Information ... How do you like yours?

July 1, 2012
You know the scenario. The doctor is explaining treatment and the patient is slowly nodding her head ...

By JoAn Majors

You know the scenario. The doctor is explaining treatment and the patient is slowly nodding her head with that glazed look in her eyes. When the doctor leaves the room the patient turns to you and says, “What did he say?”

Dentists love techno-talk! They live in an arena driven by millimeters, nano-shades, and bites measured in pounds per square inch. Many times patients are not engineers or rocket scientists and are lost at the mere mention of how many hours the doctor has studied, let’s say, occlusion. Yet so many times speaking dental talk is a hard habit to break.

When we share in a seminar or private onsite training about the way to create value for your patients, no matter what area of expertise you have, we start with a simple question. The answer to this question is transferred to each and every member of the team. Patients will lead you right to where they want to go if you just use this tool.

When you have a new patient on the phone, this is a great way to ascertain the way he or she wants to go. On that first call when you gather important information about the new patient, ask this simple question: “Ms. Perfect Patient, Doctor has a lot of information he will want to go over with you. In order for us to serve you the way you wish to be served, may I ask you how you like your information?”

One personality type will answer quickly. They are decision makers, and will probably say something such as, “I am really busy and will need to know the cost and time involved, as well as a fee prior to any treatment.”

Another personality type will most likely pause in silence. After about five seconds, say, “For example, some of our patients want the bottom line with costs and information about the treatment, while many want to visit our website, see some examples and brochures, and want to visit with a child or spouse about treatment. Which sounds more like you?”

This particular patient will most likely say, “I want a lot of information and I would like to see the studies,” or “I would like to discuss any treatment with my spouse.”

The first type of patient will not need any help answering the question or choosing treatment. If you can just get out of the patient’s way, it should go great. The second type of patient, on the other hand, will need some time and a more methodical approach. In contrast to a doctor who has to go in a treatment room fishing for data, consider the morning huddle when this question has been asked. Here’s an example:

“Dr. Majors, today you will be seeing Ms. Perfect Patient for the first time. When I spoke with Ms. Perfect Patient, I asked her how she liked her information. She paused and eventually said she would need to understand the treatment well enough to go home and speak to her husband. I want you to make sure you are not rushed, try not to take a hygiene check until she has had most of her questions answered, and remember, she probably won’t be making a decision today. Just take it slow. In treatment room 3, you will see another new patient, Mr. Peri Odontics. He was quick to say that he didn’t want you to go on and on like other dentists he had seen, and wanted you to get to the point and give him the bottom line. He is a busy investment banker, and will need to be out of here in an hour and a half on the dot. He also asked if you run on time. Abby Assistant, we will want to make sure we are ready to seat him when he gets here. Also, you don’t need to spend too much time on the explanation of his treatment. Keep your talking at a pace that is congruent with his.”

Ask any practicing dentist if this would help him or her get through the day and most would say, “Absolutely!” I work with a large group of oral surgeons who constantly feel the pressure to overexplain since they don’t know how much the referring practice has shared. This cuts down on the guesswork and allows them to get to business in the manner the patient wishes.

Until next time, here’s a quote to contemplate from one of my recent tweets: “Listening is the greatest part of talking. Listen with the intent to serve.”

See you on the road.

JoAn Majors is a registered dental assistant, published author, and professional speaker. For more information on her books or seminars, or to have her speak to your group, visit or call (866) 51-CHOICE. The time is now; the choice is yours!

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