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Do you still use a comfort blanket?

Do you still use a comfort blanket?
The idea of a “dental comfort blanket” is something that I stumbled across a while ago and whilst in the practice where it was discovered, it was subsequently metaphorically burned, I know that it still exists elsewhere. What is it?  A full folder of patient details and open treatment plans where for some reason the patient has been left to “have a think about” whatever has been offered to them during their most recent dental appointment or consultation.

As common as this is the false assumption that the quality of the “follow up” is the key to getting patient commitment. At the same time, I often overhear a conversation that goes something like this; “I wonder what happened to Mrs Smith, she was very keen, did she ever book in again…why have I got so much white space in my book?” but agh the comfort blanket, at least you didn’t have to talk about money with Mrs Smith, right?

Can you see the problem? If all of the onus is placed upon a phone call from a member of your team who was not that involved with meeting your patient, then the chances are that you are doing yourself a disservice. The optimum time to get your patient to commit is at their point of contact with you, not later with a  follow up phone call. And in case you are thinking that a letter is the solution it probably isn’t, unless you can somehow recreate in a few pages of A4 the optimum moment that you had with your patient 2 weeks ago.

But dentists don’t like talking about money with patients do they? I understand this. We often have limiting beliefs around discussing money and the fear of rejection is a strong human emotion in all of us, hence the comfort blanket. Lets face it, your patient may of course say no or not yet and indeed might genuinely need to “have a think about it” but the reality is that the best person to talk about how you can help your patient is surely you?

At the point of discussing their treatment options, remember that you are the expert, you should normally be the one with the best relationship, the most confidence and knowledge to discuss what you can do for them, know exactly what their motivations are and have an idea of their decision making process. Whereas if you put all of the onus on the “follow up” then the chances are that this will be done by somebody for whom your patient is at best somebody they have met briefly or at worse just a name, phone number, treatment plan and a price.

When the stakes are so high, why stop short by telling them that you will put it all in writing and fingers crossed hope that they don’t get scared off at the price? …Go on, burn that comfort blanket!

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