8 simple rules for increasing treatment acceptance

What does it take to get a “yes” from your patients? There is no quick fix, magic wand, or potion that will give you treatment-acceptance success.

by Debra Engelhardt-Nash

What does it take to get a “yes” from your patients? There is no quick fix, magic wand, or potion that will give you treatment-acceptance success. The difference between success and failure is not a single secret, but a secret formula.

In this article, I’ll discuss eight critical principles that will lead you to success. Some of these principles are fundamental steps that successful salespeople and entrepreneurs have been using for centuries. All are attributes that high achievers have in common.

1 Believe you can. Confidence is the air you have about you that’s bred by preparation. Prepare with education. Acquire the skills to become proficient in your work. Preparation and education will breed self-confidence. The best part about confidence is that it’s contagious. You can give it to your team and your patients.

Having a “yes” attitude gives you a positive determination to achieve your goals. Earl Nightingale said, “You become what you think about all day long.” Is your attitude being sabotaged by negative self-talk? When you are reviewing patient treatment plans, do you say to yourself, “He [or she] will never go for this comprehensive treatment plan,” or “The patient’s maximum insurance benefit will be maxed out and she [or he] will never pay the difference”?

Avoid negative self-talk and misperceptions that lead to sour grapes. (“My fees must be too high,” “The politicians are ruining my practice,” “If only I had the right team.”) The negative senses block your ability to focus on the positive ones — the ones that breed success.

Think you can. Believe you offer your patients the best comprehensive care dentistry can offer, and that your office offers the best treatment options and best products available. High self-belief leads to high success.

2 Intention. According to the Encarta Dictionary, the word “intention” is defined as “aim or objective and quality of purposefulness.” For the office to achieve a higher level of treatment acceptance, a doctor needs to share his or her purpose and direct practice efforts to meet those intentions. Clarity of purpose inspires the team to excel in its professional endeavors.

The doctor’s intention directs everything — team effort, the office environment, and practice-development strategies. With the practice vision clearly determined, teamwork is more effective and system strategies are simplified.

The patient will witness excellent care from all team members when everyone understands and genuinely commits to the intentions of the doctor. A team meeting may be required to revisit the practice intention and align team efforts. (Tip: Clarity of intention will inspire)

3 Team involvement. Patients are looking for validation of their treatment choices. They want the assurance that they have chosen the right office and the right doctor for their dental care. When team members introduce the practice philosophy and treatment opportunities, and praise the doctor’s care, they are fulfilling the patients’ need for treatment validation. In essence, the team becomes the second opinion in the office.

This behavior is not optional, but a requirement of a highly effective team. Team training may be required and should be scheduled. (See Principles 4 and 5)

4 Education. According to American business philosopher Jim Rohn, “The biggest reason people don’t succeed is because they don’t expose themselves to existing information.” Be proactive about learning the art of presenting. Listen to audio tapes and read to stay up-to-date. Attend live seminars. Record yourself doing a treatment presentation and review it to learn how you can improve.

Ask your team members to evaluate what they perceive to be strengths and weaknesses of your current treatment-presentation style. Sharpen your clinical and communication skills so you have the confidence to present your treatment plan and the finesse to do it well. (Review Principle 1)

5 Training. Time must be spent to help team members understand and appreciate treatment philosophy, practice systems, and desired treatment outcomes. Staff meetings and team dialogue provide the opportunity to ask for clarity and tools to help in patient communication. Core beliefs are described and discussed to provide a clear understanding of practice philosophy to achieve sincere endorsement.

Training to learn new techniques and technology will boost team confidence in talking to patients. A well-informed auxiliary can help patients better understand treatment recommendations. The more knowledge your staff members have about materials, treatment processes, and technology, the more information they can share with patients.

Confirming the doctor’s diagnosis and helping define the treatment plan aids in patient understanding and promotes treatment acceptance. A commitment to ongoing staff training keeps the doctor and team members on top of the latest clinical techniques and practice-development strategies. Educate yourself about what’s new in dentistry.

If you’re not learning new techniques and technology, your practice will not be prepared to offer more options to patients.

Provide in-office training programs, share trade journals, and invest in learning resources to keep the practice up-to-date and ready for innovation.

6 Creating opportunities. Influential moments occur during a patient’s visit when you have opportunities to discuss treatment options. Finding these occasions is the responsibility of every team member. From the moment of contact to continuing care visits, the team should build confidence in the practice and discuss treatment recommendations with patients.

The schedule should be structured to allow the dental assistant to be with patients in the operatory rather than leaving them alone waiting for the doctor. Sterilization time, chart completion, and preparing for patient care should not be done during the patient’s treatment time.

Patients want to feel well cared for. They are more interested in how they are treated than if the operatory next door is being stocked.

Sitting with the patient while the doctor is out of the room — or during a planned waiting period while treatment is being performed — aids in the communication process. Using this time to discuss the patient’s treatment and additional services the practice can offer helps build rapport and increase treatment acceptance.

Review the incomplete treatment plans for all hygiene patients with your team, and strategize ways to gain patient acceptance of their total treatment plans. Do this the day before the patient visit to give yourself time to consider all possibilities.

When you call new patients to verify their visits, engage the patients in conversation about their appointments. You might want to ask questions such as, “What can we do for you that will make your time with us exceptional?”

Your office will score major points if the doctor makes these calls. The few moments it takes to make these calls creates a tremendous opportunity to impress patients and commit them to your practice.

7 Environment. Having the right atmosphere in the office can also lead to treatment acceptance. Patients will judge the competence of their care by what they see and hear. For example, do the furnishings make the right statement about the quality of care you provide? Is the practice noise level conducive to relaxation and professionalism? Is treatment being presented in an unhurried, uncluttered, and uninterrupted environment?

Whether you have a consultation room decorated fit for the Ritz Carlton or you conduct your treatment presentations in a high-tech operatory, the right environment must be planned and well executed. The area must be quiet and patient-focused. The doctor or treatment coordinator must see the patient on time and be uninterrupted during the presentation. You can create this environment with a comprehensive treatment plan supported with visual aids.

Office furnishings and ambiance are not the only elements of a well-planned environment. The emotional environment is critical as well. (See Principle No. 1) Patients will pick up the psychological atmosphere of the office. Their emotional comfort will depend on the attitudes of your staff members.

If the staff is enthusiastic and excited about treatment possibilities, those positive vibes will be transmitted to your patients. Team members must convey their zeal for the practice. Praising the doctor and exhibiting enthusiasm for what the treatment plan can offer the patient will say value to the patient.

When the staff is genuinely excited about the office and proud of the doctor’s care, the patient’s interest is captured. Patients like to be surrounded by professionals who exude confidence and show interest in their care.

The right work environment will encourage you and your patients. Supportive team members will make the road to treatment acceptance smooth.

8 Time. Providing the appropriate time to present treatment opportunities will increase treatment acceptance. If patients feel rushed through the consultation, they may be reluctant to say yes. Provide the quality time you and your patients need to choose the treatment plan you both want.

Time is also an important issue with continuing care patients. If the office does not allow time to review patient progress and outstanding treatment, the patient will not have the opportunity to accept care. Determine which patients need to revisit their treatment status — not only those with incomplete dental treatment, but those who may want to improve their dental health and appearance.

The formula

The air of confidence (not arrogance) you have about you is created through preparation and a sense of positive purpose. Make a plan and see it through to increase treatment acceptance. Put forth the effort to get from where you are to where you want to be in your treatment acceptance success.

Train the team in new communication skills to increase effectiveness. Work with a coach or mentor to assess and improve your treatment presentation skills. Surround yourself with team members who are as eager to succeed as you are and who are willing to master new techniques. Invest your time in things that will help you succeed.

During staff meetings, list all the opportunities available to present treatment options to patients. Begin with your Internet Web site and new patient packets, then examine your phone techniques, office environment, and new patient introduction process.

Review your patient examinations, diagnosis/consultations, and treatment-presentation systems. Evaluate your current treatment acceptance rate, and use it as a guidepost for measuring progress.

Establish an environment that is inviting to patients and creates a positive atmosphere that encourages treatment acceptance. The real secret to increasing treatment acceptance is to put your heart into your work.

Be excited about the prospect of serving others and they will seek your help. Follow these eight rules for increasing treatment acceptance, and your practice and patients will benefit from the exceptional dentistry you provide.

Debra Engelhardt-Nash has been involved in dentistry for more than 25 years as a trainer, author, and presenter. She has presented workshops nationally and internationally for study groups and organizations, including the ADA, AACD, and the Chicago Midwinter Meeting. She is co-founder of the Nash Institute for Dental Learning, a postgraduate training facility for doctors and team members. Contact her by phone at (704) 364-5272 or on the Web at debra@nashinstitute.com.

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