Simple Ways to Communicate and Educate for Value Added Patient Care
Did you know that you begin educating your patients the moment they read your website? We are all a Google search away. Do you have before and after photos on your website? What types of writing is on your website? Has anyone taken time to proof read it? I recently read a professional website and I imagine that English is not the first language of the person who wrote or edited the website. Have someone who speaks English as their first language edit your website if the website is written in English. Whatever language the website is written in needs to be edited by someone who speaks that language as their first language and is able to professionally edit the site.
What does it say about you and your office when you have grammatical errors? What type of patients do you want to attract? These are just a few suggestions on your website. People do begin learning all about your office with just one click!
Have you called your office lately to learn how the phone is answered and what is being said? Are you put on hold immediately? You never know unless you periodically call the office and listen to what is said when the front office answers. When patients call your office they immediately learn what you are all about just by the tone in the persons voice who answers the phone and even by what is said when the phone is answered. How many times do patients call an office and only an answer machine takes a message? Times have changed and in dentistry they change very quickly. We now have virtual assistant where people can personally answer your phones when your team is away from the phone. If the dental team is in a morning huddle, a team meeting and especially when busy with other patients, it is still important to have someone personally answer the office phone.
Communication has a lot to do with how we observe (Our posture) and listen. When you greet your patient do you begin observing their posture? Can you hear the tone in their voice when you ask “How are you?” How do you respond if you suspect the patient may be fearful or maybe they just had a bad day at the office? How do you know if patients are concerned about money or time? Do you ask this on the patient questionnaire or do you know how to determine this? How will you find out the emotions, opinions, objections, etc. of your patients? These are important factors which when they are not identified will become objections and reasons for failure of case acceptance.
Let’s talk about Mr. Juan Rodriguez. He is a 65 yr old male who moved here from Peru about 20 yrs ago. He now lives in Omaha, Nebraska and as you may suspect English is not his native language. Mr. Rodriguez came to the office because he has pain around his upper left second molar. He is two months overdue for his annual dental exam and also overdue for his hygiene appointment. As dental professionals in the United States we know this tooth is called number 15.
Now let’s educate Mr. Rodriguez about the importance of dental x-rays. Yes, it has been a year since the last x-rays were taken but we also want to educate him about the need for more x-rays on this visit to be certain there is not an abscess under the crown. What is happening at the apex of this tooth causing Mr. Rodriguez pain? Does he has a perio abscess or is this perio and endo related?
Here is how the conversation will go:
“Mr. Rodriguez, as you know Dr. Toothalot recommends x-rays each year. We are going to take the annual x-rays and also take a couple special x-rays of the tooth where you are having pain. Is this okay with you?” Wait for his response.
If time or money is an objection you want to communicate to Mr. Rodriguez something like this: “We have had many patients come to our office with this same situation (or “challenge”) and when we took the necessary x-rays we found there was infection causing the pain. This usually shows up as a very dark black area on the x-ray. This is a tool to help us find the cause of the problem and relieve the pain. We don’t want you to lose this tooth. The sooner we treat the problem causing the pain the less money it will cost you. It may be that if you need a root canal it can take several appointments and we want to find an easy way to relieve the pain in fewer appointments if possible.” (This will cause less anxiety about money and time.) Does this sound okay?”
Usually when patients have objections such as time or money in particular they will feel less anxious if they know what someone else has experienced and what has worked for others. By addressing a solution to money or time the patient understands that you listened to them which also builds trust.
Next week we will address a few more communication obstacles you may experience in your daily practice with patients. Think about what words you will use to help Mr. Rodriguez understand what procedures you will administer and what words you can use to clearly communicate his needs. Dental terminology will not be appropriate but using language Mr. Rodriguez understands will be helpful in communicating and gaining case acceptance. This scenario or possibly something similar you have personally experienced in you dental practice can be used for a team meeting this month or one of your team meetings in the future. Discuss options and alternatives for positive communication and improved case acceptance.
The eBook I am writing is meant to be a tool for the entire team to meet, read, role play and then discuss together. Each of the modules builds on the next. Think of the modules like building blocks for successful communication and case acceptance. There are activities for the entire office to participate in after each module.
This article is just one example to guide your team to optimize your communication skills and discuss how you would handle these situations to improve case acceptance and the total health of your patients. It also encourages you to meet and discuss what is on your website. Take time each month; just one hour a month to discuss these types of challenges and how to overcome the obstacles. It creates a winning team!