Originally published December 2009
Every visit is an opportunity to create a ‘patient for life.’ When a dental team is about GIVING versus SCHEDULING PRODUCTION, relationships grow. When patients are emotionally ready to accept recommended treatment and financially capable, you can’t stop them. They want everything today! Do you acknowledge you have these patients or do you feel scheduling treatment is like pulling teeth? Do you accept people become resistant when they feel confused or pressured?
When patients are not ready to begin treatment, do we understand why? When do they plan to schedule, or if never, why? Are delayed treatment notes ‘chart obvious’?
To call? Or not to call? Diligent, timely calls are a GIFT to the patient and the practice. Build trusting relationships by gaining permission to follow up at an agreed time. Spontaneous calls from an unscheduled treatment report, or just because you have an opening, give the appearance of selling. High touch doctor/patient relationships are created by listening to your patients’ current (life) stories and promising personal support.
Ask assumptive, open-ended questions; then listen without judgment. “Mrs. Johnson, it sounds like you have several pressing issues. Hearing this, I acknowledge the value you have for your dental health by taking time for preventive hygiene today. Because you need to take care of other things before treating your fractured tooth, when do you think you may be scheduling? Because you are so busy…and knowing Dr. Kharing will want me to follow up if too much time passes, when is the soonest you would like us to check in with you?” (Pause. Give photo of visible condition.)
If patients deny treatment, accept they don’t feel value. Build patient relations for life by respecting their choices. GAIN an agreement to show changes at preventive exams so they can reevaluate their choices. Thorough documentation provides direction for the morning huddle and avoids pressure and confusion patients experience when hygienists ask, “When are you going to schedule this crown diagnosed over a year ago?”
Your ability to support patients as they experience unhealthy conditions is a GIFT. Create patients for life! Your practice GAINS the GIFT of patient loyalty and earns referrals when you take a personal interest in people’s lives.
Phyllis Waite is a Management/Leadership Coach committed to building successful dental practices.
FMI about on-site and tele-coaching: www.phylliswaite.com.
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