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Working with difficult patients- 3

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If you think your work with more difficult patients than not, there is good…GREAT…chance it’s more you than them.  Difficult patients- those patients that elicit an emotional reaction from dental teams- can really push buttons.  Sometimes the reaction is anger or frustration.  Sometimes it’s resentment or guilt.  And sometimes the emotional reaction is lethargy, where you feel stuck in having to treat patients that make your life miserable.  The one clear piece of evidence is that when you change the way you think about a difficult patient, turning them into an opportunity instead of seeing them as a problem, you and the team are much more likely to enjoy their visit, gain case acceptance and obtain a patient for life!

Difficult Patient #3: The Scrooge

Problem:  Money is always a problem with The Scrooge patient.  They want to haggle and barter the cost of their treatment plan while simultaneously complaining about any copay left on their bill.  These patients seem to lack appreciation for the work, time, and money you have put in to get where you are today.  If they did appreciate it, they would just say thank you, lay back and open their mouth.

Reality: No one likes to spend money on things they can’t see, don’t get entertained by, or any enjoyment out of doing.  We all have these types of expenses; from paying penalty fees to buying car tires, or fixing roofs on a house.  These expenses are not something people budget for so when they come up we reacts to them.  Recognize that money isn’t about you nor a reflection of your work and services.  It’s their personal reaction to having to spend money that they won’t see and didn’t plan for.  You have no idea if this is a string of unexpected bills that have come up and now your patient is facing a choice of fixing their teeth or paying a mortgage.

Solution:  When you have a Scrooge in your chair take these steps:

  1. Don’t take it personally.  It’s not about you so get over it.
  2. Show empathy: “Mr. Scrooge, I realize dentistry isn’t something my patients often budget for and what we are talking about can really put a damper on someone’s budget.  The cost of your treatment is X amount.  That is not open for discussion.  What is open for discussion is how we are going to support you in making financial arrangements to pay for what is the right treatment for you.
  3. Demonstrate support for whatever decision your patient makes, even if they get up and leave.

Step 3: You’ve practiced privately and as a team.  Now it’s time to go live!  Pick one of the patient types discussed throughout this series and focus on working with them for a week.  Pick the more difficult, easiest, most frequent, or the one that will make the biggest difference for you and the business to win over.  Support each other by listening to one another, offer suggestions, high five, and provide feedback.  Most importantly, be sure to offer a shoulder when things get tough.

Is this working for you?  Let me know!

Next in the series, Working with Difficult Patients 4

Photo by : pakorn

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