By Dr. Tanya Brown
Dental teams provide a tremendous resource for patient education and care. However, sometimes we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to case presentation and acceptance. While our intentions are honorable, the results may prove disheartening when patients fail to schedule the treatment we know they need.
Dr. Pete Dawson said, “Reasonable people will find a way to do the recommended treatment if they understand the implications.” This statement is absolutely true, and it leads us to share several tips for avoiding the mistakes that dental teams often make with case presentations.
The first common mistake that dental teams make is assuming that they know what patients want. Whether it is a simple choice between amalgam or composite or a full reconstruction, we should never assume. We should ask each patient what they want, and if we take the time to listen, the answers will surprise us! You may also be surprised that when given the choice and proper information, patients will typically choose the BEST option. Sometimes instead of just placing one crown at a time, they may choose to restore the entire quadrant or, better yet, the entire arch. All you have to do is ask them.
The second common mistake that dental teams make is failing to build a relationship with patients first. Some refer to this as co-diagnosis or being a partner with the patient. However you phrase it, the key is that the patient relationship is built on trust, and that takes time to develop. If you refer to the WIDIOM rule — “Would I Do It On Me?” and always keep the patient's best interest as your top priority, you will be amazed at how much your case acceptance improves.
The third reason why patients fail to say “yes” to treatment is that they are overwhelmed or confused by the information or choices offered. Dentists and dental team members must speak to patients in terminology they’re familiar with. We have all seen a patient’s eyes glaze over while listening to the wealth of knowledge pouring from the doctor, and as soon as the doctor leaves the room the patient turns to the dental assistant or hygienist and says, “What did he just say?” or “What would you do?”
Informed consent is important, but it can be carried to an extreme. While some patients need more details and information than others, the majority of patients only want to hear how it will benefit them. For example, a team member may say, “Mrs. Jones, Dr. Smith has recommended a crown on that lower right tooth because it is cracked. You’re fortunate that it hasn’t started to hurt yet, and Dr. Smith can preserve your tooth and give you a better result if we take care of that tooth before it breaks more or starts to hurt you.” Remember the KISS principle — Keep It Simple Smarty.
Finally, a mistake often made by dental teams is failing to remove barriers to treatment for patients. Barriers can range from physical barriers such as a sliding glass window in the reception area to inflexible patient financing. Certainly I do not advocate being in the banking business, therefore using financial partners such as CareCredit may help patients fit dental care into their family budgets. A great internal marketing project for a team meeting is to walk through your office and look for barriers to patients saying “yes” to treatment, and remove them. If you follow the motto “Make it easy for patients to do business with you,” you will have increased case acceptance.
As you can tell, there are many factors that influence patients’ case acceptance, and it takes every person on the team to make acceptance happen. More importantly, the more harmonious communication is between team members and between the team and patients, the higher the case acceptance. Case acceptance is an ongoing process that requires monitoring. The next time a patient asks you for your opinion, give it to them in their language and explain the benefits for them and see what happens!
Dr. Tanya Brown, a leader in dentistry and dental management, is the founder of The Center for Cosmetic & Restorative Dentistry. She is a member of the Speaking Consulting Network, and a senior consultant and speaker for Miles Global, a leading dental practice management firm. Contact Dr. Brown to reignite the passion for your patients, your practice, and your life. Reach her at [email protected] or (757) 285-2833.
By Dr. Tanya Brown