14 questions patients ask in their initial periodontal consultation, and how and why you need to be able to answer them.
Does your practice have trouble converting initial periodontal consultations into periodontal patients? You may blame it on your price or your décor, but you’re fooling yourself. The initial consultation is your chance to help patients feel at home with you and give them confidence in your abilities. Here are 14 questions you must be able to answer quickly and without hesitation at any consultation appointment.
Question 1: How long have you been performing this procedure? How many do you perform in a year?
Why do patients come to periodontists? Because they’re looking for experts in the field. If they didn’t care about expertise, they would stick with their general dentist. So, have these answers at your fingertips. In fact, you may want a poster or brochure listing the procedures you do, and the number you do each year as compared to a typical general dentist.
Question 2: Am I a good candidate for this treatment?
Be honest and direct. If the answer is “no,” tell them why, what would need to change to make them a good candidate and what alternative treatment you can offer. This lets the patient see that you care about them and that you can help them, even if it’s not in the way you originally planned.
Question 3: What types of sedation and anesthesia do you offer?
Be prepared with a list, and the pros and cons of each. Mention which types you usually use for patients in their situation. The goal here is to show that you’re familiar with anesthesia and that they’ll be safe in your office.
Question 4: Where will the surgery take place?
Some patients prefer in-office surgery, but others want the option of having their surgery take place in a hospital. Fully explain the options you offer, why you offer them and what the best option will be for the patient in consultation.
Question 5: How long does this surgery take?
Give them the range, but also get more specific. “Typically, for patients with your profile, it takes….” This lets the patient see that you’re not just examining them as a generic “periodontal patient,” but also as an individual with unique health concerns.
Question 6: What will my pain levels be like?
Explain what happens during, immediately after and in the weeks after surgery. This question is actually, “How will you help me control my pain?” Outline what medicines and techniques you’ll recommend to help them with pain and healing.
Question 7: When can I return to work or school after surgery?
This is essentially a scheduling question. Your prospective patients need to know how long they’ll need to take off. They may need to schedule their surgery for a vacation or a school break. Be honest, and explain why you give the recovery times you do.
Next: More vital patient questions you need to be able to answer
Question 8: How long will my recovery take? What sort of follow-ups will I need?
Again, this is a question about scheduling. Your patient is asking, “Do I have time to get this procedure done? Are you enough of an expert to give me the information I need to fit this procedure into my life?
Question 9: Do you have a written estimate for costs of treatment?
If possible, it’s good to have an estimate ready at the initial periodontal consultation. However, if there are tests and images that you need to give an estimate, give the patient a date for when your estimate will arrive. Your patient needs to know that you plan their care in advance and that you’ll be open and honest about fees.
Question 10: Will you file my insurance and supporting documents for me?
Insurance is a hassle for periodontists, but it’s even worse for your patients since they don’t have a support team to deal with it. For some patients, deciding between two surgeons comes down to, “Who will make my insurance easier to deal with?” Be the periodontist who makes his or her patients’ lives easier.
Question 11: What sort of payment plans do you offer?
Questions like these are a good reason to have a financial coordinator sit in on the initial periodontal consultation. However, make sure you can give patients a quick overview even when the coordinator isn’t present.
Question 12: Are you Board Certified? What Certifications do you have?
There’s a reason we’re prone to hang diplomas and certifications on our walls. They reassure our patients that we have the training we need to perform their procedures. Most patients will have researched this question before they ever set foot in your office, but be prepared to answer it anyway.
Question 13: Have you written any books or journal articles on periodontal surgery?
Again, when a patient is looking for expertise, they want proof that you’re an expert. I find it helpful to keep extra copies of my more patient-centric books on hand to give to patients who ask this question. Nothing sets a patient’s mind at ease more quickly than having physical proof that you know what you’re doing-in this case, a book on periodontal surgery.
Question 14: Do you lecture at continuing education events for colleagues?
Again, your patient is asking for proof that you’re not just an expert, but that you’re an expert who knows his or her subject so well that he or she can train his or her colleagues. If possible, have some Youtube videos or podcasts online so that prospective patients have a chance to watch your lectures if they’re interested in more details ahead of their procedure.
Remember, the initial periodontal consultation is your chance to show prospective patients that you’re competent, that you keep up with current trends, that you’re an expert and that you view them as individuals, not just numbers on a spreadsheet. When you can answer these fourteen questions easily and naturally, you’ve gone a long way toward converting consultations into patients.
To find out more, click here to download Dr. Anzalone’s free report, “The 5 Most Critical and Costly Practice-Sabotaging Mistakes Dental Specialists Make.”