This is the third installment of a series of articles on implementation.

Apple 1997. Think Different.

A very powerful marketing campaign; if you haven’t seen it or heard it, check it out.‚Äč

Steve Jobs was a genius. He recognized that the general public was simply unaware of what they wanted.  He knew that his inventions would fill a void. He knew that his inventions would transform our lives (for better or worse). 

The basic concept was: Think Different. It was a challenge to a society that was used to thinking of the norm. It was a pledge to a company to think outside the box.   

creating a better patient experience in dental practice

Every time we attend a CE event, read an article, or watch an educational video, we are being challenged to think differently. The thing that separates the good from the great is not just thinking differently, but being different. 

Let’s take case acceptance as an example. Case acceptance is the key to a full schedule. Every day, dentists are being bombarded by advertisements for different ways to help increase case acceptance, each one claiming you’ll never have a patient reject your treatment plan again. Consultants know we are constantly searching for ways to convince our patients that they should accept the plans that WE lay out.  

So here’s the problem: there is no magic bullet for case acceptance. There is no catch phrase or plaque on the wall that will get your patients to accept what you tell them without resistance. There is, however, an ability to create an experience that patients will perceive to be different than anything they have ever known, which will lead to them wanting more out of their dental care and, ultimately, to case acceptance.

So what truly separates a plan that is agreed to versus a plan that is rejected? 

Helping your dental patients accept the comprehensive exam

You may know more than the dentist around the corner – heck, you could be the best clinician in the world – however, the truth is, a patient is unlikely to commit to a larger treatment plan from you if they don’t feel like you’re different. If a new patient comes in to get a routine cleaning and 5 to 10 minute exam (same as they did at their last dentist) and now you try to present them a comprehensive plan to restore their mouth to health, it may be hard for them to accept it.

Why? Because their last dentist, who did the same exam, never told them they needed such a thing. 

On the other hand, if a patient came to you and was greeted differently, was brought back on time, didn’t receive a cleaning on their first visit, but rather had a different, more comprehensive initial exam, and had an overall better experience, they will be more likely to accept and commit to a different approach to treatment and a different plan.  If you think different, your patients will think different too.

In our practice, every new patient over 30 and under 75 receives a full comprehensive exam (more about this in a future article).  In this exam, a patient is not only examined thoroughly, they are being treated differently from the minute they arrive to the minute they leave. 

Do all patients need a 50-minute comprehensive exam by the dentist?…. probably not.  Do all patients know if they need a comprehensive exam? Definitely not.  Just like I stated earlier about Steve Jobs, the public is simply unaware of what they want. 

If a patient is used to a cleaning and 10-minute initial exam at their first visit, that’s their norm and what they think they want. This doesn’t make them right or wrong; they just don’t know any different. We believe strongly that everyone should experience a comprehensive exam at their first visit because they’re not aware if they need it or not. We believe everyone should experience this exam because it’s the right thing to do. It’s the best way to assess their dental health while building a relationship and building trust with the patient from day one. 

Giving your dental patients the best experience

We have new patients that call our practice all the time that say that they were seen six, seven or eight months ago by their previous dentist and all they need is a routine cleaning and checkup. This is what they believe to be true, and maybe they’re right, but maybe, just maybe, they’re wrong. 

Maybe their previous dentist was committing “supervised neglect.” Maybe they’re unaware they want more because they’ve never had it before. They didn’t know they could have more and didn’t know they were being short-changed. You and your team need to understand that just because a patient was seen six months ago, it doesn’t mean they don't have things that need to be discussed. 

You and your team have to understand that patients want what they are used to. Getting 50 minutes of uninterrupted time with the doctor isn’t the norm. It’s different.

This was a big challenge when we were implementing the comprehensive approach in our practice. My team initially didn’t see the value in our detailed examination. After they got to experience it for themselves, they started to see the importance. 

I suggest you have a team meeting that focuses on the patient's experience in your practice. Think different and be different. Patients will appreciate it. Patients will start saying things like “Wow, I’ve never had a dental experience like that in my life.” That’s now the norm in our office.

Mike Monokian, D.M.D.