The Last Thing Your Patient Hears

Many times in life, great experiences are completely erased by what occurs in the last few moments.  How often have you loved a movie right up until the predictable (or incomprehensible) ending? Or gone to a fine restaurant, recommended by your friends, and had a fabulous meal.  Great service, unusual dishes, worth the money, terrific atmostphere, and then you waited 35 minutes to get the check!  It wiped out the whole positive experience.  Now when people ask you about the place, you say, “Yeah, great food, but…” It’s that “but” that changes everything.

If you’re aware of the fact that most patients are evaluating your dentistry by the experience of being in your practice as much or more than they by your clinical skills, then you should be thinking about what the last thing is that the patient experiences in their visit.  There are two critical times in any service experience: what happens first, and what happens last.  I speak at length about the first experience–how you answer the phone, how you greet new patients–and those moments are very important, but I want to talk now about what happens last.

The problem is we make this mistake all the time in dentistry.  The last few minutes of the appointment very often involves someone trying to get the money out of the patient, and even worse, having to explain why the insurance doesn’t cover it.  Or trying to get the next prophy appointment scheduled while they’re trying to run out the door to get back to work.  You can have the sweetest people working in your office, in a fun environment, with great technology and wonderful chairside manner, but then the last taste in the patient’s mouth is money issues, and insurance confusion, and your scheduling needs.  Tainting everything.

My point is, take care of all these things sooner. Get the money chairside.  Do the explanation of coverage ahead of time.  You have to do it anyway, so slide it forward.  We love to put off things we don’t like to do until last–it’s human nature.  But you need to override that tendency because it’s tarnishing the experience of the patient visit.  There are thousands of practices who get all the money dealt with chairside, as soon as the diagnosis takes place.  It’s just a matter of changing procedure, and using the right words.  Don’t say, “It’s our policy,” say, “We like to take care of all of this ahead of time, so that you can just leave the office when your done and not worry about it.  We have to take care of it anyway, so let’s do it now.”  Then you know if they have sticker shock about the treatment.  Or if they actually don’t have the money to pay for it, because then you’ll be trying to collect your fee, and hoping to get some percentage of it.  Get all your money, or don’t start treatment.  It’s just a change in procedure.  You are in business to make money, right?  There’s nothing mercenary or unprofessional about it.  You completed an expensive education and set up a facility that is costly to equip and operate.  You should be paid for the services you provide.

And do schedule their next appointment chairside as well.  Most people have smartphones with their calendar right there, and you have computer access.  Get it done.  Slide it forward.

So now, instead, the last experience of the practice is you giving them a little goody bag of some floss, toothpaste, a travel toothbrush, maybe a pack of Advil and some home care instructions.  And maybe, just maybe, it’s the dentist giving the patient a call later, or sending a text, asking how the patient is doing.  Now that’s a great way to end the visit, and make it a positive experience right through the finish.  Whatever it is, be conscious of what you’re doing, knowing that it is your last chance to make a good impression.

2 thoughts on “The Last Thing Your Patient Hears

  1. Good article only flaw I foresee is if the treatment changes during the appointment. A MO becomes a MOD or a deep restoration an endodontic treatment.

  2. Fred I agree with everything that was said except collection in the chair. I say this from experience. Before treatment starts Ofcourse they should know about their charges but usually they are too nervous, or may sound too greedy to them to collect. They already think of the dentists as money machines why taint their view even more.

I welcome your comments--don't pull any punches!