How to help patients want what they need

How many times have you worked up a big treatment plan only to hear the patient say, "I'll think about it," and then you never see them again?

Aug 18th, 2014

By Michael Kesner, DDS

How many times have you worked up a big treatment plan only to hear the patient say, "I'll think about it," and then you never see them again? Do you get tired of hearing patients say they do not have the money? Would you like to change this?

Patients will usually pay for what they want, but not necessarily for what they need. So, how do you help your patients want what they need?

The average case acceptance of dentists is only 23%. This means that 67% are walking out of your office doing nothing. How would you like to have a case acceptance rate of 80%? Here is how you can.

You must first understand the psychology behind why patients either do or do not accept the treatment you recommend. There are two main factors patients use to make decisions on dental treatment. If this decision process were a math equation, it would look like this:

Facts + Emotion = Decision

It may surprise you to know that only 15% of the decision is based upon the facts while 85% of the patient's decision is based upon emotion. Therefore, all the facts about their dental problem, such as the dental name of the condition, how you are going to do the procedure, what materials you are going to use, make up only 15% of their decision. A whopping 85% is based upon how they feel about you, your office, the dental problem they have, what will happen if they do not have the treatment done, or why they need the treatment.

Since facts make up only 15% of their decision, then why would you spend most of your time trying to teach them dentistry? Most dentists try to teach their patients enough dentistry in the hopes they will make an intellectual decision about the treatment they need. This is what we were taught to do in dental school and in CE courses. How many times have you heard that you need to educate the patient? Why focus most of your efforts on education when only 15% of the decision is based upon the facts?

It may also surprise you to know that your patients remember only 6% of the facts you teach them. So, they are forgetting 94% of what you say, which again makes up only 15% of their decision. No wonder patients say, "I'll think about it, Doc."

Guess what? While they only remember 6% of what you say, they remember 100% of how they feel. Again, this makes up 85% of the decision. Doesn't it make more sense to focus most of your communication about their dental treatment on connecting emotionally with the patient?

For instance, do your patients feel confused because they do not understand the dental terms you are using? Do they feel frustrated because they are bored with the dental concepts you are trying to teach? Do your patients feel afraid because of the details you are describing about the procedure? How do your patients feel about you and/or your staff or your office?

More importantly, how do patients feel about what is going to happen if they do not do the dental treatment you recommend? You would be surprised to know that most dentists never tell their patients how not doing the treatment will negatively impact their lives. Most dentists focus so much on education about the problem and the solution to the problem that they forget to ever say anything about the consequences of no treatment. Remember, you know what the negative consequences are, but they do not.

It makes an emotional connection when you tell patients how not doing the treatment will negatively impact their lives. They will remember 100% of how they feel about the consequence of doing nothing. This emotion makes up 85% of their decision equation. If you also factor in the other team aspects of case acceptance, such as talking over the patient, hand-offs, intraoral photographs, or presenting treatment in stages, then you will see your case acceptance go up dramatically.

Doing this can double your production on the same number of new patients. How much would this impact your bottom line? How much would it be worth to learn how to do this?

Dr. Mike Kesner's practice ranks on the Inc. 5000 list as one of the fastest growing companies in America. He is author of the book "Multi-Million Dollar Dental Practice" and CEO of Quantum Leap Success in Dentistry. They teach more production, higher profits, and less stress. Contact him at DrKesner@QLSuccess.com.

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