One of our favorite parts about traveling to various practices to install and train on the technology that we provide has always been the conversations we have with our doctors regarding other aspects of their practice. Learning what our doctors are excited about, what troubles them, and how they approach patient care gives us amazing insight into the unique culture of each office, and really demonstrates how the same technology benefits everyone in slightly (or sometimes, drastically) different ways. Of course, some themes are more common than others—especially regarding difficulties that the clinician faces on a daily basis.
One of the most common pain points that our doctors express to us involves a scenario where the doctor is forced out of his or her role as a caregiver, and into the role of a salesperson. Upon reviewing the patient’s scan, the doctor enters the operatory to inform the patient that their case will require a procedure, such as a full implant or a crown restoration, to be performed in order to prevent further decay and restore a healthy smile.
In some cases, the patient trusts the clinician and agrees to whatever work he or she is recommending. All too often, however, that is not the patient’s immediate response.
“How much will all of this cost?” “My mouth feels fine right now; is all of this really necessary?” “I’m not sure I can afford a procedure like this, will my insurance cover the cost?” Ultimately, the concern of the patient tends to boil down to a few things: their skepticism of the necessity of the procedure, and their perception of their ability to afford the procedure.
In this sort of conversation, the doctor is at a disadvantage. Although he or she is highly knowledgeable regarding the need for the procedure to be done, and the consequences that will likely result from foregoing the procedure, the patient usually is not. The patient’s instinct is typically to trust how they are feeling at the time, and will find it harder to truly accept the need for treatment if they are not experiencing pain in that moment. The doctor’s credibility is limited in conversations regarding the cost of the procedure as the patient may see the doctor as being in a very different financial situation and less able to understand the patient’s ability to afford the work. Even if the doctor can successfully address the concerns of the patient and convince them to go forward with the procedure, he or she has suffered an opportunity cost from spending valuable time on “selling” rather than actually providing care.
The truth is that there should almost never be a need for the doctor to have this sort of conversation, and that the patient can be sold on the procedure they need before the doctor even enters the operatory. If you are tired of spending your valuable time on selling, rather than treating, we recommend a few simple tweaks to your imaging technology protocols that will help you stay out the “salesperson” role.
The one-minute exam is an extremely useful tool that enables your staff to visually show your patient the status of his or her oral health, and prepare the patient for what procedure will be recommended by the doctor to address any issues. This exam involves a series of 14 images taken with the operatory’s intraoral camera (face, smile, upper arch, lower arch, five images along the maxillary arch, and five images along the mandibular arch) as well as the appropriate X-ray images to accommodate them. Compiling these images and displaying them chairside allows the patient to truly see the status of their oral health, and aides the hygienist in the discussion of why and what treatment is probably required.
At this point, the hygienist is also able to discuss cost implications of treatment, and discuss the financing options offered by your practice. In many cases, the patient is better able to relate to the hygienist when discussing the cost of treatment, especially if the hygienist can build credibility by talking about how others have been able to find a financing option that worked for them and restore their smile back to full health.
Implementing this process creates a situation where the patient knows what needs to be done and how they can afford to do it before their encounter with the doctor. When the doctor enters the room, all that he or she must do is provide their professional confirmation on what procedure is being recommended as well as any additional information to prepare the patient for the next steps of their treatment plan. In this way, the doctor eliminates time spent “selling” and instead spends time doing what they are truly passionate about: providing care.