your own words and way of viewing yourself. Take all the stories and feedback you have gathered and write a 3-4 paragraph prose (not bullet points!) composition beginning with: “When I am at my best, I…” In performing this exercise, and in doing so prose style, you will find connections becoming clear between some bits of feedback which might have previously seemed disjointed. Also, in taking the time to do this exercise thoroughly, you might begin to think of examples when you were not your best self and it may become quite clear why things did not go according to your plan in those instances.
Step 4: Rewrite your job description around your newly confirmed relative strengths. In this step, compare your current role and responsibilities to your “Best Self” Portrait. See which components correlate and which do not. Sift out the parts of your job which do not align with ‘you at your best’ and think about ways to delegate those to someone else, or at least downplay those, while you play up the parts that emphasize your strengths. By being your ‘best self’ more often, you will see more positive results and will therefore find your strengths being reinforced. If you have a great sense of humor, for example, you might find yourself being more comfortable using humor in your office interactions, and you might see your staff and patients seeming more at ease as a result. They themselves might begin using humor or levity, which may make the day move along more smoothly and positively.
This process takes effort and time, but it can be very impactful. Hopefully, playing to your strengths will reinforce itself and you will be more and more your ‘best self.’ The lessons gleaned from this exercise can elude you, or you may want to file it away for “another time.” Diligence and follow-through are a must. You might find it helpful to have a Leadership Coach keep you on task. Good luck, and I hope you enjoy your new-found familiarity with your strengths.
Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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