Patients Are Hiding Questions From You

Patients are hiding questions from you.  How do we know?  They ask Google instead!

Have you ever noticed that when you start typing something into Google, you get suggestions like this:

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Those “autocomplete” suggestions are based on what people are actually using Google to search for.  You can use it to see a list of patient “burning questions” about going to the dentist!

Look at the results in the image above…  

Why do dentists take blood pressure?” 

Why do dentists drill cavities?”

Why do dentists remove wisdom teeth?”

Do you see the theme?  These patients don’t understand what’s going on, or at least the “why” behind what’s happening to them.  

Here’s another search term:

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More of the same…  patients are wondering why you need their blood pressure, their social security number, and their medical history. 

The top suggestion is also interesting.  Somewhere along the way these patients missed out on the reason why the dentist recommended a crown.  It’s hard to say yes to doing something if you don’t understand the underlying purpose. 

The Problem With Unasked, Unanswered Patient Questions

Even with the kindest, gentlest dental team imaginable, the dental practice experience intimidating place for many patients.  That old “flight or fight” response kicks into gear, and patients stop listening and start wondering how to get away. 

This is tragic because when patients miss out on the reason “why” behind what you are recommending, they are much more likely to say “no” or “maybe later” instead of getting the best possible clinical outcome. 

Solutions For Higher Case Acceptance

Here are some ideas to make sure the “why” gets across clearly. 

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  1. Orienting Comments – Before starting anything new, clearly explain to the patient what you are about to do and why you are going to do it.  Ask the patient if they understand, and if they are comfortable with you proceeding. 

  2. Tell-Show-Do – While recommending a treatment, or before beginning a procedure, tell the patient what you are going to do, and show them with a drawing, model, or your hands.  This gives them a chance to absorb the information audibly as well as visually. 

  3. Tag Team – As you explain the treatment recommendations, make sure your assistant or hygienist is watching the patient’s body language.  When you leave the room, your team member can ask if they had any questions, or even say something like, “You had a look on your face when the doctor was explaining crowns, did that make sense to you, can I clear up some confusion?”  Sometimes patients are intimidated by the dentist but will more easily confide in a team member.   (see point six in this article from Dental Products Report)

  4. Discover The Patient’s Why First – We have long said that the most important step in treatment acceptance is discovering what matters most to the patient before presenting any treatment recommendations.  Every patient is different, and if the “why” underlying your treatment recommendation doesn’t resonate with the patient’s “why,” or philosophy on their oral health, there will be a disconnect or even distrust. 

One thing is sure, better communication helps patients get what they want, and if you don’t know what they want, it’s hard to educate, recommend, or deliver treatment.  

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