Here’s a question for all the dentists out there: “Are you giving your patients and your team your heart?” You might reply, “What the heck does that mean?” Probably sounds totally strange and irrelevant to you, one that you’ve never been asked before. In reality, dentists are most comfortable talking about teeth. Most of the conversations they have are about clinical stuff, new procedures, or “cases that they’re working on.” Other common and less positive conversations amongst dentists include complaining about insurance companies or about how their “staff” is driving them crazy.
Imagine hearing these words from a dentist. “Today I really listened to my patient Mary. I tuned in to her fears, her desires, and her goals for her mouth. After discovering her real needs, I presented a comprehensive treatment plan that was a fit for her, and she accepted the entire plan.” In my 34 years of practicing dentistry, I never once heard a statement that came close to that one. And yet, as dentists, if we are striving for success and fulfillment in both our dental practices and in our personal lives, we need to have more “heart-filled” conversations like the one above. We need to listen well, ask great questions, and say thank-you. Do you allow time in your schedule to listen to your patients’ desires or concerns? Do you seek input from your team members on a regular basis? Do you ask questions to make sure you really understood what they are saying? All of these are “activities of the heart.”
President Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” There’s a lot of truth to that statement; it’s a quote I love and embraced many years ago. It’s true that dentistry is about fixing teeth. It’s also true that dentistry is about oral health. However, the most important truth about dentistry is that it’s about working with people. Dental schools teach us our “hand skills.” They don’t teach us the “heart” skills needed to build strong relationships with our patients and our teams. As a dentist, is it your desire to connect with your patients and team? Is it your desire to help your patients achieve optimal oral health? Is it your desire to have a team that is cohesive, motivated, and happy? If your answer is “yes,” then perhaps you may need some additional training to help you “get out of your head and into your heart.”
Did you know that the most loyal dental team members are those who feel appreciated and respected? At first, I was oblivious to this. And because of it, during my early years in private practice, I struggled with my patients, and my team. For too many years, I thought that all I needed to do was be a good dentist and deliver excellent dentistry. In my blind state, I could not figure out why everyone was so unhappy. I finally woke up and saw the light when a close friend spoke the truth into my life telling me that the reason for my angst was my self-centeredness and my selfishness. Up until that point, I was oblivious to the fact that I was selfish and neglecting my team members. I am ashamed to admit that for too many years, all I thought about were the clinical aspects of dentistry. For too many years, I treated my team members as if they were objects rather than people. For too many years, I had viewed them like machines whose sole purpose was to serve my practice and to help me do more dentistry to make money. Once I changed my self-focus and opened up my heart, my life became more enjoyable, more fun, and my practice production increased. The “new me” listened more, asked more questions, and “came down off of my high horse.”
So how about you? Are you aware that you may be self-focused? Are you aware that your team will offer their best ideas, act freely, and responsibly when they know they are appreciated and cared for? Have you asked them lately to help you solve a problem in the practice? They will be more willing to assist you when they feel safe and know how much you appreciate them, their opinions, and their perspectives.
Want to be free from insurance in your dental practice? Then open up your heart to both your team and to your patients. Do you desire to have more loyal patients, ones that will choose you rather than the dentist who is on the “preferred provider list?” If so, then start listening to your patients and begin asking them thoughtful questions. By doing that, you will demonstrate to your patients how much you genuinely care about their concerns, their desires, their fears, and their goals. Being authentic and real is the best way to have a practice filled with loyal patients.
In 2014, I put patient loyalty to the test. That year, Delta Dental changed its Premiere plan to a fee-assigned program. At that time, about twenty percent of my patients held that insurance plan. After careful consideration, I decided that I could no longer participate for two reasons. First, I felt that their fees were too low, and secondly, I thought that the terms of their contract were too restrictive and invasive. My number one goal was to continue to provide high touch, high quality, and individualized care for my patients.
I am happy to report that I retained most of the patients who were covered under that plan. I’m also happy to report that of those patients who initially left, the majority of them returned after just a few months. Why? In the other offices, they were treated like a commodity, a number. In our office, they knew that we sincerely cared about them, always treating them like members of our family. As an aside, if you and your team are thinking about dropping a PPO plan, you need to assess your relationships with your patients. If they are weak, you will be facing a mass exodus.
And here’s another perspective regarding patient care. When patients know and feel that you have their best interests at heart, most of them will be willing to pay a high fee for your services. In my practice, every year, in January, I increased my fees, usually around 5%. Over my twenty-eight years in private practice, I very rarely had anyone complain about the fees. What’s the moral of the story? Your patients will pay your fees when they know they’re receiving the best care. Remember, providing the best care involves more than just delivering excellent dentistry; it’s about how you make them feel when they’re under your care. When your patients feel respected and important, they’ll go out of their way to tell others about you. In today’s society, in our busy world, now more than ever, people are craving connection.
In conclusion, I challenge you today to open up your heart to your patients and your team. I challenge you today to show up to your practice with a “giving mentality.” Give your patients and your team not only your best clinical and managerial skills but also give them what matters most… your heart! And when you do, you’ll experience more joy, more happiness, more fulfillment, and greater financial rewards. So, what do you say? Are you ready to give them your heart?
Dr. Robert Maguire DDS, MASCL is a dental speaker, coach, practice consultant, and DISC trainer, passionate about leadership and communication. If you’d like more information about Dr. Maguire and how he can help you and your team experience more fulfillment, more joy, and more financial success visit https://www.thefulfillment.coach/ or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.