What makes a good or bad visit to the dentist?

Behavioural research into why dental patients decide to complain or sue, demonstrates that more than 50% of the patients who take things further will have decided to do so, because they didn't like the clinician, his nurse or colleagues personally.

The research goes onto show that taking this further against the dentist or his team is something that they have thought about even before the alleged negligence has come to light! (Mangels et al).

Alarming, isn’t it? But consider the following:

• Human beings don’t have time to double check everything that occurs to us or happens around us. This is because in the modern day, so many things happen all at once and life is – quite literally – too short to pay attention to all of them.

Instead, rather like a dentist deciding its time to fit a crown or make an extraction, we must rely on tried and tested presenting symptoms that are familiar – and evidence we see before us that is able to guide our behaviours.

The brain engages in speed reasoning. This is when we form ideas and thinking based on assumptions and experiences we’ve had in the past. Even now you might be considering if what I am saying fits with your model of the world. Sometimes, the brains propensity to take shortcuts in this way, can lead to pitfalls and dangers.

Heuristics are pretty much an indispensable pattern of being human, during the course of everyday life. They are often short bursts of automatic behaviour. Some people refer to it as jumping to conclusions, triggered by a key stimulus.

So, let’s take dentistry for example, as a key stimulus.

The representativeness heuristics (in other words, what patients are expecting in the future) of patients who, according to Department of Health research in 2009, report having a bad experience boils down to several assumptions:

Time They feel that they will be rushed for time with the dentist and his staff, they will be rushed through rather like on a conveyor belt. Also experience poor punctuality and indeed inflexible booking times to fit in their working day.

Lack of communication This is relating to a lack of discussion time as if the dentist and the team weren’t really listening and being given options for treatment and care. Which makes the patient immediately feel suspicious, lacking in trust and, therefore, more likely to complain.

Coercion They have a perception that they must attend regular six-monthly check ups and, mandatorialy, must to be seen by the hygienist at extra cost just to stay on an NHS list.

Lack of softer values Included the perception that the waiting room would always be crowded and untidy, there were insufficient pleasurable distractions to keep their minds off things and possibly there was poor soundproofing so that you could always hear the drill.

Price Many felt uninformed about pricing and what they could expect to pay for most common treatments. They felt that they were likely to be random charges and plucked out of the air and that they were under pressure to just accept the costs since options were limited of freedom to go elsewhere.

So, for this reason, dentists, their staff and the patients ought to contemplate the insights to provide the heuristic representations of a positive dental experiences. In other words, attempt to break the mental mind set mould.

Some of these include:

Time Most patients who report feeling satisfied usually only need to be listened too properly, for no more than 3 minutes

Good chairside manner Patients want to be ‘treated well and made to feel at ease'. Thus educating the manner and style of the dentist or his team, as to how they talk to their patients is a major point for consideration.

Options Patients particularly appreciated being presented with options and choices in terms of treatment and approach and if relevant cost. They perceive value sometimes in the ‘wait and see' approach, or a temporary solution if possible and how this can ensure patient satisfaction and customer loyalty. They place enormous emphasis on being involved in the decision-making process in their own care. ‘Have a discussion about me but not without me' is the theme here!

Good service Easy recalls and reminders about appointments to encourage consistent care and good follow up, together with softer values that patients rate well, too. These include helpful staff who appear relaxed and welcoming, a clean reception, and an ‘at ease’ feel about the place. Using patients first names, having posters on the ceiling, maybe a plasma TV and highlighting the fact that there is lots of modern equipment, too, puts patients in an easier frame of mind.

Costs A full and frank method of demonstrating what the treatment costs are likely to be and how these are arrived at. This is, in order to avoid having patients feel like they’ve been ripped off… especially if their perceptions that the dentist and his team have been following agreed pricing protocols. i.e menu or standard pricing.

Anthony Asquith, of Dentcom Training, is speaking at Dentistry LIVE, 7-8 June 2013.

Knowing me, Knowing You, Knowing Your Team!

11.30 – 13.00
  • Want to avoid being sued or complained about?
  • Would you like to feel less stressed dealing with other people at work and at home?
  • Want to increase your acceptance frequency of treatment plans?

Answered yes to any or all of these questions?

This is the session you need to be in on!

Anthony Asquith is a brief solution focused hypnotist and psychotherpist who works exclusively within the dental profession running Dentcom Training (Website www.dentcomtraining.co.uk). He and his team have organised and run hundreds of workshops during the last 8 years and has inspired thousands of dental professionals in their personal development.

He will be introducing DISC personality profiling as the Model of Human Behaviour and it’s successful use in dentistry to help you achieve the things listed above.

Here’s what one delegate said just recently ‘This course could not come any quicker as it helped me not only in my work but marriage/family life’

The presentation will feature several fun videos of famous people in action and many real life dentistry scenarios in order to help you bring this to the forefront of your mind both at work and home.

To book onto Dentistry LIVE, call 0800 371652 or visit http://2013.dentistrylive.co.uk/ for more.


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