November 13, 2018

By Dr. Mark Murphy, DDS, FAGD

Helping patients have healthier mouths, doing more of the dentistry that is fulfilling and making more money as a result, are admirable goals that most practices have.  I have written a couple times about techniques that help us improve case acceptance; creating curiosity and co-discovery, listening, the learning ladder and more.  This brief construct is an attempt to see the process as a journey for the patient and to take their perspective.

Patient’s Journey; Eighteen Inches at a Time

I sat in church a few months ago and listened to an excellent sermon on faith.  It would apply to any religion, but my mind drifted to the ‘Business Case’ this construct offered for dentistry.  As Father Mike spoke about a faith journey, I envisioned parallels in dentistry with case acceptance.  I kept out a keen eye for a bolt of lightning.

It Starts in the Head

Patients first listen to the facts about dental care, their need and wants, issues or diseases that they have and potential treatment solutions.  Sadly, facts are not enough.  We all acknowledge that developing great listening skills, caring and trust help patients come to see you as their health advisor. This requires an eighteen-inch Journey to the Heart! It is there that caring and trust live. The emotional connection is very important in case acceptance and to ignore it, is to minimize your success. But that too is not enough.

The patient must schedule, keep appointments and pay for the recommended treatment. This Journey to the Wallet is the next eighteen-inch trip the patient must take.  It is the execution of the plan from their perspective.  Valuing dental care and oral health are demonstrated by their checkbook and what they spend time and money on.  Still not done?

The next eighteen-inches take us to a knee.  Appreciation helps fulfill us as caregivers.  Most rewards are best when they are balanced, financial and behavioral, money and warm fuzzies, you get the idea.  Money alone does not buy happiness (but it does help you enjoy your misery in some mighty fine places!). This is when I really kept guard for that bolt of lightning for drifting from the faith focus of the story.  I prayed for forgiveness as I created this metaphor and took out my phone to type some notes.

The final journey takes us eighteen inches to the patient’s feet.  Like a missionary, when patients tell others about your practice and refer their friends, you have come full circle.  This trust display is the ultimate compliment to you and your team.

Keep the Patients Perspective in Mind

Ask yourself the following and seek answers with your team to enhance patient’s health, your fulfillment and rewards.

  • Have you helped nurture the movement to the heart?
  • Did the patients accept and schedule treatment? If not, why not?
  • Were they able to pay with gratitude and appreciation? (borrowed from Dr. Pankey)
  • Did you ask for and receive referrals of their friends and family?

Remember, it is a journey not a destination.  Enjoy the trip and check the map along the way. You, your team and your patients will all be the better for it.

 

“A Journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”

Tim Cahill