Scripts for Everyday Dentistry
One of the more widely requested solutions that consultants are asked about are scripts. Apparently, doctors hear comments, questions and statements made by the business and clinical team that make them cringe, but they don’t want to address their concerns directly to the team member.
Explaining simple dental procedures in a manner that the patient can understand can be challenging. How many of your patients will be dismissed to Suzie at the front desk, only to ask her, “Why do I need this crown?” It is not the job of the Financial or Schedule Coordinator to review the dental needs of the patient. Rather, it is their job to assist in financial arrangements and make the appointment. Please don’t misunderstand. It isn’t that Suzie isn’t capable, but rather, that these clinical questions should be answered chairside.
Here is a dialogue that I hear often:
Doctor: “Mrs. Jones, it appears that you are going to need a crown on this tooth. The margins around the old amalgam are deteriorating and there is recurrent decay under the alloy. The integrity of the tooth structure is jeopardized, requiring a PFM. Suzie will answer any questions that you have. See you soon.”
I can promise you that Mrs. Jones has no idea what the doctor just said. All she really knows is that she came in for her “regular cleaning” and nothing is hurting. Now she needs something, but has no idea what it is or why she needs it.
Every staff member including the doctor needs to be able to express to patients in simple language, that anyone can understand, why they need dentistry. If patients don’t understand what they need, when it comes time to make an appointment their response is “I need to think about it.” You tell me what they are going to think about when they walk out the door? Dinner, their golf game tomorrow, picking up the kids, etc. I don’t think it is going to be their teeth, as much as we would like to believe!
So, how can you create scripts for the dentistry that you do?
A suggestion: Place a whiteboard in the staff lounge. When someone hears a statement from another team member that could be said in a more “patient friendly” manner, it is written down. The intent is not to hurt someone’s feelings but to help the entire team be on the same page with their dialogue. It is a learning experience for everyone. Review at least one procedure at your next monthly meeting and develop an easy to understand explanation.
Another suggestion: At your monthly meetings, establish 3 typical procedures that are performed in your office and tell the team that next month, 3 names are going to be drawn, along with one of the procedures. The person whose name is drawn will explain, on a 3rd grade level, the procedure that is also drawn. Everyone can chime in after the initial presentation and continue to simplify the definition until the entire team feels that the explanation is easy to understand.
Focus on getting your explanation to achieve a visual image and correlation of something that they can relate to so it makes sense to them. Also remember that in many cases, they must be able to “re-explain” this to a spouse or other family member at home.
In addition to a verbal explanation, give them a tangible object, such as a brochure, periodontal chart or intra-oral image that you have drawn on that “personalizes” it. Avoid handing them a brochure on periodontal disease and instructing them to “read it.” The results are not the same.
For all of us working in the field of dentistry, understanding dentistry and why and how we do what we do is a given. For patients, all they really know is that you practically lay them back on their heads, they keep their mouth open for a long time and you stick them with a sharp instrument. Seriously, this is true, and it has nothing to do with their level of education. Granted - there are some patients that don’t want to know and don’t want to see intra-oral images of their condition. Always ask permission to show them, as well as ask permission to share with them their dental needs.
For example: “Mrs. Jones, as you have heard, I gave my assistant quite a bit of information about what I have seen in your mouth. May I have your permission to share this with you?
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