3 Ways To Reframe Patient Mindsets And Take Back Control

One of the most common questions we get is what to do about those patients who won’t accept treatment regardless of what you say or who seem to come in and do nothing every single time.

We’ll call these people the stubborn patient.

And yes, there is some truth to that expression that you can’t help people who won’t help themselves.  In other words, don’t let stubborn patients get you down.  You should most certainly take their success and case acceptance personally but you should not take their reactions or comments or indecision personally; meaning don’t let them throw you off your game.

The most important part about all of this is maintaining your integrity in carrying out the clinical philosophy and standard of excellence in patient care.  It is not to simply satisfy or worse yet pacify your patients just to keep them happy and get them out the door hopeful that they’ll return.

Above all else, you will find it most helpful if you fully and truly embrace the Starfish Story Principles that we talk about, share with your team, and all mutually believe in.  If you do this, then it becomes your guiding compass to stay true to yourself when you engage your patients.

Which means you always commit to doing two things: telling them the truth and giving them a chance to say yes to what they deserve by serving as a facilitator for their health and well being.

You know this, you do this, therefore keep on keeping on and don’t let anyone get in your way; not their attitude or anything else.

Still, the vast majority of patients are grateful and they appreciate you for all you do to help them.  Hang on to these people, focus on the positive, think about what you want more of not what you don’t want and you will be fine.

The other aspect of this, and it is more than just a mentality, is that you want to come from a position of confidence and authority.  You do actually know best.  It’s a fact.  

Here’s the deal, from a business perspective they are taking up a spot in your schedule and using up a moment of time that you can’t ever get back.  It’s best we do something meaningful with it, with them, and we make the time count.  You, in a sense, have the prerogative to be ruthless with people wasting your time and taking up an opportunity that you could otherwise be helping people if they are not going to take it seriously.

And while you will not exactly come across that way, it is fine for your mission to carry the burden of that mentality.  Your objective is to make patients healthier, not to fill time or take up space.

I often use the example of hygiene for an adult patient who may be with your practice 20 to 30+ where either they stop coming in or you do.  If you find that to be daunting, feel free to cut it in half (you’ll only prove my point even more so).

If you grasp how few times patients will actually have their teeth cleaned the rest of their lives, it’s not a huge number.  That in and of itself is reason to make every one of those visits extraordinary and comprehensive.

If you change this to any other type of visit for any other type of reason, procedure, or specialty, then the number of times is dramatically less and the same theme applies.

My point is simple… the patient will take it as serious as you will take it.  It doesn’t mean to not make it fun and enjoy the process but it does mean don’t take it for granted.  It’s okay to level with your patient about just how important it and they are to you and it should be to them.

Here are three quick things to do to reset a conversation with a patient who seems disinterested in what you are trying to accomplish, stubborn in their desire to make any progress, hesitant to invest in their own health, or who otherwise isn’t taking seriously their relationship with your practice.

This varies based on your position and role within the practice in how you might approach your patient because you might be supporting another one of your team members or you might be talking to them directly about a question they have.

First, always come back to asking questions.  How they are feeling?  What concerns they have for you?  What are their thoughts?  You want to check in and make sure you are on the same page about the topic.  Answer their questions and follow that with “because…” as you add a statement of importance.

This is a great way to get them back in the game and for them to take ownership over their health.  When they are forced to answer a question it draws them back in while you get to express your interest and concern.

Second, you can always just level with them.  Something like, “Patient, you know this is very important and my commitment to you today is to do more than just inform you about the state of your health.  It’s to give you solutions to make your life better and get you back to a level of optimal health.  That way you can… insert benefits or consequences specific to them …how does that sound to you?”

Third, you can use one of Kevin’s most powerful reframes about what your objective is as a whole if you are stuck anywhere in a treatment discussion or at any point in your patient engagement: “To help you make a smart decision today…” 

That might sound like, “Patient, I’m so happy you are here today and I take your health very seriously, which is why I want to make sure you understand everything we are talking about.  You obviously take it seriously too or you wouldn’t be here.  My goal is to help you make a smart decision today about… insert topic …let me ask you how can I help you do that?”

The common theme here is you are the good guy or girl and you are simply trying to help them.  You aren’t fighting with them or playing tug of war.  You aren’t lecturing them or scolding them into submission.  

The key for them to own the responsibility of their health is asking them questions so they aren’t going on the defense against you and you aren’t having to justify anything with them.  The more the patients talk, the more engaged they will become and the more you will learn about them.

We’ll get into some more tough love conversations next week.  My advice to you is if you take control of the visit in the first place you will have a whole lot less of stubbornness to deal with.

Believe in the value of what you are doing, tell your patients the complete truth, ask more questions to get more engagement, give reasons why for your treatment recommendations, and restate your commitment to them.  Most of all have fun helping patients get healthy and expect positive outcomes by giving your patients the opportunity they deserve to make a great decision.  

Regardless of where they started with you, know where you want them to end up – that is your mission.  It is not always easy but it is always worth it.

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