By Teresa Duncan, MS
Have you ever watched the show “Lie To Me”? It follows a group of deception experts as they solve crime. The show's strength lies in knowing when a person is less than honest. This is a very handy skill to have — especially for treatment coordinators.
We are often faced with patients who just “yes” us to death. We try so hard to convey the urgency of preserving bone or replacing missing teeth. Something that makes such good sense to us is often met with blank stares and mindless head nodding from patients.
As a partner in the patient’s health, this can be very frustrating. Treatment coordinators wonder, “I’m trying to provide ideal treatment, so why is he (or she) staring at me like that?” Understanding a patient’s nonverbal cues can help you figure out if the patient is shutting down. This can help you alter the conversation for a better outcome.
Look for postures and gestures from patients such as these:
- Absent-minded head scratching
- Folded arms
- Leaning back or away from you
- Not maintaining eye contact
- Eye rolling
- Repetitive finger tapping or head rubbing
During the treatment consultation, actively engage the patient by asking questions. An open dialogue is essential to moving the patient toward treatment acceptance. Bring the person back into the conversation with comments like these:
- “I want to make sure we’re on the same page. Would you like me to review any of this?”
- “I notice your face changed when I talked about the grafting procedure. Do you have any questions about it?”
- “Many patients have questions about this part of the procedure. I can go into more detail if you’d like.”
Avoid phrases such as “Let me repeat that,” or “Did you get that?” Never insinuate that the patient didn’t understand you — ask if the person would like more information. The conversation should flow easily and can be very comfortable if you learn to read patients’ nonverbal cues. Many times what they don’t say is more valuable than any verbal communication. Read your patients and close your cases!
With more than 20 years of health-care experience, Teresa Duncan addresses topics such as insurance coding, fraud, embezzlement, and new media marketing. She is a fellow and educator for the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries. She is also coauthor of “The Ultimate Office Planner,” a newsletter for dental administrators and dentists. You can visit Teresa’s blog at http://www.thedentalimplantblog.com or her Web site at http://www.odysseymgmt.com. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.