It happens to every dentist. After an exam, you talk to the patient about their treatment options. The patient seems to understand. You ask them if they have any questions and the patient politely says that they don’t. Then the patient checks out and never comes back for the needed treatment. When patients fail to follow through on their treatment, you miss out on profits, and the patient ends up with ongoing dental problems that are only going to get worse. If you want to increase your profits and do a better job of helping your patients, you need to improve your patient conversations.
Why Patient Questions Matter
If a patient isn’t asking any questions, it’s not a good sign. A lack of questions often means that patients are scared, confused, or indifferent. When a patient is asking questions, it shows they are engaged with you. An engaged patient is more likely to get the treatment they need. It’s difficult to resolve the concerns your patients have if you aren’t having a dialogue. The last thing you want is to be lecturing patients. Patient questions help build rapport and strengthen the bond of trust that is needed for a patient to overcome their fears or financial concerns to get the treatment they need.
Why “Do You Have Any Questions” is a Conversation Killer
Asking a patient if they have any questions is a conversation killer. First, most of us were conditioned in school that we were rewarded for having answers, not for asking questions. That concept stays with many people throughout their entire lives. When you ask a patient if they have any questions, you are putting them on the spot. Many people shut down instead of asking what they worry might be a stupid question. Many patients already feel uncomfortable being with a dentist; trying to come up with a question is too much for them.
Techniques to Improve Patient Conversations
How do you spark conversation without using the phrase, “Do you have any questions?” The key is to take the pressure off the patient. You can instead ask things like:
- Is there anything I need to do a better job explaining?
- What worries you about this treatment plan?
These questions put the onus on you the dentist to do a better job making things clear. These types of questions don’t make a patient feel self-conscious or like they are on the spot. Instead, they are invitations for further dialogue. Another technique you can use is to tell the patient that “sometimes patients ask me about X.” Then you can answer a common question. This breaks the ice and makes it easier for a patient to ask follow-up questions or to share any other concerns they have. Better patient conversations lead to better patient outcomes. They also help improve the bottom line of your dental practice. It will almost always be more profitable to serve the patients that have already seen you once than it is to go out and find new patients. Having more effective patient conversations will also increase the chances that a patient refers their friends and family to your practice. OmniStar’s Dental Practice Solutions can help make your patient communication more effective. Talk to us today.