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Making The Right Appointment


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Lesson #5: CORE Lesson #5 – Basing Appointments on True Needs

About This Lesson

Instructions coming soon..


Action Items

  1. Create the different points of entry flowchart outlined previously if not done. Need to have this in place so everyone is on the same page in the office.
  2. Create protocol for each point of entry.

Full Video Transcript / MP3

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Hello everybody, this Dr. Steve Schluentz, and I want to welcome you back to the last core video at this point for module number three, which is all about making the right appointment, and this video is going to be just kind of a further reiteration of what we've talked about in previous videos to make sure that you're getting these appointments done correctly.

Now, like I said, these videos are meant to ask the right types of questions so that you can check your own processes, and so for some of you this might be the first time you really thought about this, and for others if maybe you've struggled with this concept for years. I'm telling you that what we're going to talk about in this video is really going to help you clarify some things so that your team is on board with you as you're making this appointment.

This video is all about the fifth tenet, which is basing appointments on true patient needs. Now, this is going to be kind of a reiteration of number two and number three, which is phone screening and building a practice within a practice and even the doctor follow-up call. And if you've looked at the way that this has set up, the website can draw traffic to your office. They're going to be calling. You have that initial phone screening. You're thinking about how do you create a blue ocean with this call? I'm calling that patient to further reiterate that this is the right appointment, and I'm listening to what the patient's true needs.

Too many times as doctors we're trying to fit what their true needs are into our practice structure, so we're actually thinking our needs are more important than their needs. That is not the way to build this. You have to listen to the true needs of the patients.

Again, the patient call sheet should be aiming at identifying true patient needs, them making appropriate appointments. If you're going through your call sheet and it says insurance, where do they live, you know their address. These are the first things you ask the patient. You're never going to identify the true patient needs. It is, I think it's called the primacy effect. I learned this when I was studying Profit First by Mike Michalowicz, and it's this idea that whatever comes first stresses importance. So if the first question you ask is insurance, that is the most important thing that you've identified in the patient's mind. So you want to make sure that the first things you're asking is their name, how did they hear about us? What is their concerns? Why are they seeking us? Why are we the office that they called? Right?

Once you do that, you want to have a dialogue. Don't have a script where you're going from question to question. Get good at being nuanced with having that script become a conversation piece. Really stop and focus on what the patient is trying to say and ask good questions in, and the best way to do this honestly is record some of these calls, and then stop the video or the call. It's not going to be a video, but let's say you had a recording of the call or maybe we're even role-playing. Stop and ask what was the purpose of that question. You need to be focused on asking the right questions.

And so, you know, this is actually a lot simpler than it seems. You want to make sure that when you're starting this process, whoever's answering that new patient call, they don't get interrupted and they can completely focus on what that patient is trying to say. In our practice, for example, we keep it really simple. We have a different colored call sheet than any other sheet that's in the practice, so whoever is answering the phone, if they have an orange sheet, we know that that's the new patient call sheet, that that person cannot be interrupted for any reason, any reason, unless someone's, I guess, dying in the practice, but almost any other reason that person is not to be interrupted so they can completely focus on what that patient is trying to say to them, okay?

The key here is also to have these different points of entry into the practice based on needs. I have four very specific points of entry. I have an emergency entry, a TMJ/TMD oriented entry, a comprehensive wellness oriented entry, and a routine oriented entry. And every one of those is going to have very specific types of exam structures.

Now the key is having the right questions to identify where this patient's going to go. And again, you can refer back to the new patient manual that's in the dental sales secrets program where we have the different structured messages and then those different points of interests. You can see exactly what it is that I'm trying to do with my appointments.

The key here is to learn to roll with the punches, but always improve the process. This is never going to be perfect, but the better you get asking questions that identify true patient needs, the better the appointments will get, the better you'll be able to figure out your schedule, the better you'll be able to time these appointments, and ultimately the more successful you're going to be.

We're going to talk a lot about timing at the interview. Some of the doctors that I work with, their new patient process, they go to the opposite extreme of where some doctors have a five minute new patient process, which is ridiculous, but some have a two hour innovation process which is also ridiculous. I heard this from numerous doctors, "Well, I have a two and a half hour with a new patient, and then I bring them back for an interview."

And I do all of those things as well, but here's the deal. Patients don't have the time availability that they used to, to spend three hours with their dentist. That doesn't make any sense. And so yes, you might get one or two patients a month that would really appreciate that, but the vast majority of patients don't even like that. And the dentist goes broke in the process because they have three hour new patient process, and at the end of it they're doing two crowns and a filling. That doesn't work. You have to have the system in place to lead them to more comprehensive care if you're going to do a three hour appointment, okay?

The key here is always listen to what the patient is telling you. Listen, listen, listen. It's so easy to do, but dentists have a really hard time making this work because we always want to respond to whatever it is they're saying and almost try to cut them off.

Just let them talk, but you also want to guide them through this process and that goes to the same for whoever is answering your phones up front. If the patient's babbling and babbling and babbling about something, this is the one thing that I always ask and this works every time. Hey, we'll go back to Jim. Jim's babbling about something, the previous dentists that he didn't like or whatever. This is all good information, but all of a sudden it turns into a five, six minute rant.

You say, you know, if Jim's talking about the other dentist and what he didn't like about the other dentist and say, "Hey Jim, this is, thank you so much for sharing this. Can I ask you a question?" I love that. It gets them to stop immediately. "Oh yeah, sure." "What do you look for in a dentist? What would be the ideal dentist for you?"

I'm telling you, if you asked that question of everybody, you will get so much information. You'll know exactly what kind of appointment they need. "Listen, Jim, can I ask you a question? What is the ideal dentist look like for you? What do they do for you?" He said, "Well, you know, when it's broke, they get it fixed. That's what the ideal dentist does for me."

I'm telling you, that will tell you a lot about where this patient should ultimately go. You can have a conversation, but usually a patient like that is going to come in too as a routine patient and I'll have the opportunity to try to work with him to move him towards a more wellness-oriented model if that's what he wants to do. But you need to be able to stop the conversation, listen with empathy and intent, but be able to redirect the conversation where you want it to go so it can flow naturally, okay?

Where they came as a referral also gives you clues as to the needs. If you have a patient that's very wellness-oriented and they refer patients in to you, by and large that new patient, that referral source is also going to be very wellness-oriented. It's birds of a feather flock together. This is one of the keys why if you have patients that you really love working with, you want to make sure that you're asking them for referrals all the time. They'd be happy to do that for you.

So the action steps on this specific video is create the different points of entry in a flow chart outlined previously if you have not already done that. So you need to make sure you do this, and you need to have this in place so that everyone in your office is on the same page and you will create a protocol for each point of entry. What are the appointments needed? What is the rationale for this point of entry, and how do we, if it's a routine, what are the things that make us think that they might go to a comprehensive or wellness-based entry? You have to have this on point, okay?

There's enough resources there to help you guide in this process. You need to make sure you do this so that everybody knows how these patients are coming in to your practice.