There you stand, saying your goodbyes to the patient, certain that you will be seeing her again very soon. You are absolutely confident that you have just provided one of the most exceptional treatment presentations of your career. The patient was positively transfixed. Nodding in affirmation, smiling in agreement, without a doubt she will proceed with your recommendations. It’s positively incomprehensible that as the patient makes her way to the appointment desk, that perfect plan for ideal dentistry might just as well be making its way down the long green mile.
Why is it that patients who are eager, willing, and ready to proceed with recommended treatment as it is presented by the doctor, quietly send the best of plans to the worst of fates with little more than a preliminary hearing?
Where confidence and conviction prevailed just moments ago as the patient gushed over the oral health opportunities spread before them, concern, ambivalence, and/or fear sweep in and suddenly that ideal treatment plan that was all but signed, sealed, and delivered is now simply under review.
It can be agonizing for dentists who are eager to provide comprehensive dentistry to find that they are wasting precious time presenting treatment plans that are relegated to the “maybe someday” list. While there are many factors in securing treatment acceptance, rethinking some basic patient communication strategies can yield significant improvements.
Number one: Are you the right person for this particular job? Before you gasp in horror at the notion that anyone but you can detail specifics of recommended treatment plans, consider this: Patients are often much more comfortable discussing their treatment plans with an auxiliary than with the dentist.
It is quite common for patients to feel uncomfortable asking detailed questions of the dentist. Some are concerned that they may unintentionally imply that they do not trust the doctor’s recommendation. Others are worried that they are taking up too much of the doctor’s valuable time. Still others find that if they do ask questions, the answers are too clinically detailed to truly understand.
In addition, patients often feel awkward discussing fees with dentists. Many patients see dentists as being in a very high-income bracket, and they perceive that the dentist may not understand their financial limitations. Conversely, dentists who get into the habit of discussing fees and financial arrangements with patients can feel unnecessarily pressured to make concessions or provide credit options that are well beyond what is reasonable for a small business to offer.
What’s more, dentists typically don’t see any problem with presenting treatment plans in the operatory. However, patients feel they are at the mercy of the doctor in this space; it is not conducive to a relaxed, detailed discussion. Treatment plans should be delivered in a separate area of the office designated as a “no interruption zone” where plans can be spelled out and patients are encouraged to ask questions.
If treatment acceptance in your practice is not within striking distance of the recommended 85%, it may be time to consider if your practice could benefit from a treatment coordinator.
Next week, just what could a treatment coordinator do for your practice?
If you have any questions or comments, please email Sally McKenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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