Stop sabotaging your practice by prejudging patients. In this post, Platinum Practice Solutions founder Kelly Lynch explains how prejudgment costs your practice a ton of money and, even worse, can be harmful to your patients’ long-term health.
Prejudging Patient John
Consider the following scenario:
It’s a typical day at the office, when an elderly man, who looks to be about 80 years old walks in. He smells of cigarette smoke, and is dressed in a faded blue sweatshirt that is covered in stains and torn at the collar.
As he makes his way to your desk, the man gives you a big, toothless grin and introduces himself as John.
“I don’t like these!” John says as he hands you a full upper denture. “It makes me gag.”
John then asks if your office can give him implants and a denture that doesn’t have anything on the roof of his mouth.
Now take a step back.
Have you already prejudged John?
Prejudging Patient Holly
Here’s another scenario to consider:
A young woman, about 30 years old, walks in. Dressed in a plunging, low-cut blouse covered in sequins, she wears her hair in a high side ponytail with a big, colorful bow wrapped around it.
The woman introduces herself as Holly and says that she wants all of her teeth veneered.
“Money is not an issue,” Holly informs you. “Can your office do this kind of work”?
Again, what thoughts go running through your mind?
The Cost of Judgment
How often do we prejudge our patients’ ability to pay for optimal dental care just by the way they present themselves?
How about when they say, “I just can’t afford it.” Or, “I’m too old.”
Both of the above cases are potentially worth thousands of dollars. But by looking at how the individuals presented themselves to the practice, could one possibly assume that the financial aspect of these treatments would be out of reach?
All too often, dentists, and hygienists will unintentionally prejudge a dental patient. Yet, in doing so, they will not listen to what the patient is really asking for.
When we listen to patients’ concerns and desires, we can truly offer up the best treatment possible.
Ideally, your administration team would offer a big smile and a warm hello. Team members would welcome John and Holly to your practice, and then proceed to set them up with consultation appointments to discuss their wants and concerns.
The team and patients would discuss the services for their visit along with any financial obligations that may be due on the day of the visit.
Patient John Revisited
Let’s see what happens when John returns for his appointment.
John arrives for his appointment, still smelling of cigarette smoke but dressed in a button-down shirt and pressed slacks.
He still has his denture, but it has now found its way into a ziplock bag. He greets you with a big toothless grin.
In the treatment room, the assistant reviews his medical history, medications list, and dental history. She gets the necessary diagnostic radiographs and then calls for the doctor to come in for the comprehensive examination.
During the conversation, the assistant finds out that John is a mechanic and owns several custom automobiles, and that he and his wife have been married for over 20 years.
He can’t eat well because of his lack of teeth. Also, the denture makes him gag. He is very frustrated and hopes his dentist can help him.
The doctor enters the treatment room with a big smile and shakes John’s hand, welcoming him to the practice. The assistant then informs the doctor on her portion of the visit and the interesting life facts she has learned about John.
A relationship is being built at this very moment.
John wants implants and a new denture. He doesn’t like the roof of the mouth part because it makes him gag. Options are discussed with John.
You inform him that his continued smoking may affect the healing time and integrity of the implants.
John decides to go with implants and an upper 14-unit bridge.
Total cost: $37,000.
“No problem” he says, “I’ll sell a car”!
Best of all, John quits smoking!
Patient Holly Revisited
Holly has been to your practice only once, and it was for an emergency visit.
Now Holly wants toilet bowl white veneers on all of her teeth, and she wants to start with the top ones.
She begins her long-term relationship with your practice with a comprehensive exam, diagnostic radiographs, and an initial cleaning with the hygienist. The examination shows the need for a few fillings and that veneers would be an option for her.
The doctor reviews the color and shape options and recommends a more natural shade for the patient.
“NOPE!” Holly exclaims. She wants them to be, “as white as they make ‘em!”
The treatment plan consists of four lower composite fillings and veneers for teeth 4 through 13.
Total cost: $18,000.
She wants to know if you take cash? Holly leaves your office only to return with her appointment prepayment of $18000 in cash!
What’s going through your mind right now?
Where does someone come up with that kind of money so quickly?
Is it even real?
The appointment is confirmed and the cash is deposited. Bank says its real and you break into your happy dance!
Perception Isn’t Always Reality
Wouldn’t it be great if all of your patients were like these two?
Well maybe there are more than you think!
Are you missing opportunities because you prejudge individuals based on presentation?
How about when they say they need to spend $1,000 on their cat to get its teeth cleaned?
Or that they’re are going on a European vacation for two weeks?
Or that they miss eating a certain food but are too old for dental work that will enable them to enjoy their meals?
Seems like they can afford things that mean a lot to them and that they think at a certain age you just stop taking care of yourself!
As providers of care, you have an obligation to discuss optimal treatment with every single patient, every single time!
Don’t disservice patients by only planning treatments that you think they will agree to. Or, even more, what you think they can afford.
Inform and Educate Patients
Will every patient accept every treatment you suggest?
Hopefully it’s more than not.
Remember, patients don’t know what you can do unless you tell them! It’s in your benefit to be communicative!
On the flip side, avoid over-promising treatment that you are uncomfortable performing simply because a patient states that “money is no object.” Over-promising and under-delivering will certainly cause patients to question your integrity and ability.
Trustworthiness is number one in the patient-provider relationship.
If you need help, reach out to specialists that can help complete your patient’s desired outcome. The patient will think you are a hero when treatment has been completed and they have the results they were hoping for.
Bring some fun back to your day!
Adding more treatment that not only excites your patients but excites you and your team!
Again, patients don’t know what you can do for them if you don’t ask. Discuss options with them!
Start right now! Stop prejudging, get excited, and offer treatment options that are best!
What’s the worst that could happen?!
Kelly Lynch is a Lifetime Member, Ambassador, and Fellow of AADOM, The American Association of Dental Office Management. She has been nominated for the prestigious Practice Administrator of the year by her Doctor and Hygienists. Kelly was awarded the honor of “Practice Administrator of Distinction” in 2016.