To become a patient’s trusted advisor, our objective is to learn as much about the patient as you can in order to connect their dental treatment plan into their life and show them how it fits into their needs and wants. It is critical to take the time to “ask before you tell”, then your communication will be customized to their situation.
Use open-ended questions such as WHEN, HOW, WHAT, WHERE AND WHY to get them to say what you want them to say in their own words. Whenever they voice a problem, it means they own it, accept it and know they must act on it. Your questions provide the framework for patients to feel like you care and want to understand them before you start discussing dentistry.
A patient won’t accept a treatment recommendation unless they perceive it as a solution to a problem they OWN. So we must take the time to find out what they perceive as opposed to telling them what “they need to do,” “should do,” or “they have to do.”
The interview begins with a “framing” so that the patient is aware of why you are asking about them and what it means to their dental experience. It is in the form of a permission statement that will eliminate resistance and barriers to a flow of intimate, personal answers that they are about to share.
“Mrs. Smith, we pride ourselves on providing personal care for our patients. In order to give you personalized care, I would like to ask you some questions which will take a few minutes.” “Mrs. Smith, we want to take care of you in the best manner possible by finding out what is important to you before we tell you what dentistry has to offer”. Then you can begin the questions.
The answers we are seeking during a patient interview are:
- How does dentistry fit into their overall health?
- Clarity about their long term and short term goals
- What is their perceived problem
- What could get in the way of them saying YES
- What are the proposed treatment solutions and how it will benefit me?
- Is this the right practice to do this work for me?
- What are the Benefits and consequences of treatment?
- Is this the right time to proceed?
- Is the fee an investment based on enough value that I can pay with gratitude and appreciation?
Some questions we can use are:
- Where do you want to be in five years with your teeth?
- Where do you see your oral health in 3-5 years?
- Where does dentistry fit into your overall healthcare plans?
- What is important for you to achieve with your oral health now?
- What are your goals for your teeth, mouth and smile?
- What do you believe is the condition of your mouth?
- If everything were working extremely well with ________________, what would be different?
- On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the best and 10 being the worst, how would you rate ______?
- What has been the focus of your past dental care?
- What would get in the way of you having the dentistry you deserve?
- What are your expectations of us as your dental practice?
- What is most important to you about your dental experiences?
- What is your key expectation of your visits with us?
You know they are ready to move forward from the gather/interview stage when you have gathered enough information and are clear about the patient’s personal dental perceptions, wants and needs.