13 lies your patients are telling you

September 12, 2012
Renee Knight
Issue 9

The most common lies coming out of your patients’ mouths might shock you.

The most common lies coming out of your patients’ mouths might shock you.

You’ve likely noticed it before. Something your patient just told you doesn’t quite jive with what you know to be true, or maybe you noticed extra shifting and eyes that won’t meet yours as your patient tells you that yes, he’s flossing every day, twice a day even, so he can’t understand why his gum health hasn’t improved.

It probably comes as no surprise to you and your staff that your patients may tell a white lie or two, but you might be surprised to know the most common things they’re lying to you about. We recently talked to dental consultants Penny Reed Limoli of the Reed Limoli Group, Lois Banta of Banta Consulting and Kathleen O'Donnell of Jameson Management to come up with the most common lies patients are telling while they’re in the chair. Here’s what they came up with:

1. “I don’t know anything about my dental plan.”

2. “My insurance company told me X.”

3. “I need to cancel my appointment because I’m stuck in traffic” (or in a meeting or sick).

4. “I floss every day. “

5. “I don’t drink alcohol, or at least not much” (this one shows up on the health history form).

6. “My last dental visit was six months ago.” (This is common from new patients who don’t want to admit when their last visit really was.)

7. “But your administrator told me X on the phone.”

8. “Yes, of course I took my premed.”

9. “I planned to pay my bill, but couldn’t find a stamp or an envelope.”

10. “I’m in a lot of pain and need an appointment right away. My tooth is hurting and I’m going on vacation. I can come in at 4:30.”

11. “I sent that payment into you last week.”

12. “I didn’t do anything unusual, my crown just popped off. “

13. “I have insurance and it pays 100% of everything.”

Any of these sound familiar? You likely have a few that you’ve heard over the years to add to the list, not to mention your team. But how do you handle it when you catch a patient in a lie? Do you call the patient out or let it slide?

If it’s a white lie, O’Donnell recommends letting it go. The patient is likely embarrassed by the truth and is just trying to save face. Of course, if it’s more serious and can potentially hurt the patient, you’ll have to confront him or her.

To help keep patients honest, Limoli suggests setting boundaries. If you don’t have boundaries, patients will test you and push your limits. Let patients know you require 24 or 48 hours for cancellations and when they call you to change an appointment at the last minute because they’re sick, remind them of the policy and let them know you’ll make the change this time but you’ll require more notice in the future. After two last minute changes, place the patient on an executive/short notice call list or have him or her make a deposit to reserve an appointment.

What else can you do? Make sure you document the conversations you have with patients in their health record, and update their health history regularly. This helps protect yourself and the practice when patients are dishonest with you about something that can harm their health.

Most of the lies your patients tell are harmless and are just part of the day-to-day routine. But it’s important to recognize when they’re fibbing, just in case that little white lie turns into a whole lot of trouble.

Your patients aren’t the only ones who lie. Next week, we break down the most common things your staff members are lying to you about.