5 kinds of dental patients

You have five kinds of patients in your practice.

You have a lot more than that, of course, when it comes to individual personalities. Every patient has his or her own “story,” which is why I encourage practices to do individual intelligence-gathering “patient profiles” to understand the filters through which each patient views dentistry and to help them connect in a powerful way.

Still, there is great strategic value in recognizing that these patients tend to fit into categories – different levels – in what I call the pyramid of value. Your job as a dental team, apart from providing great clinical care, is to move people upward on this pyramid.

  • At the bottom of the pyramid is The Event-Driven patient, who only comes in for dentistry when it is absolutely necessary and arrives with a “must fix it” mindset.
  • Next is the Reactive patient. These are patients who understand the need for regular hygiene and exams, but who for one reason or another only participate in a limited way.
  • The Proactive patient is the bread and butter of your patient base. They keep their appointments, take their oral health seriously and complete treatment that they accept. But they tend to be very focused on insurance and other economic factors, and they need help prioritizing treatment needs.
  •  A Discretionary patient is one who, for whatever reason, is ready to look beyond tooth-based care and is ready to invest in esthetic treatments. These people often self-identify after they have been influenced (a friend’s treatment, a makeover show they saw, an upcoming wedding), which means they can be influenced to look beyond the basics.
  • The Regenerative patient is every dentist’s dream patient. They want the best care option, and they are willing to invest in making their oral health as good as possible.

That is the rough sketch of the people who populate your practice. And remember, these categories are not based on socio-economic profiling. I’m sure every dentist has seen patients of considerable financial means who fit the Reactive profile, as well as people of modest means who make the effort to invest at the Discretionary level.

A few years ago I released an e-book called “Trust and Value: A Field Guide to Today’s Dental Patients,” which goes into much deeper detail on the pyramid and the characteristics of the patients in each category. If you haven’t seen it, or need a refresher, you can click this link to download my e-book book and my other publications for free.

I suggest making this the centerpiece of a team meeting. Have each team member read the e-book in advance, and then spend some time discussing it. Talk about some sample patients from your practice and see if you agree where those people fit in the continuum. The idea here is not to pigeonhole, but to understand peoples’ motivations better so you can work on moving them up to a higher level of participation.

(Click this link for more articles by Imtiaz Manji.)