In today’s world of dentistry there seems to be a focus on what to present to patients and how to present it to patients. As a Dental Practice Management Consultant I am consistently asked “Debbie, how can I get more patients to…?” Today I will write about treatment planning and how to create your own economy.
Here is a small list to explain why dentists call to speak to me:
Dentists ask me about treatment planning and improving case acceptance.
- Dentists ask how they can get an increase production numbers without working more
- Dentists ask me how to get overdue hygiene patients back on the schedule
- Dentists ask me now to get more patients to say YES to treatment plans
- And so many more questions to keep their dental practice alive in today’s challenging economy!
Recently I posted this quote on Facebook. Not sure where I found it:
“Those who believe they can move mountains DO! Those who believe they can’t cannot. Belief triggers the power to do so. PERIOD.”
It is what I believe and what has come true in my life. PERIOD!
I hear dentists say “This economy…” My response to this is “Create your own economy.”
Let me preface this by telling you a story I recently heard about in the media.
This is a story about Oprah Winfrey. Many of you may not know who Oprah Winfrey is so let me explain briefly. Oprah Winfrey is s an American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist. She is also African American. Last year she made 77 Million! (USD) YES! That much!
What does Oprah Winfrey have to do with treatment planning? Well…she was recently in the media because she attended Tina Turners wedding in Zurich, Switzerland. While she was in Switzerland she walked into a shop where a beautiful handbag caught her eye.
The handbag just happens to cost $40,000. When Oprah asked to see the handbag the clerk in the store told her “I am sorry but that handbag is too expensive for you.”
One more time she tried to ask the lady to see the handbag “No, really I just want to see that one.” The shop keeper told her “I don’t want to hurt your feelings” Oprah kindly and very politely told the shop keeper “You’re right, I can’t afford it.” Then she walked out of the shop.
So how does this relate to treatment planning? You may be asking “Why are you talking about this woman Oprah Winfrey?!”
My reason is because so many offices prior to working with me and/or my team, only talked to their patients about treatment they “thought” their patients could “afford”.
You may have read my story about this before. This is a fact: Many years ago I worked for a dentist (As a dental assistant) who looked out the window of one of the treatment rooms and he would check out what type of car the new patient arrived in. Then he would prepare what type of treatment plan he could present according to what type of car they were driving. Would he discuss a $200 (USD) treatment plan? Or would he present a $20,000 (USD) treatment plan? Well, I can tell you that most patients only heard about the $200 treatment plan.
This Oprah Winfrey story reminded me of this situation. AND today, I still hear dentists say “It is the economy that doesn’t allow me to present comprehensive care to my patients.”
I need to ask you:
- Is it fair for you to pre-determine what type of care you will offer your patients?
- Is it fair to base your treatment plan on what you “think” they can afford or what their response may possibly be?”
- Can you honestly pre-determine what answer your patient will give you before you show them what is happening in their mouth?
- What would your patients think if you didn’t tell them the truth about their disease or oral condition that may affect their health and enhance their appearance?
- Is it fair to your patient to “look the other way” when you see disease, BOP, a missing tooth, etc?
Tell Them the Truth
Have you ever thought of NOT telling a patient about a necessary implant or veneer because you knew their insurance would not pay for it? What if you thought your patient could not afford the treatment you know needs to be completed – would you neglect telling them what they really need?
Maybe you told your patient you could do a 4 or 5 surface restoration instead of a crown thinking, “I know their insurance won’t pay for this so blah, blah, blah..”
Would you present the realy picture for a perfect smile and improved health if you knew it was your mother, your wife, your husband..? Why would you offer your patient something less?
I do hear these stories all the time!
- How do you decide on a treatment plan?
- Do you think that “This economic crisis is so bad I will only diagnose for single tooth dentistry?”
I know some of you will answer “YES” to this question. You believe that due to this economy you must go easy on your patients.
We do have an ethical obligation to tell our patients the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
That shop keeper didn’t believe Oprah Winfrey could afford a $40,000 handbag because of her appearance.
We must provide our patients with options. As healthcare providers we have a legal and ethical obligation. Please…leave the final decision up to tyour patient.
Let them decide what they can or can’t afford.
Most long-term patients establish great trust in their dentist. This is why your patients will say “YES” to your care. This is why you must tell them what really exits in their oral cavity.
Your patients are depending on you to tell them what they really need. They deserve to hear all their options.
When they buy a car I promise you they want to know if the sun roof is included and they will decide for themself if they want to Sirus Audio System included. And many will pay extra for it!
What Can We Learn From Oprah Winfrey?
You see, this was not the first time a shop keeper turned Oprah Winfrey away. The first person many years ago flat out told her they would not sell to her because her skin was black.
In Switzerland, most people have never heard of Oprah Winfrey and the shop keeper, who told her she didn’t want to hurt her feelings but she couldn’t afford that handbag, obviously didn’t know who Oprah was!
And how do you think that shop keeper feels now knowing that the billionaire woman was refused service in her shop? There has been an official apology as well as the Swiss government apologizing.
And how many of your patients have you neglected to tell exactly what type of dentistry they needed?
Did you tell them their options for that missing tooth? Did you allow your patient to decide which is best for their pocketbook?
- Build trust with your new dental patients — at their first appointment
“Customer is king”
- Treat every patient the same (provide a specific level of care for all patients of record.
“Every patient deserves to know what is going on inside their mouth and the various options that can create health and even a more beautiful smile”
- Allow all patients to know the types of dental treatment options you can offer patients
- Allow patients to know and truly understand that you care about their well-being
” People don’t care how much you know but they do want to know how much you care”
- Tell patients what you see in their mouth
“Many patients believe the dentist will FIND something. Change this into a conversation of “co-diagnosis”. This means that your patient participates looking with you. (use a hand mirror or intra-oral camera) Show patients what you see and tell them “This is what we see in this area on your lower right area.” (Identify where you are looking in their mouth – especially when using an intra-oral camera)
- Provide patients with options to create health and a longer life (And many want to look more beautiful as they age)
“Most people do want to live a longer and healthier life!”
People Buy What They Want
- I can tell you that people really do buy what they want.
- If you present a benefit for placing an implant over a removable appliance or doing nothing, at least you have left the choice up to your patient.
- If you position yourself, speak with a certain (Caring, etc.) tone and in a manner that you know are comfortable with your patient, they are more likely to trust you and believe that you have their best interest in mind.
- When people know how much you care and when they trust that you have their best interest in mind, the decision to say “YES” and accept your treatment plan becomes so much easier for everyone.
Recently, I spent some time in Palm Desert, California. It is summer time and the snow birds (The retired people) have returned to their other home. This beautiful desert location was still filled with a lot of people. They temperatures were triple digits. (Temperature in Fahrenheit) There were so many families in the desert vacationing with their families. These families didn’t drive in old beat up cars but nice, big, expensive cars. The families were in the restaurants’ and shops.
I also noticed that the car dealerships were plentiful. I saw dealerships for such automobiles like: Bentley, Jaguar, Mercedes, BMW, Cadillac, etc., etc.
There were dental offices on every corner. And the dental offices I visited were very upscale.
I know for sure that people are spending money. I spoke to a retired lady I know today about this. She constantly tells me she needs to watch her money. But when I asked her if she would stop spending the thousands of dollars each year on her face creams she quickly told me “Absolutely not!”
I know that if you understand how to effectively communicate with your patients and if you know when to be quiet and listen, if you understand how to build trust with your patients – You will have many more patients say “YES” to your care.
I am interested to hear how you create a treatment plan in today’s world. I want to know what type of economy you are creating for yourself.
How do you create your own economy? What are you doing during the dental patient appointment to build trust? How do you explain all the options to your patients? How do you know you don’t have an “Oprah Winfrey” sitting in your dental chair?
I would like to hear about your experience with treatment planning and how you deliver your message today. Do you discuss single tooth dentistry or comprehensive dental care options?
What you believe really is what you create. The words that come out of your mouth do become YOUR reality.
Tell me more about your world – your economy – in the comment section below.
Debbie Seidel-Bittke, RDH, BS is founder of Dental Practice Solutions, and has successfully designed efficient dental hygiene departments that result in high performance dental teams for over 13 years. Her focus is providing optimal patient health while consistently increasing profits for the dental practice.
Debbie is an accomplished author who speaks internationally about her signature systems and services for the dental hygiene department. She utilizes the most recent science and research to prevent disease while increasing the teams’ enthusiasm and guiding the dental team to consistently increase profits.
In 1984 she graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California with a Bachelors Degree in Dental Hygiene. She is a former clinical assistant professor from USC in Los Angeles, CA. In 2000-2002 Debbie co-taught the practice management course for the dental students at USC. Debbie is also a former dental hygiene program director for a school in Portland, Oregon where she wrote the accreditation, hired the teachers, purchased equipment and managed a 2 million dollar budget.
Debbie works with dental practices throughout the world implementing her signature dental hygiene systems and is considered one of the Top Leaders in Consulting for Dentistry Today. She can be reached at: www.dentalpracticesolutions.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 888-816-1511.