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?