While high case acceptance is important for any dental practice, it is especially significant for dental groups and DSOs since there are many different employees with varying types of communication styles and interpersonal skills. Some of the best clinicians are sometimes the worst communicators. Their hard skills may be on point, but their soft skills need addressing. And it is not their fault; they have never been taught.
Hard skills are typically quantifiable skills gained through education, while soft skills characterize how a person interacts in relationships with others. It is the ability to read social cues, listen, empathize, problem-solve, and utilize appropriate communication skills to provide a customer with a customized response, thereby producing a positive experience.
Production goals sometimes pose a challenge for team members in a DSO. And yet measuring metrics is a DSO’s most important tool for monitoring performance, and patient care. Elevating communication skills enables the team to enroll their patients in higher levels of treatment, therefore maintaining or increasing production goals.
In DSOs and dental groups, individual communication styles help to attain that personal touch, but having some consistent communication protocols helps improves synergies, increases the team efforts with patient advocacy, and maintains a clear and consistent communication between the patient any team member at any office in the group.
Most DSOs can provide their employees with well-defined, systematized training which would be difficult, if not impossible, in a solo practice, and it is advantageous for DSOs to recognize the value of having communication training protocols. The most accomplished clinicians, regardless of skill, may flounder without the communication skills required to help get patients to say ‘yes’ to treatment. Additionally, as groups grow and employee turnover occurs, training is crucial to a DSO’s consistent brand of service because it ensures the reproducibility of communication from employee to employee, and from practice to practice.
The concept of “values questions” for patients is one key element to increasing case acceptance for DSO consistency and patient compliance.
What most patients really want is to have their values acknowledged and addressed in the best way for them to hear it. They want to know that you hear their thoughts, concerns, and expectations, and that you are prepared to provide exactly what they require. By asking the right open-ended questions, patients will give you all the information needed to customize their treatment plans and maximize treatment acceptance.
Having a structured protocol of case acceptance strategies creates a platform from which all team members can launch, with their own personal spin. Successful case acceptance comes from customizing your treatment presentations to your patients’ values, not to your values. Too often health care providers approach treatment presentation from their own clinical perspective, which often is not aligned with that patient’s values. Patients’ values tell us what’s important to them, what they fear, and what they want. Learn patient values.
How do you discover a patient’s values? Values questions are designed to do just that. It’s important that values questions are open-ended, requiring a thinking response, not merely a yes or no. These two questions will enable your DSO to quickly pinpoint your patient’s dental values:
- “What is most important to you about your teeth?” Most answers will fall into one of two categories: cosmetic or functional.
- “What is most important to you about your dentist (or dental office)?” Most answers will fall into one of three categories: time, pain, and money.
Once you know your patient’s preference, customize your treatment presentation to appeal to that value. You may have the exact same clinical treatment to present, for example, a crown and three fillings, but you can present it in different ways depending on the patient’s values. Here are some examples utilizing soft skills and values questions. All address the exact same clinical need but are presented differently based on the patient’s values:
Values: time and cosmetic
“Mrs. Jones, the crown and fillings you need can all be done in one visit to make the best use of your time since you travel so much. Also, the dental materials we now use are so natural and life like. I think you’ll appreciate getting rid of those old metal fillings, replacing them with tooth-colored fillings and a perfectly natural- looking crown. You’ll love the way your new smile will look!”
Values: function and longevity
“Mr. Smith, the crown and fillings you need are going to strengthen your teeth. I know you said you want to keep your teeth and we want to support you in that goal. Those old metal fillings are breaking down and leaking, subjecting them to further decay. The new fillings will bond with your teeth, making them stronger, and the crown you need will cover the whole tooth to protect it. This is the best treatment to ensure you keep your teeth for your lifetime.”
Values: pain and money
Mrs. Anderson, the crown and fillings you need are not surprising considering the time it’s been since your last dental visit. I remember you said you hate dental work and have avoided it from fear of pain, and you are also concerned about insurance coverage for all your dental work. I know exactly how you feel because most all our patients have similar concerns. I’m not sure what your coverage will be since all plans vary, but I can assure you that Sue, our office manager/treatment coordinator, is an expert at maximizing dental benefits for our patients. Our office is dedicated to finding ways to make your dentistry affordable. Plus, we specialize in fearful patients and you will love our doctor’s gentle touch. Once we complete your immediate work, we will show you how to prevent future pain and problems.”
DSOs are undeniably growing, and while doing so they are establishing a reputation. Patients need your group to have both hard skills and soft skills. Training for case acceptance through soft skills helps to ensure your DSO’s patient centered reputation.
Written for Group Dentistry Now by Janet Hagerman RDH BS. Hagerman is an international speaker, author and consultant with over 20 years of clinical and coaching experience. She now focuses on helping growing dental groups manage and streamline consistent protocols.
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