Now we’ll continue on with my next rule for presenting big cases:
RULE 5: TREATMENT OPTIONS: How to present them so your patient understands (and picks what’s best).
How to present treatment options to a patient could be a long article in itself (I’ll probably write one early next year, for that matter). There’s so much to say that I spend an entire morning of MGE Communication and Sales Seminar C on this very subject.
With that in mind though, I wanted to touch on a couple of important points that specifically relate to presenting larger treatment plans.
Many dental problems have more than one treatment option. In rule #4 we discussed treatment planning ideal treatment – and that’s how I would roll. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to discuss the other options. You do have to.
Assuming you’ve explained your treatment plan and the various options as applicable, along with the risks, pros and cons associated with each, it’s your job to do all you can to help the patient make the decision that is best for them.
For that matter, how do we normally decide what treatment is “ideal”? In most (if not all) cases, the “ideal” treatment plan is the plan that is best for the patient and has the least amount of risk associated with it! It may or may not be the most expensive option. Forget about the money. Present what’s best for the patient.
There is something to keep in mind when discussing the various options. For example, when replacing a missing tooth (or teeth), you’ll often have the bridge or implant versus partial denture discussion. Of course in the vast majority of cases the implant or bridge (depending on the clinical circumstances of course) would be better than a partial. And you may feel frustrated when a patient sticks on wanting the partial – if they only knew! Well, when discussing options, what you’re up against here is simple: differences in viewpoints and understanding.
You’re approaching a patient’s treatment plan with the benefit of four years of dental school, tons of CE and years in practice. To your patient, the aspect of treatment that is most “real” to them (and of which they have the best understanding) is COST.
So yes, they don’t completely understand why an implant is better than a partial denture. But they sure do understand the difference in cost!
And here’s where you come in. Without getting technical, take the focus off the cost and instead place it on WHY you want them to go with the option you’re recommending. Explain the reasoning behind it along with the pros, cons and risks associated with each option. Get them to FULLY understand the benefits associated with it. Take it out of the monetary realm. This isn’t a car or a kitchen appliance – this is something they are putting in their body and that impacts their overall health!
Assuming you’ve done this and by applying what we’ve covered earlier, you’ll achieve the correct level of understanding on the subject. And you’ll find that most will move ahead with the best option – not just the least costly; which brings us to the next rule…
RULE 6: UNDERSTANDING: The KEY to case acceptance.
In line with what I mentioned earlier, if a patient understood dentistry the same way we do, getting them to move ahead with needed treatment would be an “easy sale.”
Well, they don’t understand it as well as we do and never will; which is why you should never use big dental terms.
One thing I’ve found is that most people WON’T ask for clarification or ask a question about something you’ve said if they didn’t understand it. They assume, as you are saying it to them, that this is something they should already know and don’t want to ask a question and appear stupid! The end result is they don’t know what you are talking about!
So, “carious lesion” should become “cavity.” “Periodontal disease” becomes “gum disease.” A “periapical radiolucency” becomes “a pus pocket in your bone.” Impressing them with fancy terminology does NOTHING to advance our basic purpose here – to deliver needed treatment to this patient. In fact, it can actually make this purpose harder to achieve.
Actually understanding why it’s important for their health does make them want to do it. And using words they understand is critical to them understanding why they need the treatment plan. Don’t try to explain the dental procedures themselves. Just describe the problems and then the solutions. Use diagrams, photos, videos or iPad apps to help you.
RULE 7: PATIENCE: …with your patient.
My experience is that I generally had to explain what a patient needed at least three times (sometimes in three different ways) to them before it actually registered. This means that you can’t take thirty minutes to go over it once. Be concise yet brief. Just plan on needing to go over it at least three times. The bigger the case, the longer it will take to get them to understand they need it done.
Sometimes it feels silly to do this, but if the patient doesn’t seem convinced, or is resisting the treatment, answer any questions and then start from the top and go over it again. Point out why they need it, maybe some aspects you didn’t cover the first time. Usually, at some point throughout the explanation you’ll find out they didn’t really get some aspect of it or had a previously unspoken objection to it.