Is Yours a Culture of Acceptance?
From the front door of your practice, to the operatory, to the team that you surround yourself with, whether you realize it or not, you have created a culture. Perhaps you feel your culture is warm and inviting because you’ve decorated the waiting area in appealing colors. Or maybe you’ve equipped your treatment rooms with state-of-the-art technology that you believe conveys a culture of modern dentistry. And possibly you’ve hired some of the nicest staff you could find, creating a culture of warmth and compassion. Most importantly, you know that the quality of your dentistry is truly superior, creating a culture of excellence. So why is the culture of acceptance – treatment acceptance, that is – lacking and well below the 85% benchmark?
Many dentists have nice offices and are truly excellent clinicians. Many more use modern equipment from digital X-rays, to intraoral cameras, to laser handpieces, to computerized records etc. Still more have nice people working for them, but the fact is that patients expect those things. It takes far more than good dentistry and a gentle hygienist for patients to invest in your care.
Creating a culture of treatment acceptance starts with creating a culture of desire, which begins with education. If patients don’t know what you offer, how can they want it? Take Dr. Gregg, for example. He is a truly excellent dentist with countless hours of continuing education and multiple certifications. Yet day after day, patients come through his hygiene department for their six-month visit with Ann, his wonderful and ever gentle hygienist, only to be locked into the same 30-year-old routine.
Ann talks about her kids, and the patients’ kids, and vacations, and the weather and the latest movies, but only once does she ask the patients about their teeth. Never does she mention the unscheduled treatment that the patient hasn’t pursued, or the advantages of moving ahead with that crown the doctor has recommended rather than risking what will likely be a disaster when that cracked tooth becomes further compromised. Ann’s discussion about the dentistry starts and ends with one question. “So are you having any problems?” she asks. Most of the time, the patient says “No.”
Ann has excellent rapport with patients. She is in a perfect position to educate them. They trust her. They respect her, and while they may enjoy her soccer mom war stories, they’d appreciate learning a bit more about practice services as well.
Before the end of the visit, Dr. Gregg pops in, takes a perfunctory glance inside the oral cavity, gives the patient a hearty, “Good job,” and promptly scoots back to his chair. Simply educating patients about advancements in periodontal care, implant dentistry, veneers, orthodontics, and even basic whitening options can have a tremendous positive impact on encouraging patients to pursue treatment. Reinforcing the doctor’s previous treatment recommendations can be the deciding factor for many patients who are on the fence. While patients may not schedule all recommended treatment immediately, the hygienists’ role in moving the patient toward “yes” at some point is critical.
Other members of the staff also can play a key role in this total practice effort. At your next staff meeting, consider what you and your team can do today to create a culture of treatment acceptance, starting with patient education. For example, pull together those before and after photos you’ve been storing on your computer and put them in an album in the waiting room. Make it a point to open the album every morning, and place it on a table next to brochures about the services your practice offers.
Encourage patients to ask questions. Hang an 11 x 17 frame in every treatment room. Type a bulleted list of a few of your services in a large enough font that patients can see it when they are sitting in the chair. For example: “What would you like to know more about? Veneers, Implant Dentistry, Whitening Options, Orthodontics, Invisalign... Just Ask Me!”
Educate the team – business and clinical – on specific treatments, such as implants, so that they understand the value of care, are prepared to convey a positive attitude about the benefits of that treatment, and can explain to patients that the doctor has extensive training in delivering this type of treatment. Prepare a list of frequently asked questions and answers. Give the information to each staff member so that everyone can answer basic treatment questions.
Create desire for and understanding of your dentistry and watch your practice become a culture of treatment acceptance.
Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, a nationwide dental management, practice development and educational consulting firm. Working on-site with dentists since 1980, McKenzie Management provides knowledge, guidance and personalized solutions that have propelled thousands of general and specialty practices to realize their potential.
Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at email@example.com or call 1.877.777.6151.
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