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Trust can be critical in forming a positive relationship with your patients.
Dentists and hygienists get a bad rap! There are patients out there who think there are no regulations regarding how much you can charge them. Some believe that dentists and specialists are just looking to make as much money as possible so they can retire young and play golf five days a week. Whether there is any truth to this or not, it does pose a perception problem.
Think about it: How can you combat these preconceived notions that your patients may have about you? If you don’t, it can lead to a stressful problem for all.
I started writing for the dental industry in 2010. Numerous dental hygienists, front office staff and dental specialists have contacted me to share what really happens in their practices. Most talk about how the dentist or specialist is fantastic! These are the good, solid, ethical practices where everything is on the up and up. Yet, despite how wonderful your practice may be, patients have their opinions, and they do factor into the customer experience-and your bottom dollar. Here are two touchy subjects that may taint a patient’s perception of you and your practice:
As a dental patient with a $55,000 mouth, I have witnessed a lot with various teams who have worked on me. When patients have medical insurance, they only feel a pinch of the co-pays or deductibles versus the entire bill. But, when they have dental insurance or the option for that benefit, quite often they don’t use it since it is so expensive and doesn’t usually cover everything. What I am trying to say is that the patient already has preconceived ideas about the cost of getting dental care.
Here’s the truth: I am blessed. Out of that $55,000 which was a compilation of TMJ, two sets of braces, mouth pieces, crown lengthening, gum grafts, crown replacements, etc, only $1,500 was covered by insurance. I was told that even though I had the medical benefit, I would probably not get to access it. I spent a three-hour marathon calling all over my insurance company until I broke down crying. I don’t cry easy, but the frustration of trying to get access to a benefit that I have was too much. Finally, an employee took pity on me and said, “It isn’t my job, but just send me all your information, and I’ll shove it through.” Why do I share this story? Because, there are frustrations your patients are dealing with that may get projected onto YOU. Insurance may not be your responsibility, but, being the middleman, you might take the brunt of the blame from patients when it comes to high treatment costs.
It’s just a fact that certain procedures cause pain. While nobody went into this profession to cause pain (although, have you seen The Little Shop of Horrors?), it’s sometimes an inevitable part of dental work. Pain changes people. It makes the sweet, old lady a little nasty. This can get projected onto the dental professional.
What is important is that you understand where it may be coming from and keep your cool. Most of you do, but it can be hard. Just last week, I witnessed a doctor overreacting to my family member. The patient was justified with what she was asking, but the doctor got tired of how complicated the medication regiment was for that patient. When I stepped in to explain that, the doctor backed down immediately. Patients aren’t trying to irritate you (though they definitely can be irritating!) so it’s important to remember that pain and fear might be clouding their interaction. Be patient. Just always treat your patients the way you want your mother to be treated.
I end this article with hope. Just think about insurance benefits, the cost of dental care and your patient’s fear of pain. When you are sensitive to that, you will improve how much your patients trust you.
As always, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your stories and any ideas you have that can benefit dental practices.