Behavioural change management in periodontics

Over this series of four articles we are considering where blockages to uptake of periodontal care exist. In previous articles I considered the following as the four key areas:

1.Initial attendance – the failure to attract patients to the practice

2. Uptake of care (case acceptance)

3. Compliance with preventive strategies on a long term basis

4. Attendance for continuing recall visits.

In the last article we covered the first of these and now I would like to consider the second.

Once you have the patient in the practice, the question arises as to why a particular patient may not take on board the treatment they need. To put it simply, it is the failure to sell the care to the patient. The patient does not emotionally tie into the fact that they need the care and as a result either spend their time and money on something else or go to another practice.

This applies to all aspects of dental care you can provide, not just periodontics.

The belief held by many healthcare professionals is that the main stumbling block to making a purchase is money. This is the belief of a salesperson who knows no better. A Harvard study showed that 94% of purchases are made on a non-price basis so it must be something else that stops the majority of patients purchasing the care. It is actually the perception by the patient of the lack of value or values behind the care you are attempting to provide that will stop them proceeding with the care.

Maximising acceptance

So before you discuss price issues with a patient, you must have got the patient to believe and trust you as to the benefits of the care that is to be provided.

Here are a few ideas on how we can maximise treatment uptake and case acceptance:

• You must make it easy for the patient to access the treatment both physically and emotionally

• Each health professional within the practice must be fully knowledgeable in the areas of treatment to be provided. If the patient perceives a lack of knowledge or understanding then trust will be broken and the patient will walk

• Listen to the patient’s wishes and deliver care ethically in alignment with these. Remember – first do no harm

• Ensure your practice runs efficiently and professionally

• The practice environment must feel, smell and sound right. Touch the patient’s senses appropriately

• Handle the discussion of money in the appropriate way and at the right time. Ensure that the patient understands the value of the care to be provided. This is the area where patient education becomes paramount.

The next article will cover the final issues with regards the uptake of periodontal care.

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