By Daniel Midson-Short
When dentists think about the reasons why patients don't accept treatment, they don’t expect that they may be a major cause to the issue.
Let’s consider a typical new patient exam scenario:
You are seeing a new patient for the first time. There seems to be good rapport and friendly conversation.
Being a professional, you have spent a lot of time explaining the treatment plan you see would be best for the patient. The patient seems to understand the treatment plan and is acting as though they are interested in proceeding with it. They are nodding and agreeing to the treatment details and costs.
However, the moment they leave the exam room, they immediately reverse their position. They ‘change their mind’ at the front desk, and tell the front office person they need time to ‘check finances’ or ‘look at their work schedule.'
Why does this happen?
Even though they acted interested, the reality is that your patient really wasn’t. They have no significant pain. The conditions you've explained that need treatment have been there for years. Your patient would like to simply say, "I'm not interested in treatment," but that's really tough to say. It feels rude to say it, so they pretend to be interested.
You may not realize it, but our patients use what we call Polite Evasion.
Think back to your childhood. Whenever you wanted something, you continually pestered your parents hoping they would agree. But instead of saying no, you likely got a response such as, “we'll talk about it later," or "Ask your Father."
Even as child, you knew that these responses really just meant, "I'd like to say no, but I don't want to argue, so I’ll just divert the conversation."
This is Polite Evasion. And it’s the same thing patients do when you try to get them to accept treatment. When your patients use polite evasion, it usually sounds like:
- “Sounds good..... I just need to check my finances”
- “I just need to check with my wife”
- “I’d like a little time think about it”
- ‘I’ll call and book it in when I get back from my trip”
- “Can it wait for a little while?”
Most dentists will work hard to overcome these objections. The attempts will often fail, though, because the objection isn’t real; it’s just an attempt to escape the discomfort of saying 'no'.
Even worse, if we spend our energy trying to talk them into treatment and handle their predictable objections, then all we are doing is ‘getting better at making things worse.’
Many dentists believe that the big problem for most patients is the cost of treatment.
In reality, however, the most common reason patients resist treatment is that they are just not concerned. They think that their situation is stable. After all, in their minds, it has been like this for a long time and it isn't hurting. So why spend a whole lot of money to alter the comfortable status quo?
There are two important lessons to learn from this:
1) A dentist needs to have the verbal skills to create appropriate concern.
If the patient has genuine concern about their dental conditions, there is no need to pressure the patient to say 'yes.' In fact, all you have to do is stay out of the way. A concerned patient just wants one thing from you: a solution.
2) A concerned patient doesn’t need recommendations; they only need solutions
If you have done nothing to express a recommendation, your patients don't feel like you are disappointed with whatever they choose. If you are not trying to get them to say 'yes' then they can freely express whatever they are feeling.
Once you have a new perspective on the nature of the problems that we create for ourselves, your challenge is to find ways of creating concern without being part of that equation.
So what is the best way to handle patient objections?
Focus your communications on the damaging results of the existing condition. This will create appropriate concern. Do not offer any solutions until the concern is in place.
When the patient owns their problem, they ask for solutions. They don’t avoid treatment, because they are the ones who have decided it is important.
The role of the dentist isn’t to overcome objections. It is in fact to help the patient understand the reality of their condition and support them in making the best choice for themselves.
Interested in learning more about the creating an effective communication strategy?
The upcoming Primespeak courses, sponsored by The Dawson Academy will teach you an advanced system for building real patient trust and growing case acceptance.
You can learn more about this course and view what other Dawson Dentists who have attended said about this course by clicking here.
Photo Credit: Gemma Evans on UnSplash