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Working with Difficult Patients- 5

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Difficult patients can be stressful.  So stressful in fact that dentists report ‘working with difficult patients’ as the second most common stress trigger in dentistry, only slightly behind ‘time management issues’.  If working with difficult patients is so stressful, leading to some dental professionals to leave the industry, retire early, or worse…keep working while staying miserable, why don’t dental pros do more to educate themselves and increase their skill sets around this very topic?

The next time you are at a conference, come across a webinar, or CE course on working with difficult patients, do yourself, your team and your business a favor and take it.

Difficult Patient #5:  The Know-It-All

Problem: The patient comes into the office with lots of questions and all the answers.  They ask question after question as they painstakingly complete each in-office form, and then do what they want anyway.  They refuse x-rays because they know they cause cancer and any reasonable dentist doesn’t need them.  Recommended treatment is met with sarcastic comments and “that’s not what I read on the internet.”

Reality:  Someone who comes across as a Know-it-all really is someone who has high fear. They are a fearful patient disguising themselves as a Know-it-all, control freak.  What sets these patients apart from other fearful patients is their abusive and abrasive tone can make it very difficult to offer any kind of empathy.  Nonetheless, when approached in the right way, these Know-it-alls can become your most loyal patient.

Solution: Since Know-it-alls are really fearful patients, the main objective is to gain their trust so you can open their minds to a new idea.  Follow these tips to win them over:

  1. Pick your battles.  When a patient shares information you know is misguided, you don’t have to get defensive and correct them.  If it doesn’t pertain to treatment, let it go.
  2. Be open, not defensive and ask permission.  If there is information a patient believes and it is untrue AND it is hindering them from accepting the treatment that is right for them, ask them if they are willing to talk about a new perspective on the subject.  Turning a compliant patient into a committed patient is all in the permission.
  3. Be confident and deliver softly.  You know your stuff so be confident, on the inside.  On the outside, make sure your body language isn’t engaging the patient in a heated debate.  Sit eye level, cross your legs, hands in your lap, shoulders slightly rounded, tilt your head, look them in the eye and speak at a moderate level.
  4. Know you’re not giving in, you’re winning over.  When you bite your tongue, and it’s likely you will with Know-it-alls, remind yourself that every patient has the potential to be a great patient.  It’s all in how you interact with them.

Step 5:  Too often teams review patient appointments during their morning huddle the day of.  This is a HUGE misstep.  It leaves no time for changes and planning.  Discussing patient visits, how you customize their appointment, and tips you need to member should be no less than 48 hours in advance.

Found this interesting?  Let me know below!

Continue the series, Working with Difficult Patients- 6

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