By Cathy Jameson, PhD
"You never know until you ask." A decision to move ahead will rarely be made unless there is a call for the decision. Give someone a chance to say yes: Ask!
Asking for the commitment — or asking a patient to proceed with the treatment that you have recommended — is not easy for many dental professionals. There is a prevailing "fear of rejection" that stifles many practices. You may be apprehensive about presenting a complete restorative or cosmetic-treatment plan because of a fear that the patient will think you are too aggressive or too interested in money. You may fear that the patient will be "blown away" if you present the entire treatment plan. Or, you may fear that the patient will say "no" and the pain of the "no" may be stronger for you than the pleasure of being able to provide the treatment. However, if there is never a call for a decision, a decision will rarely be made.
Learning how to ask a patient for a commitment is not easy, but it can be learned. First, take a moment — as an individual and as a team — to think about the flip side of not asking for a decision.
1. Not asking a patient to go ahead with treatment — optimum treatment — reduces that person's opportunity to be healthier or more beautiful or both. The patient loses.
2. Not asking someone to go ahead with treatment — optimum treatment — puts a damper on your practice. You put a lid on your practice.
Diagnosing, presenting, and providing optimum care is healthy for the patient and for you. Both of you win. Compromising your treatment plans or compromising what you are offering to your patients can lessen your enthusiasm for your profession and for the work that you do. This can lead to burnout.
Every time you diagnose a condition, design a treatment plan that offers the very best treatment possible — no matter how minor or serious the condition is. Offer the treatment you would want in your mouth or in the mouth of a family member. Ask for the patient's willingness to have you present this optimum treatment plan. Then, make the financing of the dentistry as comfortable as possible for that person ... and get out of the way. Let each patient have a chance to say "yes" to the very best.
Be careful not to "judge a book by its cover." Don't design your treatment plan around what you think the patient can pay or how much the patient's insurance company will pay for the benefit. Design an optimum treatment plan, provide convenient financing, and "ask" your patients to give themselves permission to take the very best care of themselves.
Awareness is the first step toward change. Focus on what you are presenting and ASK yourself a few relevant questions:
• Am I doing a complete diagnosis on each patient?
• Am I designing an optimum treatment plan for each patient?
• Am I presenting the complete treatment plan?
• Am I quoting complete treatment plan fees?
• Am I offering payment options that make financing of comfortable for the majority of our patients?
• Am I ASKING each patient to go ahead with treatment?
• Am I ASKING each patient to make a decision?
Cathy Jameson, PhD, is president of Jameson Management, Inc., an international dental lecture and consulting firm. She has been a featured speaker for major dental meetings throughout the world and is an adjunct faculty member of the Oklahoma University School of Dentistry and an associate professor at the NYU College of Dentistry. Her books, Great Communication = Great Production and Collect What You Produce are top sellers for PennWell Books. Contact Dr. Jameson at (580) 369-5555, or email cathy@jamesonmanage ment.com.