by Paulette Johnson
Recently I was asking my husband his opinion on a personal matter when he stopped me, fingers in his ears and said (loudly), “TMI!!” I realized that I may on OCCASION over share. I try to provide enough information to make a well informed decision, but what is enough?
How often in your practice do you over share, or under share for that matter? I have seen the full spectrum of information distributed to potential patients. I have on a regular basis that conversation in our practice, are we providing enough or too much? Do our potential patients walk out with a deer in the headlights look on their faces, or are they in the movie “Beetlejuice” with no idea how to get started with treatment, let alone what the treatment looks like.
I know orthodontists who walk into an exam, look at a patient, maybe take a panographic radiograph, and tell the eager patient that yes, braces are indicated: Twenty-four months of braces with 12—18 months retainer visits, the cost will be XYZ, and you can make an appointment at the front desk on your way out.
Or, orthodontists examine the patient thoroughly, perform the necessary examination of soft tissue, listen to the jaw joints, review the complimentary panographic radiograph and the facial and intra-oral photos, discuss the many treatment options, and provide visual step-by-step treatment progression in the recommended treatment option. And then, they invite the Treatment Coordinator to discuss the many payment options and appointment choices, print or burn to CD a walk out packet that includes photos, radiographs, preliminary treatment options, a short video built of animations regarding the treatment and projected results, treatment pricing, payment options and an appointment slip, and off the patient goes armed with more information than they may know what to do with.
The question is, does the orthodontist that provides very little information attract potential patients that don’t need a lot of information to make a decision and the potential patients that “need more information” go someplace else? Probably not.
So, which is the correct approach? Both if you ask me; as long as what you are providing is not a canned response. Providing a little or a lot of information to a patient should be based on the needs of the patient. Potential patients are in an orthodontist’s office for the most part because they or their dentist believe they need treatment. There are those rare people that come to an appointment without a clue as to why they are there. (THAT is a topic for another article!) I am of the mind that patients will “tell” you what they need to make a decision. They will ask questions, be interested in more than just the cost, and discuss treatment options presented, when presented. But we should be providing enough information that when a potential patient leaves the office they are armed with information that will provide a path forward. Whether that information is treatment, financial, or both, my hope is when a potential patient is asked what they found out they can answer three questions with yes:
Was treatment explained to you?
Do you know the financial options?
Was it a pleasant experience?
Ortho2 products have many options for the paper and the paperless practice when it comes to providing patients with the right level of communication. Edge Animations allows a practice to burn to CD, videos with treatment types, and patient images (you can even record your conference audio). Edge and Viewpoint Imaging provide the paper alternative to the CD. Walk out letters, payment schedules, and proposed contracts are many tools that are powerful to the orthodontist and his staff when providing the right information to make a well informed decision.
In his book “The Tipping Point”, Malcolm Gladwell sites an experiment on college students and tetanus shots. It wasn’t how graphically dramatic the risks of tetanus were presented to the students that caused them to take advantage of free tetanus shots. More simply, providing a map to the campus clinic and a schedule showing students how to fit the tetanus vaccine into their already busy schedule was all the student population needed to tip the scale. We may not need to dramatically present the severity of the malocclusion. Perhaps, we need only provide a map and a “schedule” of how we are going to get to the smile of their dreams.
I am working on my over sharing; providing enough information to get the answer I want…I mean need. Sorry honey!
About the Author
Paulette Johnson has extensive experience in the field of orthodontics and business management and over the last 16 years has enjoyed working as an Ortho2 Certified Training Specialist. Paulette is passionate about helping our customers achieve their goals. She does this by identifying opportunities for improvement, developing a plan of action, and teaching clients how to get the most out of their Ortho2 practice management software. Paulette can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.