Today’s consumers have more choice than ever before, and many patients are using the Internet to self-diagnose and explore treatment options. In fact, one in four people use search engines to self-diagnose (1). This trend is no different where dental treatments are concerned. By taking a patient-focused approach to treatment planning, dental professionals can gain maximum acceptance rates, even when complex or expensive treatment is needed.
Patients are more likely to accept treatment plans, even very complex ones, if they feel that they have been involved in the decision-making process (2). Many patients still dread going to the dentist (3), but by creating an environment that is both warm and inviting, as well as personalised and professional, patients will be much more likely to accept the treatment option that is best for their long term health and wellbeing . Take a look at our blog post for ideas on how to optimise the patient experience in your practice.
From the very first time you meet a patient to their final treatment check-up, make sure that you explain everything clearly, take an interest in their questions and ask for their thoughts and opinions. If your presentation of the treatment plan is transparent and clear, it should instil and build confidence between patient and dentist. It may also be helpful to get another dentist within the surgery to chat through treatments with a patient to help confirm the decision you have made and provide assurance for the patient, in turn, increasing acceptance rates.
Patients should not only feel well cared for; they should also feel in control over the treatment every step of the way. You can achieve this by being transparent about the costs involved and giving them options, where applicable (4). From the outset, it can be helpful to work closely with your patients, so they understand the long-term benefit treatment can bring and select the dental treatment that will help them achieve these aims. Whether it’s routine or restorative dentistry, be clear about the costs and outcomes of the whole range of options available to a patient.
Meet Dr. Affan
“I treat every patient with care and compassion. Every member of our team works together to provide patients with a great dental experience. I greet every patient personally and take the time to introduce them to my team. I have such a great dental nurse, Jade. She looks after our patients so well and it’s vital that my team have the same values."
One dentist who has built a reputation for putting patients at ease is Dr. Affan Saghir. Dr. Affan graduated from dental school in 2013, and in less than five years his personal approach to dentistry has earned him a growing patient base, for both general dental care and cosmetic dentistry, and a reputation for excellence within the industry. He shares his insight into gaining trust of his patients.
Dr. Affan goes on further to state that, “it’s so important that we spend time getting to know the patient and find out what issues they have and what their ultimate goals are. We want to do ethical dentistry, so it’s not about my ego as a dentist and what I can do, it’s got to be about doing what is right for the patient. To help patients understand the treatment, I take photographs for them at every stage. Patients really enjoy seeing the progress they’re making.”
Engage Patients at Every Stage
People absorb information in different ways, so uptake of your treatment plans can be increased by using a variety of communication methods (5). By using visual aids to present a plan such as images from intraoral scanners or even physical models that they can touch and feel, patients can understand the treatment and more importantly, the results (6).
Keeping language simple and reinforcing key points in different ways will also help the information to sink in. With innovations such as computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD-CAM), many patients can actually see how restorative treatments such as veneers, onlays or crowns are made, which helps them understand the treatment process.
Use Digital Visualisation
Advances in computer technology can help patients visualise the treatment and the benefits it will have. There are even companies developing virtual reality headsets that allow patients to learn about their suggested treatment plans on iPads and computer screens, helping to demystify the process and increase acceptance (7).
When it comes to aesthetic dentistry; technological advancements enable patients to visualise how a variety of cosmetic treatments could alter their smile. Producing a digital workflow, where patients can see their predicted outcomes and monitor their progress against their targets will give them confidence in the process as a whole (8).
Develop Powerful Patient Stories
It has been said that a picture tells a thousand words and when it comes to visualising the impact of dental treatment this certainly is the case (9). Being able to demonstrate the quality of your work is essential, particularly when it comes to aesthetic dentistry. More importantly, having testimonies from previous patients accompanied by images can help prospective patients imagine the impact that the treatment will have on them.
Research shows that 93% of consumers read online reviews (10), making them a powerful way to show the quality of your work and build trust with potential and current patients (11). Gathering patient stories from previous patients, and taking good quality before and after photographs can really help engage patients who seek essential and aesthetic dental treatments by putting their minds at ease.
Build a Strong Team
A commitment to ongoing training and keeping up-to-date with new dental techniques and technology should not be confined to General Practitioners; the more knowledgeable your staff are about treatment processes, clinical techniques, products and technology, the more options your practice will be able to offer to patients over your competitors. Ensure everyone is aligned with your treatment philosophy, share trade journals with colleagues and invest in learning resources to keep the practice up-to-date and ready for innovation (12).
Help your team to use consistent language when talking about treatment plans. Whilst a patient may focus on the cost, time involved and potential discomfort, it’s important that you and your team focus on the long-term health benefits and outcomes. Using the right language to make patients feel comfortable will inspire their trust and confidence.
Encouraging patients to undertake complex, often expensive dental procedures can take time. Throughout the process, communication is key. With advances in technology, there are more options available to help dentists present treatment plans that engage patients thoroughly at every stage to gain the maximum acceptance rate, and improve the long-term outcome for your patients.