In the dentist-patient relationship, we have two roles – provider and advocate.
The provider is the clinician, the one who performs dentistry and directs clinical services. Patients pay our fee for being providers for clinical services. The advocate is the advisor, the one who guides, supports, and encourages. Our fee for being advocates is paid by patients for examination and consulting services. Your principal role as an advocate is to help your patients make healthcare decisions regardless of their impact on your provider role.
The more you keep your advocate role clear in your mind and evident to the patient, the more your patients will trust the clinical recommendations that benefit your provider role.
It’s essential to keep these two roles separate. Because of the economic pressures of profitably operating a dental practice, there’s potential for conflicts of interest if the roles of advocate and provider are inappropriately linked.
For example, if you take advantage of your advocate role and recommend complex care, which benefits your provider role when simpler care would meet a patient’s needs, you have violated your advocate role, along with dental ethics and standard of care issues. This potential for conflicts of interest mandates dentistry is licensed and regulated to ensure that advocate and provider roles don’t get confused.
When you have it clear in your mind, the distinction between your advocate and provider roles is when patients consistently experience a high standard of caring.
You and your team must stay in your advocate role during new patient appointments. I recommend you consider changing the title of team members who help patients with financial and insurance issues. Instead of calling them treatment coordinators, try calling them patient Advocates. This communicates value to patients more so than their job function label.
When presenting care, stay in your advocate role.
You see, providers present treatment in terms of inputs – crowns, bridges, implants. Advocates present treatment in terms of outcomes – comfort, confidence, peace of mind. For complex care dentistry, presenting care from the perspective of preferred outcomes far outperforms presenting inputs. Outcomes are far easier for patients to understand and help them imagine how dentistry can benefit their lifestyle. Talking about outcomes signals your high standard of caring and gives patients confidence to endure the rigors of complex dentistry.
A good comparison to the dual roles of dentists is the two roles that some fee-based financial advisors have. For example, let’s say you hired a financial advisor to help you plan your overall financial needs: home purchase, insurance issues, investments, and retirement. If you want a nice house and have trouble understanding how you can afford it, she helps you find the way to make it happen now or later; or she may recommend that you consider a smaller home. She doesn’t build the house; she helps you make smart decisions.
This is what your advocate role is; helping your patients make smart dental healthcare decisions and discover how they can fit complete dentistry into their lives. You guide them to find a way to make it happen now, or later, or a little at a time.
Your principal role as an advocate is to help your patients make healthcare decisions regardless of the impact on the provider role. The more you keep your advocate role clear in your mind and evident to patients, the more patients are influenced to accept the clinical recommendations that will benefit your provider role.
If improving your new patient experience and treatment acceptance is important to you, consider visiting Treatment Acceptance Mastery.