How to Follow up with Patients without Being Obtrusive

Dovetail Follow Up

The dental industry – as well as healthcare as a whole – is different from other businesses in many ways. One characteristic that stands out is that unlike many other products and services, most people don’t exactly want what you’re selling. Dental care is something that most of us have to have at some point in our lives but no one likes going to the dentist either.

Most people delay going to the dentist unless they are in extreme pain or something happens that precipitates a visit. It’s hard enough to persuade people to go for their annual checkup, let alone get them to accept non urgent care. On the other hand, performing certain procedures in advance can prevent a whole host of complex problems down the road. So how do you get patients to accept your proposals?

Case Acceptance Is Crucial

At most dental clinics the employees are trained to give presentations and educate patients on the need for certain treatments. But sometimes the patient is indecisive despite your best efforts. Their answer is not a definite no but it is not a “yes” either. They may ask for some time to think about it or seek to postpone a decision. Most people delay getting treatment for anything that doesn’t immediately reduce pain or alleviate the problem.

In such cases following up with the patient is critical to getting a positive answer. The question is – how do you do that without being perceived as ‘pushy’ or ‘intrusive?’ There is a reason that used car salesman have a bad reputation and you don’t want to pressure the patient in any way. Here are a few steps you can take to follow up without being obtrusive.

Leave the Door Open for Further Discussion

When the patient says that they need more time to think about it, it’s time to end the discussion. Before they leave clarify that you’re always available to answer any questions they might have or if they want to talk about the options some more. It is likely that the patient themselves will bring it up the next time they come in for a visit. Even if that doesn’t happen, it leaves room for other staff members to refer to it later.

You can always bring up the subject again in subsequent visits. Ask if they have thought about it anymore or if they have any questions. If they do have specific doubts or queries, alleviate their concerns or offer other alternatives. Don’t rush through the explanations and maintain a professional demeanor throughout. Sometimes dentists assume that the patient knows certain things (medical terms, jargon, treatment benefits etc.) but they may not. It’s up to you to outline the procedure, the need for it, potential benefits etc.

Follow-Up with the Patient’s Preferred Means of Communication

Some people prefer email or text while others like to talk over the phone. The receptionist or the hygienist can contact the person after a few days and ask if they have any questions about the proposed treatment. Never push for an immediate answer. This should be a courtesy call and show that you care about the patient’s well-being as opposed to just pushing more procedures on them. As long as the treatment is not an emergency, it can wait until the next visit.

You can also follow up with the patient if there are any changes to your recommendations. Have you noticed that the tooth has deteriorated? Is there some new treatment that is even better than your previous proposal? Use this as a basis for restarting the conversation and converting that maybe into a definite yes!

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