What are you sending patients home with – a solution or more problems?

We have previously agreed that new patients come to see you because:

  • they have moved in to the area and are looking for long-term care for themselves and family;
  • they are in pain and want out;
  • something’s broken – it doesn’t hurt but they want it fixing because it’s an inconvenience;
  • they are approaching a “trigger event” (wedding, anniversary, retirement, divorce etc. etc) and, being self-conscious, want to feel better about how they perform and/or look.

We also know most often, the thick end of the profits in the business of dentistry is likely to be in the last of these categories.

So, when a patient in that last category comes to see you for a dental consult (whether or not they have had a TCO assessment beforehand), I want to ask a question this morning:

“do you send them home with a solution or with a problem?”

I’m prompted to ask because, if your conversion rate on patient referrals or direct enquiries is less then 2/3rds, there is evidence that you may be sending them home with a problem – one which they cannot solve and that’s why they aren’t coming back.

The words “I want to think about it” are a clue to this situation – delivering problems not solutions. “I want to think about it” means “I have a problem that hasn’t yet been resolved.”

Let’s look at the problems a patient faces prior to a course of treatment:

  • Permission – I have a problem because I’m going to require the permission of a partner before I can commit;
  • Pain – I have a problem because I’m afraid it’s going to hurt;
  • Function – I have a problem because I’m not sure if this will work;
  • Time – I have a problem because I’m not sure I have the time for this in my busy life;
  • Price – I have a problem because I’m not sure that I can afford this right now.

So – when I’m interrogating new patient journey systems with clients, my objective is to look at every step in the patient experience and ask whether you are delivering problems or solutions.

  • If you don’t make sure that all key decision makers are involved from the outset – you are giving me a problem – I, the patient, now have to explain all of this to somebody else;
  • If you don’t explain to me all the procedures you use to minimise and eliminate any pain or discomfort – I have the problem of fantasising about how much it’s going to hurt;
  • If you don’t share with me the evidence of how many times you have delivered this procedure and your success rate – and if you present a treatment plan that I don’t understand the morning after you told me (possibly because all I have is an indecipherable print out from your practice management software) – I have the problem of wondering whether this will work;
  • If you don’t ask me to check my schedule – I have the problem of wondering how to fit the time in;
  • Perhaps most significantly, if you haven’t adequately explained the affordability and payment options – I have the problem of wondering where the money will come from.

Are you sending patients home with more problems?

Or are you the solution providers – making it easier than I imagined?

Oh – and by the way – if you didn’t identify my “trigger event” and link the benefits of the treatment to my desired outcome – I have the problem of wondering whether you listen or really care?


Published by

Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.