Guest post by Dawn Christodoulou, President/Owner of XLDent
Patients come through your door all day with problems ranging from periodontal disease to missing teeth. The biggest challenge isn’t in performing those treatments, it’s in getting a patient to agree to them. As a clinician, your role is much more than just doing the work, it’s listening to problems, educating, and demonstrating.
In most cases, the relationship between you and your patient must start with trust for the patient to feel confident enough to go through with your recommendations. No matter how large or small the proposed treatments are, there’s a personal element to each involved. A patient needs to hear and believe there’s a problem, before ever considering the solution.
One way to do this is to use visuals. Electronic dental charts and digital photos are good to start with. They show problems clearly and offer a focal point for your discussion. Focus less on the filling, and more on the recurrent decay or new caries that are seen and possibly felt right now by the patient. This step of the acceptance process should center around their goals and solving the problem (with your proposed treatment).
Understand barriers to acceptance and address them head on. Dentists think more times than not that the biggest roadblock to acceptance is money. In reality, this is true in some cases. However, it’s likely followed by fear or lack of understanding. Listening to your patient will bring you the most success at this stage. Get in the habit of repeating back what you’ve heard to confirm and reaffirm the barrier.
For example, you might say, “Mrs. Jones, if I’m hearing you correctly, your main concern is how much this treatment will cost. Is that correct?” Don’t be surprised if you get a response like this: “Well, I am worried about that, but I’m also just not feeling any pain right now on that tooth.” We can safely assume Mrs. Jones hasn’t truly seen or understood the problem, thus she doesn’t see the need for the solution. A repeat of the patient education and more focus on the problem is probably necessary.
The process of gaining treatment acceptance is much like crossing a bridge – each step connects to the next until you reach the other side. There comes a point where the patient understands the problem and can connect your solution as a means to solve it. The process of case presentation has a direct effect on a patient’s willingness to make that commitment.
To connect with XLDent, call 800-328-2925 or email email@example.com
Dawn Christodoulou is the President/Owner of XLDent. She has more than 25 years of experience computerizing dental offices and helping both new and established practices streamline electronic workflows for increased efficiency, improve patient engagement, and achieve maximum profitability. Dawn is also a member of ADA SCDI Working Groups 11.1 Standard Clinical Architecture and 11.9 Core Reference Data Set.