"I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!"

Sept. 1, 2010
In the 1990 TV commercial for the LifeCall medical alert pendent, the elderly Mrs. Fletcher falls in her bathroom. She proceeds to activate her alarm ...

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In the 1990 TV commercial for the LifeCall medical alert pendent, the elderly Mrs. Fletcher falls in her bathroom. She proceeds to activate her alarm and tell the dispatcher, "I’ve fallen and I can’t get up." A similar situation occurs when patients who are candidates for comprehensive dentistry encounter gaps in your comprehensive case acceptance system. They fall, and they can’t get up to continue their journeys to better health and appearance.

When I go into dental offices to conduct my two-day Comprehensive Case Acceptance coaching program, the first thing I do is observe the teams in action with real patients. The practices typically do well with the majority of the 63 vital case acceptance stxeps. But there are usually two to five steps they leave out or do poorly. Even though they’re small in number, these gaps are enough to prevent many patients from saying "Yes" to recommended care. After the gaps are identified, I help the teams close them in effective and comfortable ways.

Case acceptance is a series of steps involving numerous dental team members and can take anywhere from three months to 10 years to complete. I see two common gaps:

Gap 1 – Not blending the patient’s story into your case conversation. Each patient walks into your office with a unique past, present, and future dental story. The first part of the story is the past dentistry and the patient’s evaluation of it. The second part of the story is the patient’s present condition and degree of desire to make improvements. The third part is the future the patient wants to create concerning health and appearance. It’s vital to learn this story and use it in your case conversation.

Here’s an example of using the past part of a story. You discover that Mike had tooth No. 19 extracted five years ago because it was restored with a huge amalgam, which caused it to fracture below the gum line. If Mike has other worn amalgams in his mouth that need replacing you can say, "Mike, you have three big metal fillings that are very similar to the tooth on the lower left side that had to be removed five years ago. I recommend we put crowns on those teeth to reduce the chances of their fracturing, too. Does that make sense to you?"

Gap 2 – No plan when patients say "Maybe" to comprehensive dentistry. When you ask people to accept your comprehensive dentistry treatment plans, they’re going to say "Yes," "No," or "Maybe." The "Maybe" responses can take the form of "I want to think about it," "I need to speak with my spouse," or "I need to check our finances." There’s a gap in your system if you don’t have a well-defined plan to help the "Maybe" people continue down the path to case acceptance. Here are three ways to proceed:
  • Have them back for a final consultation. Say, "I understand completely. Let’s have you back for a final consultation with your spouse. We can answer your questions at that time so you can make an informed decision. Okay?"
  • Set a decision date. Say, "I understand. When do you think you will make your decision?" After a date is given, say, "If we haven’t heard from you by (a day after the date they told you), is it okay if we give you a call? I want to make sure we get started with your perio therapy/broken tooth/root canal."
  • Get started with something. If patients continue delaying their decisions, appoint them for the most urgent care first. Don’t let the "Maybe" people just float away. Get started with something. After you do, and they experience your level of care, they will probably want to proceed with comprehensive care.

Don’t let gaps in your case acceptance system prevent patients from receiving the care they desire and deserve. Mrs. Fletcher may have fallen, but your patients deserve to stand tall.

For more information on Dr. Booth’s two-day, in-office coaching program or his 90-minute interactive Comprehensive Case Acceptance webinar, call (702) 444-1362.

Dr. Nate Booth is a speaker, consultant, and author who provides dentists with the information and systems they need to thrive in their dental practices. He is the creator of the in-office, DVD based program, The "Yes" System. For more information, go to www.theyessystem.com, or call (702) 444-1362.

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