Patients Can Always Surprise You
I want to share a story with you. It comes from Dr. John Sweeney, a regular reader and contributor who has attended a number of Spear courses. We have long admired his passionate pursuit of clinical and value excellence.
I love hearing about how what we teach translates into real-world results, so Dr. Sweeney’s email was a joy to read.
“I had a patient scheduled for a one and a half hour crown prep/CEREC. She had been a wonderful patient for six years and very stable. As usual, I walked in the room, greeted her, and then began placing topical. I gave her anesthetic and as I finished, she made a really quick comment about how she wished her teeth looked better.”
Admit it, when you’re in the mindset of doing a crown prep, a comment like that may not always register with you. But Dr. Sweeney stopped for a moment and probed a little further.
“When I heard this I began asking her typical open-ended questions about esthetics and what she didn’t like. She looked up at my assistant and said, ‘I want teeth like hers.’”
This example demonstrates how important it is to make sure your team members are walking advertisements for the value of great dentistry. The patient is seeing something that is inspiring them.
“After five minutes of this I completely changed course, forgot about the crown prep, and started exploring possibilities with her. We showed her before-and-after portraits and spent the first hour talking and creating a treatment plan.”
This is what it means to be flexible and responsive. The doctor and the patient both recognized a higher opportunity and they explored it together.
“Long story short, we treatment-planned her with a combination of crowns/veneers on the front eight teeth—basically a $12,000 treatment plan. She accepted, we took impressions for diagnostic wax-up, and she is scheduled in three weeks for treatment. On top of that, she made a $4,000 deposit on her way out the door.”
And remember, this is a patient who came in for a crown. As Dr. Sweeney says:
“Ironically, I had never talked to her about esthetics. I’m not even sure why. Maybe it was because she is in her seventies and I prejudged that she wouldn’t want to invest in this type of treatment.”
That’s the kind of prejudgement a lot of dentists make, and they do it because they feel they “know” their patients. Luckily for Dr. Sweeney and his patient, he was ready to put aside what he thought he “knew” about this patient. He was ready to really listen, to take himself out of the routine and to open his mind to what was possible.
The lesson here is that those “right patients” who are ready for ideal care are there in your practice now. You see them every day.
Or do you?