Words are the currency of communication – we all understand that. And yet how often do we step back and really think about the exact words we use and the impact they have? After all, as dentists you have important conversations with your patients every day in which you are trying to influence important decisions using only the power of your words. So it makes sense to choose those words carefully.
Take, for instance, the always-charged subject of insurance. Patients are often driven by insurance considerations; dentists are often frustrated by insurance limitations. If you want patients to start looking at insurance in the right way – as a method of payment, rather than a method of treatment – you can start by eliminating one word from your vocabulary: coverage.
By talking to patients about their “insurance coverage” you are implicitly buying into the idea that dental care is something that should be “covered.” It reinforces the sense of entitlement that many patients have – the idea that dental care costs are something to be offloaded to their insurance carrier and not something to be paid for out of pocket. We all know that most insurance plans are woefully out of step with the reality of dental care today (in many cases they are stuck at 1960s pricing), and that great dentistry is something to invest in, as you would any other significant purchase that matters to you. Knowing that, the very idea of “coverage” is simply unrealistic.
So what do you say instead? I suggest that instead of talking about insurance coverage, you talk to your patients about helping them maximize their insurance benefits. First of all, the word benefits creates positive connotations – who doesn’t like to receive a benefit? – while at the same time making it clear that this is a financial supplement to help them with their dental care costs, not a “get-out-of-dental care-free” card.
This is not about semantics, and it’s not about trying to manipulate people with clever phrasing. It’s about using terminology that accurately reflects what you believe and what you want your patients to understand.
Words matter. And the right words create the right thoughts. Train yourself and your staff to use this care-positive wording and you will go a long way in changing the way patients think about insurance.
(Click this link to read more practice management articles by Imtiaz Manji.)