Every Patient has the right to know about their disease process, its development, causes, and treatment which they will Google eventually. Therefore, it’s better to be proactive. There should be a certain amount of time spent to help patients understand their problems which also aids us in understanding their mentality. This procedure is carried out in a very coordinated way during the patient’s first appointment, which is the CONSULT.
We start with the interview which is a verbal communication designed to bridge the gap and get acquainted with the patient. We welcome them to Ideal Smile and share with them our purpose and mission regarding oral systemic awareness, focusing on prevention and concept of complete health dentistry. The obvious purpose of the interview is to inquire about the presenting complaints of the patient but this also helps us to get to know our patients better on a personal level. Uncover and address any important concerns like dental phobia, allergies, previous bad experiences at the dentist, etcetera. This process should take at least ten minutes. With thorough communication patients are open to listening to what you have to say.
Afterwards we take an OPG and intra oral photographs. However, if you do not have an immediate OPG facility available then you can just take intra oral periapical X-rays. X-rays are important! They can guide you on gum disease, bone loss, interdental caries, cysts, and integrity of crown margins and root canals. It can be safely said that imaging exposes concealed, but required treatment.
We take full mouth photographs with the help of a DSLR camera. An intra-oral camera can also be used. These two things can prove to be the biggest selling tools! They are an eye opener for patients! Imaging sells cases and closes deals. We show all our patients their intra oral pictures. From my own personal experience, I can confidently state that almost 98% of the people are shocked to see their oral status. Some even joke that these are not their pictures. The thing is, people cannot see and do not pay attention to what goes on in their mouth. And when they see their pictures there is no denying the presence of swollen gums, carious teeth, heavy calculus or whatever other problems are visible. X-rays are used to second your proposed diagnosis. With the help of these tools patients take your word more sternly. We have all heard a picture is worth a thousand words and you will realize it when you will start closing more cases based on them.
After complete intra oral examination we spend the rest of time doing a consult based on pictures. The importance of patient education cannot be emphasized enough. We tell them how certain pathologies develop, how they can be prevented. Practice that gives best possible answers to patients are the most successful. Educational videos are also shown as to help understand things better.
The most monumental part of this educational conversation is focusing on consequences. We must at all-time focus on consequences. It has the most impact. Saying “You have a cavity that needs to be filled” is never going to be as effective as “You have a cavity that needs to be filled. If delayed, it might spread and compromise the tooth structure that can lead to more extensive treatment like root canal, crown or you might end up losing your tooth.” This way these issues will be taken more earnestly. We even show them an abridged version of “Say Ahh”, a documentary on oral systemic diseases and share with them the details of the oral systemic link.
After that we pause. This gives patient time to make sense of everything we said. Patients need time to register these details. Once they have understood the patient themselves are the ones who usually initiate the conversation with whatever queries they have and ask what needs to be done as they take ownership of the issues.
In my clinic this procedure is usually done by one of my associates. The idea of this process is to be successful by design and intention and not just by accident. Once they are done I step in and my associate trust transfers the patient to me. Then, I take them to the consult room and go over everything again and I inquire if they have any unanswered queries. When I give them treatment options I always give more than one and let the patient choose. This gives the patient a sense of autonomy that they are in control of whatever treatment is going to be done.
I have a separate room isolated for the consult process. It is an office with a computer system, a table and chairs. The idea is to discuss treatment with patients in an environment that is more comfortable, away from the sight of dental equipment. If you do not have a consult room you can use your personal office for this purpose. Once I am done I trust transfer the patient to my treatment coordinator who goes over the treatment plan and finances with the patient.
Our treatment coordinator handles the finances. She has a Master’s Degree, is well spoken, well dressed and most importantly well-paid. Her job is made easier by very straight forward financial policies. We are a “zero balance” office. That is all or any treatment that is scheduled needs to be paid upfront! Everything paid in full and in advance. There is no delayed payment. This prevents stress from patients who get their treatment done but never pay full amount of money. It is also true that once the work is done a lot of patients resist complete payment. They make excuses claiming they feel their work was not done properly so they will not pay full amount. Paying upfront will rid you of all these unwanted headaches.
Secondly, the discounts we give are very straightforward. If a patient accepts the treatment and pays on the spot for the entire treatment plan presented, he gets a 10% discount. Any later, they have to pay full amount. No other discounts! This policy is the same for every single patient who walks in through our door! There are no exceptions for anyone. This saves from the constant nagging of patients asking for discounts. Moreover, you would rather not have patients who are unwilling to pay as they will have the same pestering attitude later.
This strategy prevents cancelled appointments. Cancelled appointments lead to loss of productivity. You need to be very stern about these policies. You will have patients who value you and your setup. They will be related to be your patient as they will see the value in the amount of money they are spending.
5 TIMES TRUST TRANSFER
It is any easy way to increase compliance and treatment acceptance rate. It gives patients an impression to take their oral health more seriously. The treatment plan is recommended five times from different individuals. Here’s how the five-time trust transfer works:
1st – The associate dentist speaks it to the patient.
2nd – The associate dentist speaks it to the doctor in front of the patient.
3rd – The doctor speaks it to the patient.
4th – The doctor/associate speaks it to the treatment coordinator in front of the patient.
5th – The treatment coordinator speaks it to the patient.
This gives the patient a sense of satisfaction that not only the doctor but everyone on the team is onboard with his treatment. This will make him comfortable. This will also hush any voices that may be surfacing in their head trying to convince him not to schedule for treatment. When the same thing is repeated five times in front of the patient it leaves an impression on the patient and convinces him for treatment.
“There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed.”