This is actually a massive topic and too much for a single article. There are, of course, loads of reasons why a patient may choose the cheaper treatment instead of the best. They might be confused by the options or they may simply not have the money to afford anything else. However, this is usually not the case. Most of the time, patients pick the cheapest treatment because that is what the dentist has persuaded them to have.
This may be tough to accept but if your patients always have the cheap option rather than the solution which is best for them, it is not your patients’ fault. You must understand that you are the problem. Something is going wrong when you are presenting treatments.
Why is this important?
Okay, that was a negative start. Don’t worry though, we’re going to consider solutions.
However, before we do that, I would like to consider why this topic is so important. Why does it matter how you present treatments and who cares if your patients prefer cheap and cheerful?
To answer that, you need to consider why you provide treatment in the first place. Dental treatment is provided for the patient’s benefit. Therefore, if the patient is not having the most appropriate treatment because of the way that you are presenting the options, you are failing your patients.
Stop doing your patients a favour
One last bit of negativity from me and then I’ll move on. A lot of the time, we kid ourselves into thinking that we are doing our patients a favour by providing them with the least expensive option. If a patient attends with a heavily restored molar tooth with a fractured cusp, you might try to help them out by patching the tooth up. But then what happens if another cusp or more of the tooth breaks away? By this point, you may have lost so much structure that the tooth is completely buggered.
You may think that you’re doing your patient a favour by doing that perfect molar endo but letting them off the hook when it comes to placing a crown. Unfortunately, when that tooth splits and requires extraction, your patient will not thank you for failing to provide a full cuspal coverage restoration sooner.
What’s the solution?
As we discussed at the start of this article, if your patients always plump for the frugal choice, it’s probably you who’s the problem. The good news is that you are also the solution.
Let’s go back to basics. As a dentist, you have a huge amount of knowledge and skill that allows you to solve problems for people. The vast majority of your patients recognise this and that’s why they come to you. It’s vital that you don’t take yourself for granted. Remember how hard you’ve worked to build the ability and experience that allows you to carry out the work that you do.
Once you get this, you will understand that your time is valuable and therefore, if patients require lengthy treatments, there will be certain costs associated with those treatments. If self doubt or hang ups about costs are preventing you from offering more expensive options, take some time to consider why your care is worth it.
Once you start to see your value, the next step is to consider how you’re planning treatment. Are you objectively assessing the patient’s teeth or are you judging what you think they can afford?
This is not fair on your patients. If you are making clinical decisions based on what you think they can afford, you are not offering the standard of care that you are capable of. Your job is to assess the patient’s teeth and decide what is the most appropriate treatment for them. Once you’ve done that, the cost is the cost. If the patient is not able to pay, fine; look for another solution. But you must show your patients the respect of allowing them to make the decision of what they are able to afford.
Put simply, you should decide on what treatment is in the patient’s best interests regardless of cost and present that to them.
Give yourself time to present treatment. Do not rush this. I hear lots of dentists say that they don’t have time but if you are a busy dentist, this is the one thing that you must make time for.
Time spent communicating with your patients is never wasted. Take time to explain why you believe that the recommended treatment is most appropriate for them. If you slow down a bit, you will find that patients make better decisions regarding their care. This leads to your patients receiving a better service and you get to spend more time providing high value treatments.
Taking the approach described above leads to a win-win situation for both you and your patients. Start believing that your time is valuable. Offer treatments to patients based on what you believe is best for them, not what you think they can afford. And finally, give yourself time to do this. These simple changes will dramatically improve the quality of care that you provide and you will find that this is to the benefit of both you and your patients. Everyone’s a winner.