How To Get Patients Involved in Their Treatment Plans

You probably catch me saying this every week… but, if you just took last week’s Report and you really dissected it, if you assessed it with your team, if you asked yourself the tough questions – it would have easily given you the key leverage points that would matter most to you right now in order to step it up to the next level.

Hey, I know, the daily focus (otherwise known as the daily grind) ain’t easy, nor is it always fun but it is what it takes to win.

The biggest challenge any team has is losing sight of the highest value priorities and the daily outcomes that we want to achieve.

You are not in the business of patient visits, you are in the business of patient health.

As I love to say, “you get paid to DO DENTISTRY.”  You diagnosis it so you can help the patient, not just talk about.  Which is where we are going next.

This week, we’ll take one particular aspect of the patient engagement, perhaps the most important part, and delve into the nuances and the significance of making Patients OWN their problems, want the solution, and therefore be willing to invest in their health by way of the your Treatment Plan.

Before we do let me again say: you are NOT in the business of just “seeing” patients.  They are not coming for fun, to waste their time, to say hi, to sit in your chair like a carnival ride, and then to leave having nothing to show for it.

They are there – YOU ARE THERE – to accomplish something.

There is far too much transactional thinking about dentistry.  I don’t just mean ‘not’ relationship thinking.  I mean literally thinking of what you do in segmented parts instead of a whole, a continuum, a comprehensive experience with a beginning, middle, and an end with EVERY SINGLE VISIT for EVERY SINGLE PATIENT.

I’m not trying to be too harsh here.  I just am emphasizing the point that all too often we go through the motions of the schedule and see the patients through our process without focusing enough on the outcome we are working to accomplish.

I’ve written these words more times than either of us care to remember but do you take them literally or have you done anything with them?

Let’s even go beyond relationship dentistry to experiential dentistry.  When you combine those two – magic happens.  

It is not just about education-based patient engagement, it’s even more than that.  It’s about making the patient a participant in the experience and really drawing them into what you are doing and helping them to see the value.

It’s a long time before the end of the year and the start of the next one but your clinical days are probably very few.  If you were to commit to nothing else for 2020, I sure hope it is doubling down your efforts to what I’m talking about right here.

Because it is the difference between patients wanting to give you money for their health and valuing what you do versus you constantly being in a tug of war trying to pull them to health and them trying to pull the opposite direction.

At the end of the day, Patients vote with their dollars.  You must deal with that reality.  

The test of how well you are doing in any aspect of your business is based on how freely and willingly patients are excited to pay you for what you do.  This doesn’t mean you have to make as much money as possible – it means that based on your practice, how many patients say yes, pay, follow-through, and are happy about the results.  It is the only true sign of your success.

There are many factors to the overall business of dentistry, but there is only one factor to your patients valuing what you do – that’s paying you for it.

So, how about we talk through this idea of Diagnosing and Treatment Planning and why they aren’t the same thing.  In the middle of this is the greatest secret of all to patients case acceptance over what you ‘present.’

Today, I’m going to keep it simple.  Then, thanks to the wonderful feedback I’ve already received from last week, in the new year, I’m going to break down my Case Acceptance Factors from start to finish.

Here’s the basic premise that matters so much…

When you diagnosis using your clinical mastery, that produces the facts and proof of the reality of the patient’s mouth.  Still, there is a degree of opinion involved because every Doctor sees the mouth differently and diagnosis based on their own value, preference, prioritization and of course knowledge base.

Now, what you have done is given the patient a baseline.  You have said this is the documentation of the “State of Your Mouth” or the “State of the Health of Your Mouth.”

What we must do BEFORE we simply present a Treatment Plan is make the PROBLEMS the PATIENT’S.  Then we can custom build a solution that is designed by and agreed to by the patient.

What happens is patients get diagnosed without really being involved in it, or understanding all of it.  Then, as default, out pops a treatment plan that is all the things that you say they need to do.  Aside from it not feeling or being very personal, it is a surprise most of the time.  We haven’t built the bridge, we are jumping over the giant gap in the patient’s mind and going straight to the money to fix the problems.  Instead of helping and guiding the patient to willingly walk over the bridge from diagnosis into the treatment plan that is necessary to take the “State of Health in Your Mouth” to the “State of Ideal” that they deserve.

While it isn’t quite as easy as I’m about to generalize, it is far easier than most make it out to be.  Which is also why the majority of Doctors skip right over it aside from maybe being in a hurry or not even knowing how to actually connect with the patients and be sure that they want it in the first place.

First, before diagnosing patients, we should have discovered their goals and where their mindset is. Understand where they feel they are at right now with their health.

Second, we show visual proof and demonstrate the reality of their mouths with pictures and x-rays and all of that.

Third, we diagnosis, state reality, create factual explanation, and show-and-tell the state of their health and mouths right now.

STOP: get agreement on this before moving on.  Ask questions and answer questions if necessary.

Do NOT go any further until this is done.

Then after the Patient is on the same page and an owner of their state of their health, you ideally ask what would you like to do about it or other questions that lead into patients’ desires that we’ll save for another time.

Basically, your complete diagnosis is done, in the chart, and the patient is made aware of it.


Now you need permission to lay out a plan to get the patient healthy.

Fourth, we now want to showcase what their mouths should or could look like.  Don’t forget the COULD because maybe the mouth is OKAY and there are not major problems but it could be whiter, straighter, bigger, rounder, have all their teeth, proactively replace, upgrade, or rebuild.

Once you have this interaction now you orchestrate and layout the plan.

Fifth, we get agreements on the plan of action explained in a way that focuses on the long term benefits and the overall outcome of the total comprehensive pathway to health.

This allows you to custom build, make sure the patient is going to be on the same page, and they actually want what is going to be presented.

I don’t want you to water down your treatment plans if the patient has a mouth full of work and doesn’t want to do anything but the one tooth already falling out.  You will still have your treatment coordinator go through everything, always, but you are going to make sure that you have a patient who is committing to be in motion on something and moving forward with their health.

That said, it is your responsibility to get them to desire optimal health (and to be ready and wanting to receive the total plan to get them there), so that nothing is tied to dollars but instead the decision is tied to the goals.  Therefore, you and your team are helping THEM get to THEIR goals by way of THEIR Treatment Plan.

Of course, as I said, there is more to it, but when you learn to create this bridge you will be amazed at how effective it can be.  They will walk out of the treatment room into the consultation room (or wherever you are doing the presentation of the plan) ready to go because they are clear, committed, and a contributor to the plan.  The experience feels altogether different than a diagnosis in a computer and out pops a treatment plan with no input or involvement from the patient whatsoever.

It might appear as a small nuance, but that flips it from being yours to being the patients’.  Their ownership over their problems and interest in getting results will go up dramatically by you mastering this.

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