Romancing the patient!

March 1, 2003
In changing times, people are seeking security. They want to feel known and needed; they want to know that you care about them. These relationships involve caring, time, and respect.

Bill Blatchford, DDS

In changing times, people are seeking security. They want to feel known and needed; they want to know that you care about them. These relationships involve caring, time, and respect. In a way, building a relationship with a patient is like a romance. Relationships are what keep our clients and friends coming back. An important part of that relationship is the element of trust that bonds two people together.

Because each individual is so precious, a high priority should be placed on building solid relationships. Many books have been written about romance and attracting the positive attention of that special someone. To be an interesting person, you must, very simply, be interested in others. Ask questions!

Because 20 percent of Americans move each year, your new-patient goal should be to replace that 20 percent plus a growth factor. When we find a practice that is bringing in only five new patients a month, the question is, "What is this practice doing to keep people away?" Where is the romance in that dental office?

Demonstrating genuine caring, as well as giving your patients quality time and real respect, can start with the initial phone call. This is the beginning of the romance. A warm, personal response before the phone rings for the second time will cause the caller to take notice. The receptionist should stop whatever else she is doing and focus on her new friend. Though she may answer the phone 200 times a day, she must recreate newness with each call. This is a surprising and excellent way to start a new relationship.

Your receptionist's job is to get the potential patient's name early, and then use it often. Upon making a timely appointment (within the next several days), ask clients about their expectations. As in a romance, a definite "no-no" would be to ask, "When was the last time ..." or "Do you have insurance?"

Ask the new friend, "Who may we thank for referring you?" Have printed directions to your office ready to fax or email. In preparation for the appointment, invite the patient to visit the office's Web site. To further enhance this new relationship, ask the caller for a favor. The response to this question is always positive. The question might be, "Between now and next Tuesday, will you think about what you like best about your smile and what you dislike about your smile?"

How should this new patient be treated on arrival? Think about how you would like to be treated on a blind date. How can you make this person feel important? How can you acknowledge him or her for selecting your dental office? When your new friend arrives, be sure and greet him or her at the door by name and with a warm handshake.

On a first date, you would not ask questions which would make your date think you were only interested in his or her financial history or family medical secrets. For the same reason, ask your new patient to provide only enough medical information on this first visit so that you can do a prophy. Remember, the patient has not yet asked you for any other treatment.

You can create a practice culture where strangers become friends and friends become clients by enveloping them in a sincere and immediate friendship. You are the receptacle for their thoughts and feelings.

In demonstrating care and respect, create new agreements for patient protocols that are similar to the rules of romance:

• Never leave your guest alone
• Follow-through by doing what you promise you will do
• Create a renewed respect for the patient's time. Your guest should be seen on time and depart on time
Think of these first appointments as an opportunity to romance your clients. Review the atmosphere and logistics of your office to make a shift from clinical order-takers to an atmosphere of romance. Make your guests feel needed and wanted as individuals, not just as a set of teeth!

Dr. Bill Blatchford's "Custom Coaching" program is now available anytime, anywhere. Utilizing 18 years of practice-management experience with over 1100 offices, Dr. Blatchford's Custom Program has minimal travel, maximum personal time with the coach, interaction with other doctors, and tons of support. Leadership, systems, case-presentation skills, communication, and profitability are emphasized. Dr. Blatchford is speaking at Genr8tnext in Miami, Discus Dental in Las Vegas and Ross Nash's Extravaganza in Williamsburg July 31 to Aug 3. He can be reached at (800) 578-9155 or visit his website at

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