By Daniel Midson-Short
As a dentist, when diagnosing problems, there is always the chance of patients reacting negatively.
Often, it is about the price of the treatment. Other times, it is because they didn’t realize what is actually happening in their mouth.
There are also larger risks: patients posting negative reviews online or seeking litigation against you for being misinformed.
1. Mention the treatment cost up front
A big reason that patients can sometimes be shocked about the cost of dentistry, is that they have no real frame of reference. They often think that everything will be covered by insurance plans, or that the short-term treatment costs the same amount as the optimum.
You can reduce this confusion by mentioning the potential cost up front. Using a Primespeak technique called a Fee Range, you can mention “that some patients sometimes spend a few thousand up to 50 thousand dollars or more, depending on what they choose to do”.
While these numbers may sound large, be very clear you are not saying it is the patient themselves spending it, rather that other patients have. This plants the idea that you will be explaining more expensive options later during the consultation.
Using a Fee Range helps to reduce the ‘sticker shock.' By hearing a larger price earlier, it means they are more accustomed to it when you mention it later. No matter what course of treatment they decide on, you are then able to explain the options up front.
2. Explain the reality of dental conditions
To reduce the chance of patients reacting negatively to bad news about their dental conditions, you can also explain to them the reality of teeth and gums, and how things naturally degenerate over time. You can use the analogy of a road that slowly gets cracks and potholes, and this makes them understand that it could be happening to them as well.
By using 3rd party descriptions or visual metaphors, the more the person will start to understand the reality. They will see it as something that could also be happening to them. The reality is that the mouth is constantly degenerating, and letting patients know this, helps them own the issue better.
3. Build trust to reduce bad patient reviews
Often when patients feel a lack of trust, or feel like they are being sold to, they will react by posting negative reviews on websites. These can have a hugely negative impact on your practice image and brand, so it is important to do all you can to reduce them.
Make sure to build as much trust as possible with the patient during the initial meeting. Gather some personal information about them over the phone, and ask questions about them both personally and about past dental experiences. This lets the patient talk and become more comfortable with you.
You can also explain that your role is to give them options based on what conditions you discover and to explain the pros and cons, so they can make an informed decision. Doing this helps them feel more in control.
A person who feels listened to, who likes you, and feels like you are giving them a choice is much less likely to post negative reviews online or speak badly about your practice.
4. Write it down and get the patient to sign
Perhaps the biggest risk facing dentists once a patient leaves is that they could attempt to sue you for misinforming them. While there are many legalities to this situation, one simple way to reduce this risk is to document the discussion.
Write down all options, and have the patients sign that they understand them. If they agree to a specific treatment option, it can also be worth getting a signed and scanned copy of the detailed plan.
Finally, you may also like to take photos for records and give a copy to the patient, so they can clearly see what is happening.
If, after clearly explaining the condition, the patient still refuses treatment, you can ask them to sign an informed refusal form simply stating they understand everything, but have chosen not to go ahead with treatment in your practice.
These 4 Primespeak techniques move the patient into a more trusting, comfortable, informed state. By using them with courtesy and calmness, you are much more likely to win the patients over and keep them for life.
Interested in learning more tips and skills for patient communication? Consider the upcoming Primespeak course, sponsored by The Dawson Academy.
Image Credit: Ky Olsen