Podcast: Differences and similarities of patients VS customers

In this episode Dr. Coughlin discusses the differences and similarities of patients versus customers.

Hello and welcome to Ascent Dental Radio. A program dedicated to the balance between the clinical aspect of health care and the business of health care. And now here is your host, Dr. Kevin Coughlin.

kevin-headshotMy name is Dr. Kevin Coughlin, owner and creator of Ascent Dental Solutions. The following podcast is a discussion of the difference and similarities of patients versus customers.

For those of us in the health care industry, my particular expertise is dentistry. For over 34 years I have been practicing dental care in Massachusetts with 14 offices and over 140 employees. I would like the health care professionals, but those particularly associated with dental health to consider patient versus consumer. Is there a difference and should there be a difference? In most cases, I believe the dental profession considers when the mouth is open you’re a patient and when your mouth is closed, you’re a consumer. If you don’t treat both of these in the correct and accurate way, your results to your organization and practice, in my opinion, will suffer.

First during this thought conversation is to consider the patient types. There are generally five types of patients. There are the event-driven, there are the reactive-driven, the proactive-driven, the discretionary-driven and the regenerative-driven.

Of these five classes, the event-driven is when something happens they seek care. If a tooth breaks or they have pain, they come in for a visit. If there is no event, they avoid health care and in particular, dental care.

The reactive-driven patient is they know they should and if something precipitates an issue, they will seek care and treatment. They are simply reactive. They are not proactive.

The proactive-driven patient is tooth-based. The decisions are prioritized one tooth at a time. This tooth is a problem, this area of my health is a problem, I will address it, but they don’t treat themselves systemically or in a whole person type of manner.

The discretionary-driven patient simply says I want to look or feel better and if I have the discretionary income, I will move forward. And the regenerative-driven type patient simply says to themselves, “Is it worth the investment? And if I find value, I will proceed with care and treatment.”

In my opinion, the event, reactive and proactive types are driven by insurance. These patients are a necessary part of a practice but you should understand that in most cases what you will hear for them is the first thing they will say is what does my insurance cover. What is my financial responsibility? If my insurance doesn’t cover it, then I am not going to proceed with care.

The last two groups of patients, which I refer to as discretionary and regenerative types, are non-insurance driven. If they have a problem, they would like to seek care and help and the insurance is just an insularly part of care and treatment.

The following statistics are of interest. The average patient in the United States over 20 years of age spends between $500 and $10,000 per year. If we looked at 1,000 patients, that would equal approximately $500,000 per year. Out of every 1,000 patients approximately 20 patients will say yes to your treatment plan and recommendations. If you could focus on your ability to increase the yes number of patients from 20 to 60, you could increase another $22,000 a year to your organization.

Basically what it boils down to is when you evaluate many organizations and offices particularly in health care, the treatment plan in most cases is acceptable. However, the problem is case acceptance by the patients or i.e. customers, is low. In most cases the poor case acceptance is extremely important for you to focus on to improve the delivery of health care and your overall bottom line to your office and organization.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how well you treatment plan. If your patient or customer is not accepting that treatment plan, your outcomes are going to be poor and your patients and organization will suffer.

In 2009 through 2011, during those two years, approximately 73 percent of the United States’ population saw a dentist. Those between the ages of age 16 and 25 were missing three teeth, and this includes wisdom teeth. Those over the age of 65 were missing nine teeth.

With the population between the ages of 16 and 90, that comes to approximately 60 million missing teeth. In 2011, it was recorded that only 2.1 million implants were placed in the United States. This means that 58 million people, customers, patients missed the opportunity to replace these missing teeth. Again, this is a glaring amount of evidence indicating that the treatments were planned but patient acceptance of doing the treatment was certainly lacking.

You should understand vision and purpose. What is actually in the best interest of your patients or customers; their oral health, systemic health, social health, lifelong health?

In my opinion, when you start as a practitioner or a health care provider and your goal is to focus on lifelong health rather than just oral, systemic, social, you will get a better outcome. Patients or customers will be moved when they understand the value and the value is the goal of lifelong health.

When you evaluate consumers in the United States, data indicates that the majority, 80 percent, will finance purchases over $1,000. If your practice or organization is not offering adequate financial arrangements, whether it’d be through CareCredit, Wells Fargo or other opportunities, this could possibly be part of the reason why case acceptance is poor.

You should also be able to understand and distinguish trust and value. As I like to say, if your patients do not believe, like and trust, or BLT with you, then it is very difficult to get case acceptance. And when you do get case acceptance and the patient does not believe, like or trust in you, I question whether you should provide care and treatment because ultimately it will lead to problems.

My suggestion is you should be focusing on aesthetics, function and structure. If you combine these three elements, you will significantly see an improvement in case acceptance. Understand that some of your patients will do nothing, some will do something and others have to do something.

In the end, to determine whether your case acceptance is adequate and you’re doing a good job communicating and your patient base actually believes, likes and trusts in you, you have to provide tracking. You must understand are your patients making an appointment, yes or no? Are they accepting your treatment, yes or no? Are they referring family and friends to your practice or organization, yes or no? Are they paying for the care and service on the way out of your office, yes or no? What is the revenue that you are generating per day? This data will tell you whether you’re heading in the right direction and whether you’re moving forward in the direction you should be.

In the end, health care providers are held in high esteem. Keep in mind that selling is not negative. If the product has value and service and you’re providing value to your patients, then it is your utmost goal to make sure that not only is your treatment plan acceptable, but your patients are accepting your treatment plan and moving forward.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the podcast. You can get more information on my website www.ascent-dental-solutions.com. My name is Dr. Coughlin and thank you for listening.