“I’m not the doctor, but …”

JoAn Majors discusses how predictable responses from team members can help patients to understand the implant process before the clinician enters the conversation.

JoAn Majors shows the power of the “preheat” when a well-trained team can instill confidence with implant patients

With implant dentistry or any “want to” treatment with a larger fee, the words, “I’m not the doctor, but …,” can have a powerful impact on innocently “preheating” anything from bone economics to fees from a well-trained team member sharing critical information.

In my husband’s dental practice, we try to avoid hiring “staff members.” We choose to treat our dental team as “colleagues” or “stakeholders,” and they, in turn, understand that expectations are high, and the rewards are high as well. My husband routinely shares that he expects his “colleagues” to bring their brains to work. When one of us shares, “I’m not the doctor, but I have seen Dr. Majors do some amazing things in instances just like this. 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.

We know from our practice experience and the training that we offer at the Misch International Implant Institute that misunderstandings concerning implant treatment can still run rampant with patients. My team and I have witnessed this over the past 2 decades as we would “secret shop” the practices whose doctors were at the Institute for clinical training. Before I ever offer our implant team training, we do our research. We discover that, in some practices, if no existing system to answer questions consistently is in place, no dependable answers are offered to our shopper each year. Instead, teams inevitably offer the same “unpredictable” responses to our questions.

Patients’ expectations are at their highest at the initial phone call and initial visit. If we meet and exceed them at that time, we have room for error afterward. Using terms such as titanium rod, metal post, or screw-like thing in the bone is very commonly heard by our secret shoppers. Most of the time, if left on their own and without additional information, 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 offers little 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 often asked an audience, “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 for those whom we train. We know that the patient’s perception of the team member is different from the “rich” doctor. For years, we have witnessed a patient turning to a team member when the doctor walks out of a room, asking some form of, “What did she/he say?” or “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 up the team, and ultimately the patient, for success makes treatment acceptance predictable. Systems don’t fail; people do. Plug good people into sound systems, and you’ll all experience more confidence. Find the systems that support your great people, and success will be yours.

Having clear-cut systems to support these types of treatment is how you can measure your success. The late Dr. Carl Misch often asked an audience, “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.

One of the early chapters in my implant book addressed the standard answer we share with audiences (and our patients) about how to describe an implant when someone asks. It’s not the be-all-end-all for all patients, but 98% of the time, it answers their question and leaves them feeling more confident rather than getting mixed messages from everyone on the team. It gets more complicated for a specialty practice. It’s the reason my most significant block of speaking business in the past 15 years has been educating the referring 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 that are fit on top to replace your teeth,” creates consistent results and gives a patient confidence in the practice(s). It also allows us to go into our common lingo about dentures, “A denture does not replace teeth because teeth have roots.” Systems support your team, and your case acceptance goes up when they can confidently speak the same language and assure patients they’re in the right place.

In our practice and many we work with, the doctors realize that patients respond well to and believe a confident team member. We are not mini-robots who push buttons, clean instruments, and become transactional. We are educated and bring our brains to work! 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 that comes long before the diagnosis. It’s the education piece we believe people have a right to know and understand and is in no way confused with “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 it be okay if I show you models of some of these options? This way, when you meet Dr. Wonderful in a bit, you’ll understand more about the treatment options that she/he will discuss designed to meet your needs and desires.”

We approach this with much curiosity to learn their wants and educate them about treatment options with implants. We are intentional and very specific that we won’t know the patient’s particular options until Dr. Wonderful has seen the CT Scan that she/he ordered. It is not uncommon for a trained team member to spend 45 minutes to an hour sharing types of implant treatments, removable and nonremovable options, and understanding the types of bone in the face, and why bone is significant. They 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 the ultimate preheat for this type of treatment. The facts are now the facts and not confused with the misconception that the doctor is looking for more types of treatment to increase the fee. The doctor looks at bone width, height, and quality, as the patient is leaning in, hopeful of their answers. Don’t confuse the education piece. No one is diagnosing but the doctor. When patients have been appropriately interviewed on the phone (this is a system) and are interested in implants, we share what will happen next. They expect the comprehensive care coordinator to help them understand what might be possible today with implant treatment. There are personality types who don’t need or want this extra time. It’s generally the “D” or dominant style — one of four styles originated from William Marston’s DISC® model —  that can make decisions quickly and want only the bottom line to do it. The rarest type, dominant personalities form approximately 9% of the worldwide population.

We’ve proven over the many years when we do this training, that the more patients comprehend before the doctor looks at a CT scan or their potentially terminal dentition, the more the treatment acceptance increases. My second favorite chapter in my implant book is “Information versus 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 who is willing to be an educated colleague when it comes to implant dentistry!

See you on the road or on the web!

Soft skills and predictable responses go hand-in-hand when explaining treatment to patients. Read more about delivering tough news to patients at: https://implantpracticeus.com/soft-skills-can-help-you-deliver-tough-news-to-your-patients-and-their-parents/

JoAn Majors, RDA, CSP®, CVP, is the content creation specialist and cofounder of The Soft Skills Institute, LLC, a National AGD PACE provider. She has earned a CSP — Certified Speaking Professional — the highest global designation for a professional speaker from the National Speakers Association and is also a Certified Virtual Presenter.  Published in over 25 magazines and newsletters, her first book on implants has trained thousands of implant teams. She holds the team-training faculty position for the world-renowned Misch International Implant Institute. She offers her signature Soft Side of Implant Dentistry training program through the Institute and privately to groups and DSOs followed by virtual and online implementation modules, available on any device anywhere. She offers scalable and affordable training to meet the needs of today’s busy providers and teams. JoAn’s platform voice and writing voice are similar to her storytelling style. She is a member of multiple organizations and associations and serves on the advisory board for DeW Life magazine. An ambassador to select dental companies, she still serves weekly as the Comprehensive Care Coordinator in her husband’s practice. Finally, JoAn also works with organizations on strategic messaging that resonates with doctors and teams in today’s COVID-19 climate. To learn more or see her in action, visit www.joanmajors.com.

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