In Part One of this series we discussed how your choice of words can make or break the case. With proper selection you can excite or relax the patient as necessary when guiding them through your vision of the treatment plan.
In Part Two I stressed the importance of getting the patient to return for a separate consultation visit. This gives you time to prepare the your vision and explore fees and alternatives.
So now the patient is set up in your schedule for their consultation. In this post I will set the stage for this next visit. You already know Why we need this visit. Here I will discuss Where, When and Who.
Part Three: Where, When and Who of the Consultation
Do you have a consultation room? Not every office has a dedicated space for consultations. Many times this important visit is done in a private office or in the operatory.
What’s wrong with doing the consultation in your private office? I’m going to take a wild guess and say that it’s messy. Stacks of bills, yesterday’s newspaper, and a left over Pop Tart wrapper do not put your best foot forward. If it’s clean and you have a chair for the patient, then it will probably be fine.
What’s wrong with doing the consultation in the treatment room? A lot. Many patients are uncomfortable in a dentist’s chair and their guard is up. You may not have the ability to neatly display radiographs, clinical photographs, study models and other educational items. There may not be a place for the patient’s companion (if they brought one) to sit comfortably. Your treatment room may be a bit outdated-looking; an unfortunate contrast with the state-of-the-art care you’re presenting. And so on.
If you don’t currently have a separate consultation room, take a look at your office and think out of the box. Is there a large closet or empty treatment room that could be easily converted? Spend $200 on a table and chairs and you’re home free. Is there a Starbucks or Panera Bread within walking distance? Buy your patient a cup of coffee and sit in a private corner.
That’s the Where of the consultation visit; let’s look at the When. I usually schedule this appointment at least one week after the initial encounter. Sometimes two weeks is necessary to do more research. But if you’re starting to set this visit up closer to a month away you’ll risk having a no show. Strike while the iron is hot, as they say.
Also, the visit should take no longer than a half hour. That’s very important! After a half hour of talking both you and the patient will be tired and confused. Keep your discussion short and sweet. If there are a lot of options to cover, consider scheduling another consultation visit. I’ve seen dentists overwhelm their patients with unnecessary information for an hour. Don’t present every possible plan under the sun and don’t give a dissertation on the entire history of dentistry. We’ll talk about what specifically you should say in the next part of this series.
Finally, Who. When you’re done presenting the clinical side of the treatment plan, it’s time to talk numbers. Some dentists prefer to discuss fees themselves and that’s fine. Other dentists leave everything to the office manager. My approach depends on the treatment plan. If we’re discussing an implant or two, I’m comfortable letting the office manager discuss this, just like I do for any other treatment. But if I just presented a major reconstruction for over ten thousand dollars, I prefer to do that myself. Then I’ll have the office manager come in to discuss payment arrangements.