Why You’re Not Just a Clinician, You’re an Oral Health Coach
“There has been a definite shift among the population from wanting to be regarded as patients, to one in which they view themselves as health care consumers with unique concerns, expectations and needs.” Peter Barry, Practice Mastery
COVID-19 has changed our map of the world. But has it also changed how we practice dentistry? As offices begin to soft-open all around the country, they will be challenged to question how and why they do everything, and whether or not it is effective. Patient expectations have changed as well. They became comfortable with technology and new platforms, and are consuming health related information at a higher level than ever before. Virtual consultations are part of the new healthcare consumer model. How can you use them to attract more qualified patients into your practice, when you are already stretched so thin?
You must shift your mindset to that of an oral health coach, guiding clients toward their next level of health, at their own pace, within their ability to pay. It’s more like courting than speed-dating or love at first sight. Coaches empower their clients to new levels of self-discovery by asking the right questions that hit them emotionally. You have to help them fit what they want into their lifestyle. When you do they will be asking you how fast you can get started.
What is the difference between education and coaching?
A clinician is focused on diagnosing a problem, and offering a solution. In school, we were taught to educate, explain WHY someone is in the situation they are in, and tell them what to do to prevent their disease from continuing. It usually sounds like a speech. We say the same things to different patients all day long. They diagnose and treat model is outdated. Little emotion is exchanged, and patients are left to figure out how and if they will afford the treatment you recommended. Also, will they be able to maintain it, if they don’t make all the changes you stressed? Will it be worth it? As they start to come up with questions, you’ve already moved on to the next operatory. And we wonder why case acceptance is low.
In the oral health coaching model, we ask the patient questions FIRST, to find out what is most important to them based on their current problems and desires. We empower them to have their own a-ha moments about why they are in the situation they are in so that they can move from being reactive to proactive. Oral Health coaches empower clients to choose their treatment, based on their financial wellness level. This process takes time and multiple touch-points. It has nothing to do with you “closing a big case.” Honestly, it has nothing to do with you, period. It’s a relationship based on you serving them, once they figure out what they desire.
An oral health coach helps a patient:
- Define their problem
- Define their goals
- Visualize and connect with how their life would improve if they had it
- Figure out why they don’t have it already (the gap)
- Figure out what they need to change in their life in order to achieve it (close the gap)
Motivational interviewing is a popular series of questions used in health coaching. Primary care providers are now using it to empower behavioral change in patients who have not changed due to “education” in the past. Change is a process that requires the patient to desire the outcome bad enough that they take different actions. They have to want it, and believe it is possible. They are looking for someone to empathize with them. To really hear their story and understand. When they find that, they move through the stages of “Know” / “Like” / “Trust” much faster.
People don’t make changes because they should, they make them because they desire a specific outcome, and feel certain that it is safe for them to have it. If they don’t trust you, they are not going to move forward. You don’t plan a wedding after the first date. If you feel heard, understood, and empowered, you ask for a second date.
Why you should add a virtual patient advocate to your team
“School doesn’t prepare you for what happens before a patient says yes to treatment, just what happens after.” Dr. Paul Homoly
If you aren’t comfortable with the role of “coach,”, our partner Dr. Homoly suggests you assign a team member to it and give them a title such as Patient Advocate versus Treatment Coordinator. A patient advocate should have a high level of emotional intelligence and understand how to guide a patient through the financial process, which is often the biggest barrier to treatment.
They should study the coaching process, and be comfortable using a virtual consult platform, as it removes the fear of aerosols, is cost-effective, saves chair time, and allows busy professionals to meet multiple times from their home or office. Make sure you offer night and weekend virtual appointments as well.
If you do this right, people will already know what they want, and what they can afford by the time they are in your chair. You will be able to stop selling dentistry, and simply help people achieve their goals in a time frame that works for them.
Sounds amazing right? It is. This is one of the positive changes that has come out of the stay-at-home order. Providers were forced to be innovative and set up virtual services. Patients now expect it.
No more spending thousands of dollars each month attracting new leads that don’t covert. No more stressed-out team members tired of chasing people who were “just wondering.” Oral Health Coaching is dentistry’s future.
Are you ready to add a virtual patient advocate?
If you would like to explore how Driven Dental Implant Marketing is changing the marketplace and implant consult process by offering a Virtual Patient Advocate to deliver qualified patients to your chair, book a strategy call today.