Some of you reading this may cringe, BUT give me a few paragraphs to share how valuable these words can be with implant dentistry or any “want to” type of dentistry that has a larger than average fee. We routinely say in our practice, “We expect the colleagues we work with to bring their brains to work.” My husband often shares with his team that the practice is “our” practice. He encourages the team to have “buy-in” and take on the role of a colleague or stakeholder behavior, not merely a staff member. I realize it is not for everyone in every practice. I also know that when one of us shares, “I’m not the doctor, but in instances like this, I have seen Dr. Majors do some amazing things. May I share that with you?” patients are open to the next part of this conversation. They are in charge of where it goes from this point forward.
What we know from experience and the training that we offer is that misunderstandings concerning implant treatment still run rampant when it comes to many of our patients. My team and I have proved this over the last two decades as we would secret shop the practices that went to the Misch International Implant Institute for clinical training. Before I would offer up our implant team training, we did the research. We researched to discover if we could prove again that with no actual system, no dependable answers were offered to our shopper. Instead, the same “unpredictable” responses to our questions were predictably given by teams with no systems in place.
What we know is that patients’ expectations are at their highest at the initial phone call and that initial visit. If we meet and exceed them here, we have some room for err afterward. Using terms like titanium rod, metal post, or screw-like thing in the bone are very common to our secret shoppers. We find that most of the time left on their own, team members do the best they can with what they know. The problem is everyone knows or has heard (and regurgitates) something different. This inconsistent message is not one of authority, and really offers no confidence to a patient. Having clear cut systems to support these types of treatment is how you can measure your success. The late Dr. Carl Misch once asked an audience before I spoke, “What good is all the clinical training if no one chooses the treatment?” The truth is, the team can pull patients in or push them away when it comes to implant dentistry. If getting them into your chair matters, you might want to lean in about now.
The title of this piece, “I’m not the doctor, but…” is frequently used in our practice and those who we train. We know that the perception of the team member is different than the “rich” doctor. For years, we have witnessed a patient turning to a team member when the doctor walks out of a room and asking some form of, “what did he/she say; what would you do?” This is not uncommon, just not commonly addressed. For me, it’s my lane and where our training specializes. Having systems to set the team and ultimately the patient up for success is what makes the treatment acceptance predictable. Systems don’t fail; people do. Plug good people into a system, and you’ll all experience more confidence. Find the systems that support your great people, and success will be yours.
In my implant book, one of the early chapters addressed the standard answer we share with audiences (and our patients) about what an implant is when someone asks. It’s not the end-all, be-all for every patient, but 98% of the time, it answers their question and leaves them feeling more confident than mixed messages from everyone on the team. If you are a specialty practice, it gets more complicated. It’s the reason my most significant block of business the last 15 years has been educating referring practices and specialists’ practices along with their teams at the same time. Having a group that works together with all saying, “An implant is a man-made root and a man-made tooth or teeth on top are what replace your teeth” creates consistent results and gives a patient confidence in the practice(s). It also allows us to go into our routine lingo about dentures, “a denture does NOT replace teeth because teeth have roots.” I’m not going here; it’s a separate system itself and we are limited by time and space here. Systems support your team, and your case acceptance goes up when they can confidently speak the same language and ensure patients are in the right place.
In our practice and many who attend our seminars and workshops, the doctors realize that patients respond well and believe in a self-assured team member. We are educated and bring our brains to work! We are not mini-robots who push buttons, clean instruments, and become transactional. We are transformational and become a vital part of treatment acceptance. Our doctors can’t be the only ones learning, and they also can’t afford to spend an hour, sometimes two just going through possible scenarios with implant treatment and post-care. A team member often covers the education of the implant process(es) available today, and many times it is long before the diagnosis. It’s the education piece we believe people have a right to know and understand, and it is not confused by the fact that we are “selling” anything at that point.
“Ms. Needmore Time, I’m not the doctor, but helping you understand what might be possible today with implant treatments is my role. Would you be okay if I show you what some of those options look like? This way, when you meet Dr. Wonderful in a bit, you’ll understand more about the treatment options designed to meet your needs and desires.” We are informing them of treatment options with implants and are very specific that until Dr. Wonderful has seen the CT Scan that she/he ordered, we won’t know what your particular options are. It is not uncommon for a trained team member to spend 45 minutes to an hour sharing types of implant treatments, removable and non-removable, as well as understanding why bone is significant and the types of bone in the face. The patient (and their guest) have much more confidence when the doctor comes in, and we often hear, “I feel like I know so much more now, I hope I still have enough bone.”
It’s really the ultimate pre-heat for this type of treatment. The facts are now the facts and not confused with the misconception that the doctor is looking for more treatment to increase the fee. The doctor is looking at bone width, height, and quality, and the patient is leaning in, hopeful of her/ his answers. Don’t confuse education with diagnosing. NO ONE is diagnosing but the doctor. When a patient has been appropriately interviewed on the phone and is interested in implants, we share what will happen when they arrive. They expect this comprehensive care coordinator to help them understand what MIGHT be possible today with implant treatment. We’ve proven over the many years when we do this training that the more they comprehend before the doctor looks at a CT scan or their potentially terminal dentition, the more the treatment acceptance goes up. My second favorite chapter in my implant book is Information vs. Excuses. If you tell me before it’s information if you tell me after…no matter what it is, it is an EXCUSE! Give your patients information and trust the process and systems. I’m not the doctor, but in instances like this, I’ve witnessed many doctors love a team member willing to be an educated colleague when it comes to implant dentistry!
Next time, I’ll discuss “Bone Economics 101” and how the team understanding and conversing on this piece can be a game-changer with your implant case acceptance.