We are living in a volatile economy to say the least. Uncertainty about healthcare, economic woes, the daily grind and other outside stressors are enough to discourage anyone as we try to run successful and productive dental practices. All this being said, it does not sway us in our belief that your patients can and will say yes to treatment. It is up to you to make it possible.
In 2008, a survey conducted by the ADA, Crest & Oral B uncovered some fascinating statistics:
60% of responders said that they suffer from one or more dental issues.
1 in 8 complained that their dental problems were so severe that it often interfered with their daily lives.
33% were unaware that periodontal disease needs to be treated and cannot be left alone.
There was an overwhelming amount of fascinating information in the report. While it is several years old, the information, we are confident, still holds true or may be even more amplified since the turmoil of the past years.
Why focus on these three specific statistics? One of the most common issues people share with Jameson advisors when it comes to case acceptance is that they are overcome at their practice with a case of the “I’ll Think About It’s”. How often are you answered with that statement when asking for a commitment to treatment you are recommending? Most likely more than you care to recall.
When our population responds to questions about their dental health in the way they did earlier, there is a drastic issue at hand in our society and our dental care and its priority in our patients’ lives. Yes, you say. That’s a given. The real question is, how do you overcome “I’ll Think About It”?
In a nutshell, here are 3 pointers to get started in overcoming this epidemic that has taken over your practice.
1. EDUCATE. EDUCATE. EDUCATE.
In this same survey, 83% of those surveyed said that their main source of education about their oral health comes from their dentist. Let us never assume that we know how our patient will respond the next time they are sitting in your dental chair. This must be a team approach. If your patient has the need of extensive restorative care, they need to be hearing that not only from you, the dentist, but it needs to be reinforced by the hygienist when they are visiting your practice for a cleaning. Use your cameras and make it a visual experience. People naturally learn and understand more visually, so use the time they are in your chair to SHOW them their dental needs and explain what needs to be done to get them back to a state of health.
It is also important to use internal marketing efforts to educate your patient base and remind them of the need for regular visits to your practice. Companies like Demand Force and Smile Reminder are two examples of stellar services available to our profession to stay in front of your patients, educating them and holding them accountable for their dental health and well-being. In the 21st century, creativity abounds when it comes to ways to reach out to your patients, to get them to confirm and keep appointments, etc. Take advantage of this creativity and let it work to your practice’s advantage.
2. COMMUNICATE. COMMUNICATE. COMMUNICATE.
Present the treatment appropriately and effectively. Have serious conversations away from the dental chair. If your patient has a need for restorative work, take them to a private consultation area, sit together at the same level, use a flat screen monitor to show them their teeth, and have a real, uninterrupted conversation about what needs to be done. This is imperative for successful case presentation. The privacy and preparation before the presentation make for a better chance of understanding, a reduction in emotional flooding and a higher chance of the patient saying yes to the treatment.
Keep your patients involved in the conversation. The more they tell YOU what they want or need, the more likely they will buy in to the treatment you are recommending. Use plenty of active listening during this time. For more information on communication skills during case presentation, we highly recommend that you reference Cathy’s book, “Great Communication = Great Production.”
3. NEVER GIVE UP. NEVER GIVE UP.
Never give up. One thing that can make a difference over everything else is your relationship with your patients. It is important to establish a strong and healthy connection with them, to make sure they feel that you and your team truly care for their health and well-being. Many times a patient is overwhelmed when first presented with a large amount of treatment. We must empathize with this distress and give them the opportunity to process it and let their emotions run its course before they can make a comfortable decision. This does not mean that if they say no the first time that we give up and assume it is a no forever. Or even a no for now! Be consistent. Show them their progress every time they visit. If they progress in a positive way – show them before and after photos and celebrate the success – this also communicates to them the great work YOU are doing for them! If they are progressing into a further state of decay and disease, it is imperative that you continue to show them, to educate them and to ask for that YES to treatment.
Make it financially feasible for them. Have patient financing programs ready and available for them in your practice; introduce those programs to them as soon as the concern of money is brought to the table. Present different levels of treatment if money is still an issue and break down the care into more manageable amounts. Sometimes you just need the opportunity to begin to help them see the benefits of the care you are providing.
Make sure you are in communication with the decision maker. If it is not the patient of concern, schedule time where the decision maker can join them for a consultation and be educated on the care needed. You are the expert on the treatment recommended, better for them to hear it from you than from the second hand understanding of the patient.
And as we have said again and again: Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. The stronger your relationships with your patients, the more they will trust you, listen to you and ultimately say YES to the care they need.
Chief Communications Officer and co-owner of Jameson Management, Carrie Webber’s presentations share marketing, customer service and business development strategies. Helping dentists and teams become more productive, more profitable and ultimately more fulfilled in their practicing lives through comprehensive and customized management, hygiene and marketing services provided at the right time for the right result.