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Build value for the dentistry – don’t apologize for it, don’t ignore it, and don’t distract from it with televisions playing in your practice.
There has been a trend in the dental industry for many years of mounting televisions with local cable channels or the ability to play movies to entertain patients while they are receiving care in the office.
I have heard it said that this is a great way for modern offices to build value for patients because it was distracting them from unpleasant noises, and, in general, “taking their minds off what we are doing.” But I ask the question: How is distracting attention away from what we do “building value?” Isn’t it just, well, distracting? I sometimes wonder if it becomes the “easy way out” for some clinicians? We know patients don’t want to be at the dentist, so why not make them feel like they aren’t there at all? Then we wonder why they don’t follow through with the treatment we have recommended!
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Here are three ways that having TVs playing local channels, news stations, cable, or even movies, are creating a bigger challenge for you for case acceptance.
You lose the opportunity to spend time educating the patient about dentistry and their oral health.
If the patient sits in your chair, asks for the headphones, and settles in to watch “Ellen” (a favorite show of mine, when I have the rare opportunity to catch it!) while the hygienist “pokes around,” you have to interrupt the show in order to discuss what you are doing or any area of concern. Instead, the patient should be hearing about what procedure you are performing, what you are looking for, what you might be concerned about if you do see, and what the diagnosis is. If a hygienist performs a perio screening with probe depths, recession, mobility, and bleeding points, as well as an oral cancer screening, soft tissue evaluation, oral hygiene evaluation, hard tissue evaluation, and prophylaxis, wouldn’t it “build value” to tell the patient? How can a hygienist argue that she is doing more than just a “cleaning” unless she tells the patient? Involve the patient in the evaluations to build trust and rapport. The TV will simply shut them out and distract them.
In restorative appointments, it can be equally important to take the time to involve the patient, especially when treatment changes. Using the intraoral camera is instrumental in helping patients to understand your diagnosis and what you have done to help them. Take before, during, and after photos. Take photos of large preparations prior to restoration, fractures that extend through the floor of the prep, unexpected pathology, or anything that will support your diagnosis. Having to interrupt the patient’s favorite show to explain this to him or her can ensure very divided attention. Explaining after the fact may be perceived as justification or defending the diagnosis, whereas involving the patient when the pathology is discovered will more naturally lead to permission to restore.
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You can’t control what is on TV
Specifically, there are several talk shows on every day, consistently creating mistrust between patients and their health practitioners. Not only is the validity of what many of these hosts and their guests are saying often questionable, but also they commonly make generalizations that disregard an individual’s circumstances or needs. In years past, I had the occasional patient who arrived for an appointment, shared something that popular TV host Dr. Oz stated, and attempted to hinder me or the doctor in our responsibility. We know this happens, but why would we encourage this by allowing it to be shown in our own practice?
And how about all of the advertising showing patients where else they can be spending their money? We must fight for our place in line when it comes to family budgets – and often we fall behind new cars, vacations, or expensive accessories (I am looking at you, Coach Outlet!). While the care we provide may not be life or death, and may be considered frivolous by some, it is up to us to educate patients that dental care can affect quality of life, systemic health, social acceptance, and, in some cases, mental wellbeing. By removing the immediate distraction of commercials vying for your patients’ discretionary dollar, your goal is made more attainable.
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Having the TV on says to the patient that the distraction is more important than your quality of dentistry
Promoting this as a “perk” to your practice undermines the true value of coming to your practice – the actual quality of the dentistry itself! The television isn’t the only culprit interrupting your case acceptance success. In fact, much of what we have done to “build value” for our patients and their experience at their appointments over the years has only served to destroy the value of dentistry. If patients say that they come to their “cleanings” for the social visit, or the toothbrush, or because they like your waiting room magazines … ouch! Or how about the much more common choice of only going where their insurance is “accepted?” Guess who taught them this is important? Dentists, insurance companies, and team without the training to encourage and communicate an alternative mindset! Invest in training and coaching to learn how to talk to patients about their care and how to pay for it, regardless of insurance … which is sub-standard care at best.
When we stop talking about all the things that have nothing to do with quality care and start talking about the patient’s health and needs, we change the landscape of treatment acceptance in the practice. We have a steep mountain to climb when it comes to building value for dentistry, but it is our ethical responsibility as clinicians to do so, and to work as hard as we can to get patients to want the dentistry they need. It is our responsibility to teach them about how dental health affects body health. Build value for the dentistry – don’t apologize for it, don’t ignore it, and don’t distract from it. Talk about it. Be proud of it. And turn the TV off!