These past few months have been stressful for many of you. My heart has felt deeply for you all as I’ve heard about the job losses, the economy, the layoffs, the cutbacks, and every fear imaginable. These situations are all too real. But as viable as these issues are, I also realize that they have become the complete focus of so many offices. As Dick teaches, “What we think, we will become.”
Too many offices are assuming that their practices are going to be slower; and they have become just that. My advice for all of the offices I’ve worked with this year has been, “Let you listen to you and NOT to them.”
Fears have held back many from pursuing their hopes. Remember, on the other side of nothing is everything. Pursue, pursue, pursue your hopes and dreams for your practice. And just how do you do that? You make a decision to do so. You can’t think two thoughts at the same time. Choose your thoughts, and they will become reality. When negative thoughts creep in, get rid of them and replace them with positive ones.
Many offices never expect the good in their practices. They dwell on why their patients either can’t or won’t accept treatment. Unfortunately, they never share these concerns with their patients, and, thus, make choices for these patients. This simply is not acceptable. I’ve heard the business staff tell the doctor that a patient can’t afford anything. And then the dentist is influenced. I’ve also heard the clinical team suggest that they would waste time with certain patients because they can’t afford treatment. Thus the dentist is influenced.
No matter what the role or position in the practice, everyone has the same responsibility. Dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, financial coordinators, appointment engineers, and receptionists all must share with their patients what treatment options are best for them. It should be the patient’s choice to receive or refuse treatment.
I hear from many offices that patients will not accept treatment, and the staff assumes that it is the economy, they don’t have the money, or they have to go home and think about it first. But these are merely symptoms that usually reveal themselves when I ask, “Why would a patient want the treatment the dentist is recommending?” The typical response is that the dentist is the best, because he or she is so wonderful, because of his or her expertise, or because of the new technology that the office uses. But these will not be the reasons why patients will move forward with treatment. Please understand that you should all believe that your dentist is the best and offers the latest technology, and you should always share those positive features with your patients.
The reasons that patients will move forward with treatment are the benefits to the patient. Unfortunately, many offices have lost their focus, which should always be putting the patient first. Never assume for them. And listen, really listen, to your patients. It’s amazing how people respond when you truly take time to listen.
Recently, at a Barnesified office, a new patient was being interviewed in a private, relaxed environment. I’m sure the staff member performing the interview had many other duties waiting, but she chose to turn off the world for this gentleman. Were her other duties not important? Of course they were, but the patient was her top priority. As the staff member finished the interview, the patient said, “I never had anyone in a dental office take time to talk to me. It was so nice.” During their time together, the staff member found out this gentleman had many phobias about dental offices. The staff member and patient together decided that the benefits of treatment would help the patient overcome his fears by moving forward with veneers.
Then there is the lady who came in to have her teeth cleaned. The hygienist asked, “So how are your teeth?” The patient responded, as she was taking out her partial denture, by saying “I wish I had more teeth to eat with.” The hygienist said “Uh huh” and asked “What about your gums?” No discussion took place about possibilities to help the patient have more teeth. If she would have been informed about the available options, she could have received huge benefits. With dental implants, she could have more teeth to eat with, providing her with much better oral function.
The examples are endless, but here are a few more illustrations of specific ways patients can benefit from treatment:
- The gentleman who wanted to look nice during parents’ weekend at his son’s college gained self-esteem.
- The lady who wanted to smile and be able to show her teeth in photographs gained confidence.
- The man who suffered discomfort for years and only went to the dentist when he could no longer tolerate the pain learned how new technology, combined with the dentist’s expertise, could provide helpful treatment. He learned that he would never have to hurt like that again. His benefit was less pain.
The benefits are as numerous as the individual stories. My advice is to really listen to your patients. Co-discovery will take place. You, the dentist, will make the diagnosis, but the patients will know they’ve been heard. Then they will become your ally. They will be eager to find the money to follow through with the treatment.