In a dental office it’s not only how you ask questions but the way that you respond to them as well that makes the difference in patients acceptance levels of their diagnosis. Once you start using these questions and responses you will see a marked difference in patient acceptance.
Building trust with your patients comes by asking them questions not only about their dental concerns but about themselves. Finding ways to connect with every patient is a skill that needs to be worked on if it isn’t in your natural skill set. The purpose of building a trust relationship with your patient, will help your patients feel on more of an equal footing with you and will allow the patients to feel they have a say in the decision making surrounding their dental care.
When speaking with patients about treatment allow for a pause in conversation. This pause will allow the patient’s brain time to catch up and process what you have just said so that they can ask questions that are important to them. This pause might seem uncomfortable at times but if you watch the patients facial expressions you will be able to read when they have caught up to you and then you can speak again or you can ask them a question to ensure that they are on board with you.
If you use only closed ended questions with your patient it will allow them to give you a yes or no answer which means they may have not processed the information that you have presented. An example of this would be if you finished your treatment presentation by saying, “Would you like to go ahead with this treatment?”
Using open ended questions allows the patient to think while talking and giving their answer. This will allow you to learn more about their decisions and they will feel that they have more control in their dental care. Some examples of open-ended questions would be, “What matters most to you?” or “What is the challenge with this for you?” When using this approach always provide a follow up question after their first response as they may have come up with some other thoughts while they were speaking, you could say “Tell me more about that …” or “Is there anything else you would like to add?”
You will want to avoid starting a question with “why” as this can make the patient feel defensive, as if you are questioning their thoughts and reasons. If you use “what” instead of why your patient will feel more comfortable giving you their reasons. Some examples would be “What else are you wondering about?” or “What can I do to help?” Once a patient has provided you with their answer it is always a good idea to echo back their response to ensure that you have understood what they have said. A couple of examples of these statements would be “To make sure that I am clear …” or “I want to make sure I understand …”
You always need to reply to a patient’s statement before moving forward in your presentation. Your reply to the patient will validate that you have been listening to them and not just moving forward with your own agenda. It could be as simple as “Great, I like that” or “I agree.” If you haven’t listened to the patient, then you have broken the trust that you have been building.
If you have read this article and you feel that you are doing all of this, you can challenge yourself and record your next treatment presentation and see what it actually sounds like. If you aren’t happy with the results then do some role playing with your team while recording to change your presentation patterns of speech.