By Mary Osborne
In dentistry we know the answer to why patients SHOULD do what we recommend. We frequently ask ourselves why they WON’T do the treatment we suggest. But the question I think we should be paying more attention to is, “Why WOULD they do it?” I wrote recently about moving our conversations with patients away from insurance benefits, and into conversations about the benefits of health. I offered a formula which outlines the elements necessary for health; the health of your patients and the health of your practice.
CSJ + PO + FF + MOP = Health
Care, Skill and Judgment + Preferred Outcomes + a Fair Fee + the Method of Payment = Health
As I said in an earlier piece, the first part of the equation is the only part completely within our control. Our care, skill, and judgment represent what we bring to the equation. The next part, the Preferred Outcome, has to do with the values our patients bring to the process. It answers the question about why a patient WOULD choose to do dentistry we recommend. In our consumer driven culture today patients are less and less likely to do something because we think they “should.” Savvy consumers appropriately ask themselves, “What’s in it for me?” We cannot control this aspect of the equation, but we can influence it.
We have good reasons for recommending treatment. We see problems or potential problems and we are well trained to find solutions to those problems. A decision to proceed with treatment often seems obvious to us. But it is just not enough for us to know intellectually why people should take care of themselves. To be effective we have to learn to let go of our “shoulds.” If we offer someone else ten reasons why they should do something, they can think of eleven reasons why they haven’t and won’t. When we convey to anyone that they should do something we set them up for resistance.
We have also been trained to pay attention to why patients would not do the treatment. We’ve been taught how to overcome barriers and sell features and benefits. We invest time and energy into learning how to convince patients of the value of our services. But features and benefits, without a clear agreement about preferred outcomes, miss an important piece of the puzzle. Try reviewing a few charts in your practice. Look for notes of what the patient has said that indicates you have helped him or her develop preferred outcomes. Most practices discover they have work to do in that arena; opportunities to pursue.
Preferred outcomes come from the patient’s value for health; not whether they value health, but what they value about health. Patients make decisions about dental care out of the same set of values they use to make decisions about other things in which they invest their resources. The more we know about what is important to our patients generally, the more we will be able to help them place dental care within the context of those values.
To Be Continued: Part Two will Post on Jan. 7, 2014.