When I first started in practice I was not great at consultations. I’ve written about the 10 worst mistakes we make during consultations and I was definitely guilty of a few of those offenses and my patient acceptance rate suffered for it.
Although I’ve gotten a lot better, I still occasionally need to remind myself about improving my energy level. A positive, confident, and charismatic consult will help your patient get excited about their care. It’s not a replacement for good information, but good energy will hopefully motivate the patient to become more involved with their care.
Here are some tips for keeping the energy level high:
(1) Don’t overwhelm with details
We have a wonderful education in oral health… let’s not beat people to death with it. Most of us realize that we should use non-dental, patient friendly terms. But we also shouldn’t go into detail that is unnecessary, no matter how simply we state it. It can be difficult to determine which details to leave in for the sake of full disclosure and which to leave out. But that leads us to…
(2) Dialogue, not monologue
One of my biggest mistakes early on was that I thought a consultation was supposed to be some grand treatise. Now I look at it more like a conversation. I walk a patient through their disease and potential solutions by asking questions. This also eliminates a lot of detail that is unnecessary.
For example, “Mrs. Jones, we can replace all of your bottom teeth with something that you will remove on a daily basis, or with something that you will keep in place all day, everyday. What are your thoughts about that?” I’m going to learn a lot based on the patient’s answer to this question. I’ll get an idea about their dental knowledge, concerns, and expectations. If the patient tells me that they never want to have to take their teeth out, then I don’t have to waste time going into detial about implant overdentures.
(3) Connect emotionally
We care for our patients in more ways than one. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what it would be like to go through the care you are recommending. Think about a friend or family member who underwent similar treatment. Although you may have just met the person on the other side of the consultation, show them how compassionate you are for patients you’ve known for years.
A Power Point illustrating periodontal disease.
(4) Use photos
A picture is worth a thousand words. I have a few folders on my computer desktop that illustrate common dental procedures so I can save time and energy explaining certain concepts. It’s one thing to have before and after photos, but I’ve found it to be beneficial to easily reference clinical situations that also show progress of disease and consequences of delayed care.