At DentalPost, we talk a lot about applying personality assessments like DISC and EI to the hiring process for better candidate/employer matches and hiring outcomes. We can use these same assessments to better understand our patients and improve care outcomes as well.
One of my favorite aspects of being a dental clinician is the privilege of intimately connecting with the patients who come in and out of my chair on a regular basis. This privilege gives us dental professionals a unique perspective from observing and learning about our patients. Being able to understand a patient’s mindset and psyche is not difficult when you have spent years with them. But being able to do it quickly, with a new patient, is a gift! Learning to do so made me become a better dental care provider and a more productive team member with greater case acceptance rates.
While some people are naturally gifted at intuiting a patient’s attitudes, psyche, fears, hot buttons, and motivations, many are not. The good news is we can all develop an ability to speak into a patient’s reality. In turn, we provide better patient care, no matter what walk of life they come from. Mastering this skillset yields higher case acceptance rates and better outcomes for both the practice and the patient.
When I was a young girl, I learned how to distract my mother from her serious mental health disorder (OCD). This was out of survival for my family’s well-being and benefit. My sister and I mastered how to leverage what motivated her to get the outcome we needed––peace and stability.
When I became a Dental Hygienist, this transferable skill proved invaluable with patients. I believe it’s what made me stand out in the many practices I’ve served over the years. Perhaps this has even accounted for much of my ability to always exceed my employer’s production expectations.
After basic rapport building, I used these three techniques to help me move patients toward the most optimal health decisions. More often than not, it worked even when they were hesitant to move forward with care.
Clearly, we can’t ask patients to take personality tests, but we can begin to understand them by asking casual questions. From studying DISC questions, I found a few that always yielded results. The easiest to figure out was whether they were extroverted or introverted.
The next was determining if their decision-making process required detailed or only high-level information. Sometimes asking about their occupation is helpful in revealing more about them. I’m able to quickly classify them as a “DIS” or “C”. This helps me understand how they typically make decisions or what motivates them to accept the best possible care path.
When I was in dental school, an executive patient of mine gave me The Birth Order Book : Why You Are The Way You Are by Dr. Kevin Leaman. At the time, I had no idea how much it would turn my “chat and polish” into more focused, purposeful, and intentional conversation with patients. It made me want to connect at a deeper level to understand my patients, asking questions that build rapport, but also serve a higher purpose. I’d ask, “Do have any brothers or sisters?” “Who is older and who was younger?”
Patients who were first in birth order tended to make decisions faster while middle children, known to be great mediators and negotiators, wanted more information before deciding. Having had their decisions made for them for much of their formative life, the youngest is typically more amenable and generally accepting of the care recommendation. This, of course, can vary depending on the number of years between siblings.
While we can’t always judge a book by its cover, we can make some reasonable deductions to help us uncover our patient’s motivators. Knowing what makes your patients tick is instrumental in speaking directly into their realities and hidden or not-so-hidden agendas. Some patients are motivated by health, others by their appearance, while others are motivated by wealth or are at least more sensitive to money being spent.
Ultimately, this information helped more effectively present a case. I’d take a composite of these responses and then quickly build a profile to strategize my pitch whether it was Perio or bleaching, I could use what I gleaned from the conversation to gain acceptance.
Let’s say the patient is the oldest child and very likely an I on the DISC personality assessment based on how well-groomed he/she is, how much time and effort they put into their wardrobe, nails, hair, and general appearance, etc. In this case, I would lead with the appearance-based benefits of the service. Sometimes, I’d get an objection, like it was too expensive to fix the hole in their tooth. In this case, I would pull out the mirror to show how and where they would lose the tooth and where the other teeth would shift. I’d educate them on the consequences of not taking care of it in a timely manner by telling them about the cost of an implant and losing other surrounding teeth if left untreated.
Then I’d equate that to something they do care about….you could buy fill-in-the-blank with that money. That always seemed to resonate by speaking right into their reality, goals, desires, etc.
And if health was the main motivator, I’d make sure to lead with how bleaching can promote a healthier mouth by reducing the bacteria that cause cavities and elevating the pH. It should go without saying that any recommendation I made was always in the best interest of the patient. I believe when we provide optimal treatment to our patients, the production will come.
All dental professionals can improve their EI (Emotional Intelligence) and learn to intuit and connect at a deeper level with patients. It just takes a bit of practice, curiosity, and a willingness to listen with your ears and your eyes. When we do this, we improve patient care and outcomes while growing the practice.
Want to work on your EI and DISC game? Visit the Assessments section of DentalPost to learn more.
Posted March 3, 2021
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