5 ways you’re keeping patients from accepting treatment

May 21, 2013

Having trouble getting patients to yes? Here's how you might be sabotaging yourself.

Having trouble getting patients to yes? Here's how you might be sabotaging yourself.

Do you ever hear these statements during your morning huddle?

“They are only going to do what is covered by their insurance!”

 “Don’t bother addressing that bridge we have been talking about it for years!”

“I have reviewed the hygiene patients for today and they are completed so probably not much diagnosis today.”

These assumptions are because we made ourselves the deciders. Morning huddles are a very important part of any healthy dental practice-if they are productive. The huddle is the best way to get the entire team on the same page and to review treatment that may be needed or existing treatment plans. Those assumptions hurt the bottom line.

Here are 5 things you might be doing to hurt case acceptance in your practice and how to fix them.

1. You’re not checking in with your patients to make sure you are meeting their needs.

Simply starting a visit by letting your patients know you want to make sure you are meeting their needs is a great way to show you care.

I simply ask, “What are your long-term oral health goals?” and “How do you want your smile to look in the next 3-5 years?” I have uncovered desires for veneers, replacement of old alloys, implants, whitening and even new crowns.

Cosmetic dentistry is something that our patients are just not comfortable bringing up unless asked. How many times have you heard a patient say after you recommend replacing an old PFM “Good I have always hated the way that crown looked!” That is because we never asked; we only share what we decide needs to be addressed right now. Check in with your and patients you might be surprised at what you find out!

2. You’re not using your intraoral camera.

You should take intraoral photographs on every new patients’ posterior teeth, whether they have a restoration or not. We include a photo of the lingual of their lower anterior teeth.

At the end of their new patient visit I take them on a tour of their mouth and I show them what their teeth look like today. The important thing to remember is to let the patient do the talking. Most patients think even a healthy tooth looks gross or they get flipped out by the way their teeth look. By the time you get to the last photograph they will be giving you all the things they want to change. The patient becomes the decider not us!                                                                           

3. You assume only money is keeping them from accepting treatment.

If a patient has a long-standing treatment plan, I always make sure I review it. Too often we assume it is a money issue keeping them from yes. While that may be part of the challenge, I have found that resistance more commonly comes from fear or a lack of value.

By taking the time to ask patients what is preventing them from moving forward, patients will come clean on what is holding them back. For the fearful talk about nitrous, Valium, one visit or ways to decrease length of time being numb. Some offices even offer conscious sedation. Let them know other patients have been fearful too so they know they are in the right place.

If they tell you treatment time is the issue, offer fewer visits by doing more in a longer appointment. Remind them that the longer they wait the more they’ll need to have done in the future.

If it is a money issue, talk about third party financing or how dentistry does not get less expensive with time. You can even let them know that dentistry is the best health value-most dentistry lasts longer than a refrigerator.

Not sure what your patients really want? Check out this Morning Huddle video for help.

 

4. You’re not keeping the focus on the patient.                 

Keeping the patient the center of the conversation is important and is usually one of the first things to be overlooked. Whenever you are discussing findings or information about the patient, always keep the patient in the center of it.

I call it the power triangle. The doctor is in front of the patient and the hygienist/assistant standing next to the patient on the other side.  If you keep eye contact with the patient so he can nonverbally be a part of the conversation, you will find he they may add things or even correct you.

Make sure the patient is sitting up. A supine/laying done position makes patients feel vulnerable and uneasy. If there are a lot of questions or if the discussion seems to be turning into a larger case, move the patient to a consultation area or make another appointment to discuss treatment.

5. You try to decide for the patient.

While consulting with a team it became clear to me that the doctor was in his own way. He had arch photos of a patient in his 30’ that had amalgam fillings in all posterior teeth. This patient never wanted to have a dental emergency and wanted to keep his teeth and have them healthy.  The patient did not like the silver in his teeth and knew that they were 20 years old. This patient did not have a treatment plan. The doctor said the margins were great and sometimes you are opening a can worms by removing old amalgams.

I asked, “If this patient said I want all my silver fillings replaced what your answer would be?” The dentist said “we can do it.”  Many of the teeth would need inlays, onlays and crowns-a fairly big case. The problem was the dentist had become the decider on when the work needed to be done, instead of listening to the cues from the answers the patient had given him. Not all patients live by the old adage,” If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” so why do we live by it?

If you want to increase case acceptance in your practice, It comes down to listening to what our patients are telling us and giving them the information they need to move forward with their treatment plans. Every team I work with is amazed when their production goes up by making these small changes. Stop getting in your own way and let the patient decide! You will love your new bottom line.

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