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An interesting day

An interesting day
Today I had a really interesting meeting. I hadn’t given it too much thought before as I really assumed it would just be a simple chat about some dentistry options for a friend, the kind of conversation us dentists have several times a month outside of work, at the school gate, at a wedding…. you get the picture.

Anyway, my friend is in his 40s, has had a childhood/adolescent experience of dental decay that has resulted in some heavily restored units that are now failing. His dentist has advised he needs implants and this is where it gets interesting.

My friend is well educated, a company director, a highly driven individual but he is confused. He accepts that he needs implants but what type? He has done some research but really can’t understand why a dentist would choose one type over another.

Are dentists enticed to use one type rather than another? Should I accept the type that the dentist is offering? What about long term? What if another tooth fails close by, will that affect his existing implant?” He then showed me the website print outs from various specialist practices and general dentists with an interest in implants. He asked about terms such as, oral surgery, implantologists, specialists. “What is the difference in these types of dentists, indeed are they dentists?”

All this made me realize how confusing it all really is. We spent a considerable time discussing all these points, about an hour in total. He was so pleased as he felt he could start to move forward and go to see another practice and start to ask the right questions. He now understands about informed consent and how it has to be his choice but a good clinician will give him time to ask all these questions and also point him to ask the right questions.

During his orginal discussion about needing implants, he said he felt he was being “sold” to. We had a chat about  selling in dentistry and interestingly he was highly amused that this word is even used in healthcare. Kevin mentioned it last week in his blog and several social media dentist groups are discussing the fact that we really should be calling it “Communication”, selling has no place in healthcare.

There is no doubt my friend will have implants and cost will not be the purchasing issue. It will be trust and knowing that he has chosen the best surgeon and practice for the job, from an informed viewpoint.

This is all any clinician would strive for, a well informed patient will lead to a better outcome for all. So take time to ask the questions, use another member of the team or a well experienced nurse to have a follow up. Often patients will ask more questions to someone who is not the dentist. Time spent in this process will be time well spent to prevent confusion and potential litigation later on.

We talked about the practices he had chosen to look at and interestingly one very prestigious practice was an emphatic no from him. The reason? It was the way his phone call was answered. A brusque manner, no effort to gain rapport and make him feel comfortable. My friend, like many does not “like” going to the dentist but he understands as part of his greater health he should go. An unfriendly voice at the end of the phone just confirms why he should feel afraid, such a shame, these patients want help and empathy.

There are so many missed opportunities here and it all goes back to communication, not just from the dentist but the whole team. There is absolutely no point being a fabulous clinician and not explaining all the pros and cons of treatments, and not in jargon……only dentists understand that! We must spend time to explain in straightforward terms and revisit the consultation process maybe a couple of weeks later to go over more difficult areas.

The same is true of your team. If you are a fantastic communicator then don’t be let down by the person answering your phone. The whole team needs to be on message, enthusiastic and make that patient feel like they are the most important person in the practice. Patients should be escorted through their experience, spoken to in non – jargon language and importantly that first point of contact be it on the phone or in person should be protected and not interrupted by other patients or a ringing phone. Private space at reception or space to receive a patient in private and phone answering away from reception are simple measures than can change how patients perceive your practice.

Wow them, do something different, different from other practices, but do it as a team…

“The way we do things around here”; everyone in your organisation knows how to behave and they are proud of it.

All this starts with you, the leader, your vision, and then you communicate it to your team. An engaged and driven team will deliver and will make it a joy both to work and to be a patient there. No end of telephone training will improve an unengaged and unmotivated team.

I know plenty of you will read this and be confident your team are giving that Wow service, and that is great, keep moving forward, keep striving for excellence!

Even as an experienced dentist, my chat today, though, opened my eyes, to some simple faults that will affect the customer service experience and ultimately a non-acceptance for your treatment plans.

Are you confident that all your team know……. “The way we do things around here” ?

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