Thanks Mary Osborne for another great post!!
There is quite a buzz in dentistry today about all of the tools at our disposal for presenting treatment to patients. Digital dental photography, Power Point, and computer generated patient education systems offer technologically sophisticated and visually appealing images. But I want to talk today about a resource to engage and encourage your patients that I believe is underutilized in presenting treatment: your team.
I want to suggest a simple exercise you can do in your practice which will increase the ability of everyone on your team to answer questions and help your patients see the value of the treatment you recommend for them.
I invite you to choose one new patient to your practice to whom you plan to present treatment and ask everyone to come to a team meeting prepared to discuss this patient. Here is a four step process to help your team learn more about your treatment and why you recommend it, while you learn more about how to communicate regarding the value of your care.
1. Discussion of what we have learned about this patient so far: Begin by getting input from everyone on the team about what he/she learned about the patient. What did the person who took the new patient phone call learn? The person who took his/her x-rays? What was learned in conversations during the exam or during hygiene? The goal of this step is to tap into all the resources you have regarding who this patient is and what is important to him or her. The better you know your patient, the better you can articulate how your treatment meets their needs.
2. Review of clinical findings/records: The next step is to review all the clinical information you have gathered about the patient. Pass around x-rays, models, photos, etc. Give everyone an opportunity to acquaint themselves with the clinical conditions present. Ask people to point out what they see and ask whatever questions come to mind about anything they are curious about. Share your thoughts about the cause of the conditions, and your concern about what will happen without treatment.
3. Doctor’s ideal treatment plan: Now share with your team your perspective about how to best treat the conditions present. What would you do if it were your mouth or that of a loved one? Based on everything you have learned and all your experience what is the best clinical solution to the problems presented?
4. Discussion of rationale, options, and implications: Finally, encourage everyone on the team to ask questions about your recommendations. This requires an understanding that all questions are appropriate. Why this recommendation and not another one (e.g. a crown vs. a filling)? How is this different from another patient who had a similar situation and different treatment plan (e.g. an implant vs. a bridge)? What other options are there? What are the implications of those options? These questions are not asked to challenge your judgment, but to learn how you think about treatment, and to help you learn.
Everyone comes out of this conversation knowing more about this particular patient and better equipped to respond to his/her questions. But, beyond this particular patient, your team will better understand your unique perspective on patient care. As they see the way the records you have gathered affect your treatment planning, they are better able to build value in that process for the next patient. The more your team knows about what you believe, what you pay attention to, and how you make recommendations, the more likely they are to appreciate your care, skill and judgment as applied to every patient in your practice. And the added benefit to you? You will become more skilled at answering questions of people who have not gone to dental school!
Join Mary Osborne, Dr, Mark Kleive and Dr. Lee Ann Brady this Year for a Workshop!