Patient communication

Aug. 1, 2001
Patient communication is an essential element in effectively operating a dental practice.

by Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA

Patient communication is an essential element in effectively operating a dental practice. Practices lose well over 15 work days per year due to communication issues. This can equal $30,000-$60,000 or more in lost production. Additionally, tens of thousands of dollars are lost from patients who do not accept treatment. Effective communication could resolve much of this problem.

The E mythThe Internet offers dentists a host of conveniences. But is it truth or myth that the Internet era is completely beneficial? The Web is a gigantic source of information. It's a wonderful resource, but it is also overwhelming. It is now one more "indispensable" means of communication added to a list that includes television, radio, stereo, newspapers, books, journals, magazines, and, last of all, human interaction.

But people cannot possibly sustain such a frenetic pace. We breathlessly race through the day with hardly enough sleep or quality time with our loved ones. I recently spoke to another parent and asked her if her son could attend my son's birthday party. He couldn't, and she explained why: She has three children. Her two other sons are in league sports with games at erratic times and locations. Her husband was going to be out of town, and she also had friends coming to visit. She was understandably stressed.

The stress level the average person faces each day is a sure indicator that we need to change communication in America. Dental practices are no different.

Simple is betterConcise communication is essential to positively influence patients. Although we have more options and opportunities to communicate with patients than ever before, the simpler the communication is the more effective it will be. Patients don't want to take any more time than necessary to communicate. They want the facts as quickly as possible. I would suggest that most dentists and team members provide far too much information to patients.

In most cases, patients will not make a decision based on technical factors. They are far more interested in benefits.

Honesty is also essential. Patients need to know which treatment is in their best interest, as well as which elective procedures can make a difference and why. They also need to know what these services cost and what payment options are available.

Dentists who can answer these quesitons in a straightforward manner will be more successful. Clear communication shortens the timeframe and increases case acceptance. It helps to develop trust and increases the dentist's level of integrity with patients.

Practice efficiencyCommunication can also have a dramatic effect on practice efficiency. Scripts are an effective communication tool that can make a tremendous difference in the number of no-shows and collections. Over a 20-year period, practices with a 5 percent no-show rate will lose up to one year of production. What is one year of your gross production worth? A simple printed form that enhances communication between the clinical area and the front desk can eliminate 99 percent of any miscommunication.

Effective communication is a key factor in practice success. Keep it simple. Keep it honest. Find the communication problem when breakdowns in efficiency occurr, and design simple ways to ensure that these breakdowns do not recur. The rewards in dollars are significant.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA, president and CEO of The Levin Group and the Levin Advanced Learning Institute, provides worldwide leadership in dental management for general dentists and specialists. Contact The Levin Group at (410) 654-1234.

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