Treatment resistance not only costs your practice, but it also costs your patients. Your bottom line and their dental health is at stake, so here are some ideas for what to do when patients say no.
The Importance of Preventing Treatment Resistance Before It Starts
Treatment resistance is much harder to overcome after the patient has already developed negative ideas about the treatment process, the cost of treatment, or the outcome. Instead of fighting an uphill battle, your dental practice can take steps to address the common contributing factors to treatment resistance before your patients have the opportunity to feel discouraged or cynical. Here's what you can do:
Going to the dentist is a frightening experience for many. Even patients who aren't afraid of the dentist per se don't necessarily enjoy going in for checkups, cleanings, and fillings. By the time your patients see your face, they're already feeling extremely vulnerable and anxious about what might happen next.
Treatment-resistant patients are often motivated by fear. Procedures may seem more difficult, stressful or painful than suffering the consequences of not accepting treatment. Concern for the health of your patients can go a long way in helping them begin to build trust and rapport with you.
How to Do It
Show concern for your patients by listening to them, asking them follow-up questions to clarify symptoms, and letting them know that you understand how they're feeling. Mentally put yourself in your patients' shoes and ask yourself what you would want from a dentist at that moment. Verbally affirm your patients, speak compassionately, and let your patients know that you have their best interests in mind.
Listen to Understand
When listening to a patient, it's important that you do so with the purpose of understanding them, instead of listening simply to respond. Your patients will be able to tell the difference. First and foremost, remember that your patients need to feel validated. They need to feel like you "get it."
How to Do It
Take a few minutes at the beginning of the appointment to practice active listening skills. Face the patient while they're speaking and make eye contact. Although it's tempting for busy dentists to multitask, avoid looking at the patient's chart while they're giving you their chief complaint. Instead, give them your full attention for just a minute or two. It won't impact the length of the appointment but it may increase patient satisfaction and treatment acceptance rates.
Patients also decline treatment because they aren't aware of how important it is. Most dentists and hygienists provide their patients with some education about critical dental procedures, however, many patients still don't grasp some concepts related to their treatment.
This can result in patients leaving your office without scheduling their next appointment, not necessarily because they can't afford it, but because they don't think it will make much of a difference. It's your responsibility not only to educate them about their treatment plan but also to make sure they're picking up what you're putting down.
How to Do It
Use easy-to-understand language and visual demonstrations to illustrate a procedure to your patient. Remember that your patients don't see the same side of dentistry you do; from the chair, it's an entirely different experience. They may not be aware of the real and often very significant consequences of declining treatment, because they don't see it every day. Ask your patients if they understand and if not, give them time to ask questions and respond as thoroughly as possible.
Dealing with Resistant Patients? Patience is Key.
Most dentists will have plenty of resistant patients throughout the life of their practice. In the event that your offensive strategies aren't effective, it's important to know what to do when your patients actually decline treatment. Patience is arguably the most critical tool at your disposal when dealing with treatment-resistant patients.
Continue to make your patients feel important and cared for and keep providing them easy-to-understand education about their dental procedures. Let them know what consequences they can expect by declining treatment without being critical or judgmental; you want them to still be comfortable enough with your practice to come back when things inevitably go wrong.
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