Dental Consultant Tip: Talking To Patients
Do you ever ask your patients, "Any questions?" If you do so often enough, you'll lose a lot of income. Let me explain.
Dentists often tell patients they need to do this, this, and this, in a rapid-fire style, throwing in terms patients probably don't understand (like leaky margins), and then ask, "Any questions?" More often than not the patient says no, and then goes merrily to the financial arranger and asks what procedure their dental insurance will cover. Often whatever procedure is covered is all they commit to -- and sometimes not even that.
Many dentists never really get the patient to realize what needs to be done and why. And most dentists never spot that patients don't realize what needs to be done, because they ask the patient a yes or no question such as "Any questions?" or "Do you understand?"
As an example, when my organization consults with a client, we'll give them a fast and detailed dissertation on computer hardware. I do this until I can see their eyes have glazed over, and then I ask them how they feel. They almost always say that they wanted me to stop talking five minutes ago. That's the way patients feel when you throw terms like "leaky margins" at them.
What to ask your patients
Here's what to do instead: Give them drawings or sketches to show what is wrong with the tooth, and show them the stages of deterioration that will happen if nothing is done, along with the costs associated with fixing each stage of deterioration.
Then you can ask questions such as the following:
- What do you think will happen if you don't do anything about it?
- Which of those three treatments do you want to do?
- You know you were walking around with an infection 24/7. How do you think that might affect your immune system?
- Which way are you going on this chart if you don't do something to stop this process?
Asking questions that require more than a perfunctory yes or no gets the patient talking. In my 20 years of experience, this is exactly what you want. In general terms, the following is true:
- The more the dentist talks, the lower the case acceptance.
- The more the patient talks, the higher the case acceptance.
Kevin Tighe, Cambridge Dental Consultants, Senior Consultant, got bitten hard by the business and marketing bug during long summer days working at his dad's Madison Avenue ad agency. After joining Cambridge as a speaker in the mid-1990s, Kevin went on to become Cambridge’s senior consultant and eventually CEO. Cambridge Dental Consultants is a full-service dental practice management company offering customized dental office manuals. Frustrated? High overhead? Schedule a chat with Kevin at
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There is the good, the bad and the ugly of dental practice management, but many dentists will still tell you the probability is your dental consulting will work if you and your consultant are on the same page. It stands to reason that if a dental consultant had little value, worth or benefit that consultant could not stand up to harsh economic realities for long. A veteran dental consultant is also a "personal coach" who shold bring management wisdom based on "in the trenches" experience along with systems and protocols to that have been successfully implemented in other practices. Top dental consultants talk and network with each other. They pay attention to what systems work and don't across many dental practices.
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What gets monitored, gets managed. It is as simple as that. The only way to monitor what gets done is with daily stats especially for your weak areas. For example, one employee should be specifically responsible for calls to patients who are unscheduled, overdue for re-care or need reactivation. Other staff can and should help in coordination with the accountable employee.
What most practice owners are lack in knowledge is not how to book an appointment, but rather how to be an effective leader. The best systems in the world are useless if the staff do not comply. Good leaders know how to get staff to willingly follow through and comply.
Questions To Ask
Do you and/or your staff have to travel or does the consultant come to you?
Is the program mostly one on one consulting versus seminars or courses with multiple clients in attendance?There are advantages to both.
If the dental consulting is one on one who will actually deliver the consulting? I recommend knowing who your specific dental consultant will be prior to signing on the dotted line.
Is program based on a specific dental practice management system? You want to avoid cookie-cutter programs. Ensure the program will be tailor-made to fit your practice's specific needs.
The cost (including travel expenses and downtime) is certainly not the only factor, everything else being equal, it is still a major factor to consider. It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little.
Top Dental Practice Mangement Consultant
My name is Kevin Tighe. I am Cambridge's CEO and Senior Consultant. Before joining the Cambridge team I was in charge of setting up workshops for large nonprofits throughout the United States and Canada. During that time, I was fortunate to receive mentoring from several world-class business consultants, including a dental practice management guru, which led to a position at Cambridge as their seminar organizer. In time, I began crisscrossing the country delivering seminars myself for the better part of a decade. Subsequently, I moved up to senior consultant and eventually owner. Contributing writer to Dental Economics/DIQ, JADA, AGD Impact and Dental Town Magazine.
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