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When new patients call to learn about your practice, your questions not only help engage the caller but also gather information that will allow the team to engage optimally with the new patient when she or he visits.



How do you like your information?

While scheduling new patients, JoAn Majors of the Soft Skills Institute asks patients how they want their information. Each patient is a unique individual and engaging in conversation can be as simple as asking this question. Usually the patient pauses wondering what is meant by that question, and this is your opportunity to involve them in thinking about themselves. For example, if dental implants are of interest to the caller, you might say, “There is a lot of information about dental implants. Some patients want the bottom line. They want to know what it involves in general, how long it will take and the costs. Other patients want lots more information such as the training and experience the doctor has, details about how each procedure is performed. They want a brochure they can read ahead of time. Is this something you would like?”

“Understanding if the patient wants a lot of information or a little is one of the things that I can pass on to the doctor in the morning huddle to bring massive value,” says Majors. “When you think about the four personality styles on the DiSC profile system, what we know is that the I’s make decisions rapidly. They can engage immediately. They need no prompting. The C’s are a little more reserved, not as quick to jump out in front of the car or say something that may be inaccurate or perceived differently. If I can tell a doctor in the morning huddle, how the patient likes their information, the doctor knows what to do.”

Some patients need lots of information. Other patients’ eyes glaze over with too much information.


Input, Apology and Permission

JoAn Majors also recommends using an Engage System, where there’s Input, Apology, and Permission. This system is of value to all members of the team throughout the patient’s journey with your office.

During the Input phase, if the patient says something you don’t really understand, you can say, “Please tell me more about that.”

If a patient of record has disrupted your schedule several times or they have had cleanings and still not booked other prescribed treatment, an apology statement from you inevitably empowers the patient to make the decision. For example, you might say, “You know, I need to apologize to you. Somewhere along the way, I failed to communicate the importance of that actual treatment appointment. We may not have given you all the information for you to make that decision. What can we do?” The apology signals it’s not about right or wrong but moving ahead.

Asking permission of patients is something we do all of the time. For example, “I know that you're here for me to look at this one tooth. Do I have permission to share with you anything else I might see?” Patients never say, “No, I just want you to look at this one tooth.”

“Apology and permission can be very disarming,” says Majors, “because in a situation where it could go south quickly, I say, ‘I feel like I owe you an apology.’ And most patients will say, ‘No. Everything's okay. You don't need to apologize.’” This helps get everything back on track to move the patient forward.

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