Close Encounters of the Best Kind

February 28, 2021
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I opted to have and then designed and refined a specific style of practice.  It suited my personality, strengths and talents. For 43 years, it gave me more than I could ever have imagined.  It facilitated a wonderful lifestyle, fulfilled my academic and intellectual curiosity and enabled my drive to contribute through volunteerism and charitable giving.

Along the way, I made friends with many of my patients, something I knew that I wanted from my career, which is why I opted not to become an oral surgeon, as I had originally intended when I entered Dental School.  I wanted long-term relationships.

What kinds of doctor-patient relationships do you want?

Since taking a sabbatical from clinical practice this past July, I’ve been in touch with many of those friends.  The depth of our relationship was something I didn’t fully appreciate.  I do now, which is why I am increasingly energized and passionate about showing others HOW to form and maintain this type of rewarding practice, even with the current conditions.

A referral, relationship-based practice has many advantages.  It facilitates all the aforementioned benefits with many otherbyproducts such as:

1. Greater “best-option” treatment acceptance
2. Price (and income) flexibility
3. Greater patient retention
4. Increased staff satisfaction and retention
5. Increased network and associated opportunities

With new PPE requirements, changed workflow and so many new challenges, one would think that such a referral, relationship-based practice is on a path towards extinction.

It need not.

But it is challenging and requires intentional and strategic modification and adoption of new technologies to deal with the new reality.

SAVE THE RELATIONSHIP MODEL!

The most exciting part of my clinical day was meeting a new patient.  It was an opportunity for me to interact in a meaningfulway and expand my own experience through the interaction.  Yes, the opportunity to help maintain and/or regain someone’s health was important.  That was my “job”.  That’s what brought them into my world.  But after meeting that challenge many times, the thrill was readily surpassed by reward of the experiential expansion I received through each new individual encounter.

CLOSE VS. NOT SO CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

Such rewarding close encounters with new patients are no longer possible.  At least, they’re not possible in the same way.   But they are possible.

On a recent webinar, I was invited to speak about the use of new technologies.  I opted to talk specifically about telehealth because the proper use of this technology is how such close encounters can still be facilitated.

During the webinar, someone in the chat posted “You cannot charge for it in my state”.  My answer was; “even if that were true (and it’s probably not), WHO CARES?”

Is the first encounter with a patient about the money?  If not, what IS the objective?

If the objective of a new patient telehealth visit is to charge for it, diagnose conditions, present treatment, get acceptance and schedule for production, then using such a system might not be the most effective use of one’s time.  It certainly won’t fulfill those goals.

Have we bought into the notion that every second of our patient-time has to have a code or attendant fee associated with it?  Is that what dependance on insurance has forced some to believe?

If, however, the objective is to start a long-lasting, mutually fulfilling and beneficial relationship, then a first encounter that allows full-facial recognition, in a stress-free environment, via atelehealth session is the way to go.  It’s a down payment on a relationship.

Trying to kick-start a relationship while garbed in a face mask and PPE is unreasonable.  Experts estimate that 70 to 93% of communications is non-verbal.  One’s facial expressions and body language convey more than the words we utter can transmit.

When most people come into a doctor’s office their blood pressure and stress levels escalate.  Telehealth, when the person is seated in their home, can actually allow for a more stress-free interaction.  When relaxed, people tend to be friendlier and more communicative.  They also hear and assimilate information better.

Taking the time and using technology to create a positive and lasting first impression pays dividends far into the future.  It certainly did for me.

So, what kind of practice do you want?  What kind of doctor-patient relationship do you want?

What’s the ultimate objective.

When you decide to hang up your handpiece, what do you think your patients will say about you?  Will they care?  Does that matter to you?

Intentional design can result in achievable goals.  Anything less is a crapshoot.  It’s your choice.

To Your Excellent Clarity and Success,

Michael, Laurie, Merideth and the PPS Team

P.S.  Want to discuss how to use telehealth in a way to promote your practice’s goals and objectives?  Schedule a complimentary, 20-minute strategic consultation. SCHEDULE NOW

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Dr. Michael Goldberg is one of the leading educators on dental practice management in the United States.

Michael ran and sold a prestigious group practice in Manhattan and has been on Faculty at Columbia University and New York-Presbyterian Medical Center for 30 years including Director of the GPR program and Director of the course on Practice Management.

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