Rob Veis, DDS
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Why is it that all too many dentists end up becoming “mouth mechanics” as opposed to wellness providers? As discussed in Part 1 (March), at least part of the problem is that insurance companies dictate the nature of dental practice (by dictating how patients view dental procedures).
Of course, we all want to make a living. And yes, charge for it. That’s the short-term goal. But shouldn’t your long-term goals necessarily be matters of patient care, wellness, and improved health? The question, all too often, is not what is right, but how to achieve it.
Talk to your patients. Impress upon them that your role is to recommend and implement that which is necessary for keeping them healthy. Explain what their insurance will provide and make it clear that the rest is up to them. Decide what your personal professional policy will bear. Your job as their dentist is to get them to always choose health. Put it out there.
Remember what you were taught. Address emergencies. Treat disease. Evaluate. Then make a long-term treatment plan — one that may take years to accomplish, yet constitutes a journey toward optimum oral health.
Typical new patient scenario: Introductions. Quick look for emergencies. Patient record and X-rays. Exam. A prophylaxis appointment is scheduled, a treatment plan is devised (usually at the same appointment), and the patient is sent on their way.
At no point has our “mouth mechanic” asked the patient what he or she wants, thinks, or knows to be true; has not slowed down long enough to look at the bite or the joint; has not taken the patient’s blood pressure; has not, in fact, taken any steps to address or establish overall health in any detail.
Typical existing patient scenario: Doctor calls the hygienist, who informs him/her that the patient has a cavity, new X-rays have been taken, etc. The patient is inserted into the schedule. Doctor does a quick follow-up exam based upon the hygienist’s assessment, never looking for any other problems, never asking if they are playing sports or having any medical issues or whether their circumstances have changed at all.
Slow down. Take a breath. Make a paradigm shift and make a plan.
New patients: The first appointment should begin with an introduction and data collection. Ask about (and listen to) your patient’s wants, needs, and concerns. Complete a medical history. Assess oral condition, TMJ, and BP. Take X-rays. Conduct a thorough physical exam, including photos and study models (if necessary to evaluate the entire picture). Then sit with the patient and say, “I am going to go back and make a long-term treatment plan based on both what you’ve told me here today and what our newly accumulated data show me. At your next appointment, we’ll review my plan and talk about treatment priorities and payment options.”
At the second appointment, inform the patient of what they need. Discuss how they’re going to afford it. Appropriate staff members can be brought in to contribute to or lead a discussion on how payment can be accomplished.
Existing patients: Reprobe the mouth. Do a complete exam. Redo X-rays. Charge for your diagnostic expertise and training in determining what is best for the patient.
The “care” scenario
Again, this is not a demand for a new world order. It involves going from one appointment initially to a minimum of two — screening and evaluating — with time at the end of the day spent in making a treatment plan and initiating records.
Re-embrace the core of your education and training. Spend more time on the front lines with your patients. They will reward your efforts by singing your praises.
This is the absolute best marketing strategy. No one out there has improved on it, and it doesn’t cost you a penny. It’s the best way there is to grow your practice, to distinguish yourself, to differentiate yourself from the legions of mere “mouth mechanics” out there.
Ask, “Am I providing you with the best care?” Your patients will answer in the affirmative. Then say, “Bring me patients.” And they will, because you care.
Dr. Rob Veis is CEO of the Appliance Therapy Group® (ATG). Reach him through www.appliancetherapy.com or by calling (800) 423-3270.