Accepting treatment is a big decision for any patient, especially when high-value procedures are involved. It can cost a lot, and it can be scary for some patients when you tell them the best plan of action is to do something uncomfortable like get a tooth extracted.
No matter how scary the procedure is to patients, there’s a lot you can do to get patients to accept your treatment plan. For example, acting personable and caring and having the right systems in place can help. But one thing a lot of dentists overlook is word choice. In fact, you can immediately improve case acceptance by avoiding these four simple words.
If something is “a maybe,” it’ll likely be a “no.” Maybe conveys a lack of confidence. It conveys a lack of urgency. So, if a patient asks whether they need to address an issue, answer confidently. And when you suggest something to a patient, be clear. Never say, “Maybe we should fix this issue.” Instead, say “We should fix this issue” or “Yes, fixing this issue will improve your health.”
Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you’re at a dermatologist, and after examining your skin they tell you they’re worried about a mole and want to remove it. Most people would be less likely to pay for them to cut it off if they said, “Maybe we should remove this mole.” They’d be more likely to ask about alternative treatments or whether the mole can be tested before spending the money on removing a mole that turns out to be not problematic.
Most people would be more willing to accept treatment if the dermatologist says, “We need to remove this mole. It poses a threat to your health.” That decisiveness makes removing the mole an urgent matter that is putting the patient’s well-being in jeopardy.
When you tell people something is cheap, there are usually two thoughts that will go through their head. The first is that if it’s cheap, then it’s low-cost. The second is that if it’s cheap, then it’s low-quality.
“Cheap” is a harsh word. Always be replaced with “affordable” or in terms of “value.” When someone tells you something is affordable or a good value, it comes across as being low-cost but without the negative connotation of it being low-quality. Thus, when talking with patients, talk about procedures being affordable or a good value instead of cheap.
Speaking of low-cost, avoid saying the word “cost” to a patient when discussing treatment. For example, if you tell a patient that getting an implant is going to cost them $5,000, they will immediately think of how much money they have in the bank. If they don’t have $5,000 in the bank (or a credit card with a high available credit that they’re willing to tap into), they are less likely to move forward. When discussing financial terms, focus on monthly payment plans instead of the total price and let them know you have several ways to help them fit their treatment needs into their budgets. Most patients think in those terms.
Instead of discussing “costs,” focus most of your discussions on the “value” of the procedure. That makes patients think about your treatment plan as an investment in achieving an outcome they desire. For example, you might say “The real value is having a fully-functioning smile again. You’ll be able to eat what you want. You won’t have to remove your dentures anymore. And you’ll be able to avoid large expenses that come from your teeth shifting or bone loss.”
Reminding patients of the value of your treatment plan and the outcomes they will receive, helps them better appreciate the benefits of moving forward with your plan.
While it might seem logical for people to try to “solve” problems, the reality is most people try to avoid them. Thus, when you describe something as a “problem” to a patient, many patients will instinctively push back or procrastinate. “Problems” feel big to patients. And big feels expensive to patients. Thus, of the patients who are of the mindset to find a solution—rather than to procrastinate—many will seek second opinions, giving another practice an opportunity to woo your patients.
Instead of the word “problem,” reframe your presentation using the word “issue.” It’s a gentler way of saying there’s a situation with their teeth that can be resolved through the treatment plan you’re presenting to them. Thus, instead of “the problem with your tooth is,” you might say, “there’s an issue with a tooth in the bottom right of your mouth that requires” and then present your treatment plan to the patient. Your patient is much less likely to push back when you present the issue rather than a problem.
Have you been using these four words when presenting your treatment plans to patients?
Consistent case acceptance can make or break your practice. Word choice might seem like a nuance that doesn’t amount to much but patients are much more likely to move forward with treatment plans when you avoid these four words.
If you want more strategies to help you increase case acceptance, plus coaching for you and your team, and more, join our Delivering WOW Platinum Coaching Program today.