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12.24.08 Issue #355 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Belle DuCharme CDPMA
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What Are Your Patients Really Thinking?

How do we really know what our patients are thinking of our practice? Consider that only four out of one hundred people who stop being your patient will ever tell you why they left. Often a formal patient survey will reveal some reasons patients leave but not all. Making every attempt to improve your front office customer service and the quality of clinical services are certainly ways to limit your losses but what about the other reasons that patient’s leave like the reason illustrated in the following scenario.

At a business training session, ( McKenzie Management) with Dr. Smith and his Business Coordinator, Millie,(not real names) Dr. Smith communicated that he wanted to increase treatment acceptance numbers and felt that his presentations were excellent.  At break time, Millie pulled me aside and said that patients leave the practice because they do not like Dr. Smith’s personality.  “He is very abrupt and impatient when patients do not understand the treatment”, she said. She went on to say that Dr. Smith used the “fear factor” to motivate patients to accept treatment but instead it frightened many of them into leaving without appointments.  She had not discussed this patient feedback with Dr. Smith for fear that he would be upset. Interestingly, Dr. Smith pulled me aside, when Millie stepped out of the room, and expressed concern that the treatment acceptance stopped at Millie’s desk. “I think she talks the patient out of the treatment because she thinks they don’t need it,” he said.

This miscommunication created the “blame game” as to who is at fault and was distracting from the goal of creating value for the patient to buy services.  Creating value requires that we raise our standards about how we interact with our patients, our own character and integrity and the value we place on the doctor/patient and staff patient /relationships.  In other words, there are times when we have to do some “soul searching” to acknowledge the responsibility each of us has in building these relationships. If Millie had communicated the patient feedback to Dr. Smith, he may have realized that his presentation was not getting the result that he had anticipated and would have altered his approach. Dr. Smith’s perception of Millie’s attitude toward diagnosed treatment should have been addressed as soon as he thought she was discouraging patients from having treatment.  What is Millie’s dental IQ?  Does she value the benefits of a healthy mouth?  Dr. Smith had never taken the time to find out how Millie feels about dentistry. 

Patients accepting treatment cannot be the responsibility of one member of the team.  Even if Dr. Smith presented a detailed dental diagnosis that contained a measure of urgency, it would be of benefit to Millie to understand why he believed this and to “buy” into his practice philosophy.  Some patients will tell the assistant, hygienist or, in this case, the Business Coordinator things they won’t tell the dentist. Sometimes the patient will look to the auxiliary personnel in making decisions and therefore the team member with great selling skills can be a tremendous asset to the practice. Patient acceptance of treatment will often depend upon the ability of the team member to communicate the benefits of the treatment. They must understand and believe in the treatment. If they are less than enthusiastic or they don’t believe the treatment is necessary, it will be communicated to the patient either verbally or nonverbally.

The plan of action was to role play a treatment plan with Dr. Smith. Using a voice recording device the presentation was recorded. The next step was to record Millie presenting the treatment options to the patient, securing financing and scheduling appointments.  Uncomfortable as it was for both, the playback of their presentations created a platform where an analysis could be performed. From the playback we were able to point out to Dr. Smith how he created fear in the patient with his strong verbal attack. He was quite surprised to hear this in his voice and made a promise to work on his delivery.  Because the line of communication had opened up, Dr. Smith was able to communicate his concern to Millie about discouraging patients to have necessary care.  Millie admitted that she had told some patients that they could “wait” on some treatment after they had asked her if it was absolutely necessary to do it now. She had done so without consulting Dr. Smith for fear of his reaction. With a new understanding it was time to focus on improving the lines of communication between Dr. Smith and Millie.  A monthly meeting to discuss treatment acceptance statistics and ways to improve treatment presentations was put on the calendar along with scheduled follow-up calls to McKenzie Management for support and guidance.  Improve your lines of communication today by enrolling in one of our advanced training courses and start the New Year off right.

For more information about McKenzie Management’s Advanced Training courses, email, call 1-877-777-6151 or visit our website at
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