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4.18.08 Issue #319 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Trust = Treatment Acceptance
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Trust. Most of us believe that we are trustworthy individuals. It’s hard to imagine that someone wouldn’t trust us. After all, what’s not to trust? We’re hardworking, dedicated, committed people and others should trust our professional judgment. After all, we’re experts in our chosen fields, right?

For example, let’s say you have some concerns with your practice. You and I chat a bit, and I recommend that your practice undergo a McKenzie Management in-office consultation to ensure that you are getting the most out of your team and practice management systems. After all, McKenzie Management has been recognized many times for its expertise in this area. Would you immediately sign up for an in-office consultation

Realistically, you would probably want more information, and a more thorough understanding of what’s involved. You may trust what I have to say on one level, but you would want the opportunity to ask plenty of questions. You might want to check references and discuss what your return on this investment is going to be. And whether you proceed or not is going to be based on multiple factors that go well beyond the specific information you gather. You not only need to trust me, but you also need to trust that you are making the right decision.

So why would you think that your patients are any different? Certainly, patients trust you enough to come in for routine appointments. But what happens when they require or want care that goes beyond “routine” procedures? Will the patient have the confidence, the dental education and the trust in the practice overall to accept the treatment recommended? Consider the opinion of Mary, a patient in Dr. Smith’s office. 

“Dr. Smith’s office is great for cleanings and that, but he always seems so rushed. He takes a quick look at my teeth after the hygienist cleans them and sends me on my way. I want to ask about veneers, but I never feel like I should bother him with questions.” 

Dr. Smith, meanwhile, is befuddled when patients don’t accept recommended treatment. Yet he gives little thought to the manner in which he and his team build—or erode—patient trust. In Mary’s case, Dr. Smith doesn’t realize that he is undermining Mary’s trust in his care. Mary will be far less likely to proceed with recommended treatment because Dr. Smith is hurried, which makes patients feel uneasy and unimportant. Worse yet, Mary is interested in a certain procedure but doesn’t feel comfortable asking about it.

Through our Treatment Acceptance Training Program, we find that most dentists and teams understand the fundamentals of treatment presentation, but they forget that patients base their acceptance of those recommendations on multiple factors. In addition to always treating every patient as the most important and the only person in your practice and always taking the time to solicit questions from patients, consider a few other ways in which you can build trust during every visit:

Be candid. Most patients are aware of some general risks in treatment so they are waiting for you to be frank about what, if anything, they might be faced with as a result of the treatment. If they are given advantages and disadvantages, research shows that patients are more willing to trust you to deliver their care. Patients always feel better when they know the benefits and risks of proposed treatment.

Always speak at the patients’ level of understanding. Jargon and “ten-dollar words” can confuse patients and make them uncomfortable because they don’t understand, but they won’t ask you what you mean.

Exhibit clear confidence in your recommended course of treatment. A personal testimonial about recent treatment for another patient and the results obtained, for example, underscores that sense of security. It demonstrates that you have no doubt that you will get a good result for this patient.

Be aware of the perception of “fairness.” Many issues having to do with trust are linked to the patients’ perception of the value they are receiving. Studies show that patients avoid dental treatment because of cost more than pain. Yet if they feel that the costs measure up to the service received there is no complaint. Many patients will not question fees if the practice has demonstrated that they can deliver superior service. From the first phone call to dismissal, establish the “value” for services that a patient is receiving.

Next week, new patients mean new opportunities for your care to shine.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at
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