Building a Relationship of Trust – Five Reasons Why Your Patients Don’t Trust You – Yet

Building a relationship of trust: as dental specialists we continually work on building a relationship with the dentists that refer to our offices. This is an opportunity that we refine, rework, and reapply over the period of years. However, when it comes to patients, we have a very limited opportunity to establish a relationship of trust. The building of this relationship can start as early as the referring dentist’s chair or as late as the specialist’s chair. Below are some tips about building a relationship of trust with your dentists and patients, and how Engage Dental offers the tools to make that happen.

Since we are talking about building a relationship of trust, we should assume that one does not already exist between the specialist and the patient. In the case of endodontists there are five reasons why a patient may not already trust you:

1. Root canals hurt.

2. Root canals are expensive.

3. It’s too inconvenient to go to another doctor.

4. My dentist can do root canals.

5. All endodontists are the same.

Below I will touch on these five items, and how the tools offered by Engage Dental will help the dental specialist to connect with doctors, patients, and the community and engage them in a relationship of trust that will bring a more confident, calm, and trusting patient to your chair.

1. Root canals hurt.

The primary motivating factor for the majority of patients is pain. If they think that a root canal is going to be painful, they will go to anyone who can prevent it from being so. Face it, you love it when you have finished treatment and your patient says, “Wow! That was great! And it didn’t hurt either.” It’s a message that you love to hear, and most of the time you register it, say thank you, and move on to the next patient. When that happens, you have just let your new best advocate walk out your door without harvesting the fruit of your skill and effort. You hope that they will spread the word (especially to the referring doctor), but you have no way to assure that the feeling of that moment is captured and shared with everyone they know.

Your outgoing message should primarily address or recognize that treatment in your office does not hurt. However, patients will not trust your word as much as the testimonial of other patients. When your patient makes a comment about how painless treatment really was, you should identify that the reason is because of your experience, training, and caring, then follow-up and ask them to do a review using one of the many options available in the world of social media.

At Engage Dental we will incorporate methods of garnering reviews and feedback from any of the available resources on the web. One way we have implemented this in our office, Elm Endodontics, is to create an online survey that we email to the patient. At the end of the appointment I tell the patient that we will be sending them a survey, and that we would appreciate them leaving comments for future patients to help reduce any anxieties they may have about their future appointment. Before the patient leaves the office staff at the front desk also remind them of the survey and our appreciation of their review.

At the end of the survey patients have the option of going to a review site of our choosing. This can be the client’s own website, Yelp!, Google Places, Dr. Oogle, or Facebook. The patients’ words, “It didn’t hurt.” Have more value to future patients than anything else that could be said. Don’t let those opportunities disappear by using the power of your website to capture what your patients have to say.

2. Root canals are expensive.

The second motivating factor is cost. This is where the patient’s insurance comes into play. Your message should communicate that there is value in what you provide. Value means that the treatment will ultimately cost them less whether you are in-network with their insurance or not. There is no one item to communicate this value. IF the patient makes it to your chair, sees your office, sees your equipment, feels your compassion, and understands your experience, they may understand the value of your services. However, we are trying to establish this relationship of trust before they even arrive. What you really want the patient to say is, “Yeah yeah. I already know all that from your website. Let’s get on with it.” Below are a few ideas of how your website can communicate this value prior to the patient’s initial contact with your office.

Discussing re-treatment cases on your website may lead patients to understand that not all root canal treatment is equal. If you are seen as someone who has great experience in fixing problems associated with endodontic treatment, then you are also likely good at not creating them in the first place. We encourage the use of your blog to convey this message. Posting to your blog is as simple as writing the content, preparing the graphic elements, and emailing these items to us. From there Engage Dental will take care of the rest by posting to your blog. You don’t have time to organize and optimize so we do that for you. Making you look good and be optimized for search engines is our goal. Many companies will provide you with a blog for your site, but Engage Dental is unmatched in their blog posting service.

Use your financial policy area to discuss how you charge for services. In my office we don’t try to charge for every available code. We charge for treatment and a filling. If no treatment was rendered then we usually charge an exam fee. Patients who go to an in-network provider may pay less per procedure, but may also be charged for the exam, an x-ray, an additional x-ray, pulp vitality testing, complication fees, and finally the treatment fee. I feel that my office is fair and straightforward in how it charges for services. Discussing this difference can help patients feel better about coming to your office out-of-network. All Engage Dental sites integrate a patient registration module to guide patients through the most important pieces of information before coming to the office. This area is a good place to discuss this aspect of your service.

Overall Wow! If your site is generally impressive, you may not need to say any of these things directly. The patient will likely be quickly convinced that you are the doctor to see. The sites at Engage Dental are visually striking, easy to navigate, and filled with quality content. These factors all contribute to convincing the patient that although you may cost a little more, you clearly stand above the competition.

3. It’s too inconvenient to go to another doctor.

The third factor that may prevent a patient from establishing trust with your office is inconvenience. No one wants to drive to a new location, fill out new paperwork, and meet a new doctor. It’s a hassle that requires coaxing by the referring doctor to get the patient to go. There are two tools that can help motivate the patient to overcome the inconvenience barrier: their doctor and your ability to communicate your message through your website and social media.

If the referring doctor is sold on your services, then they will have little difficulty in selling their patient on seeking your services. Your marketing efforts in this department should be directed at the dentist in a way that educates them on the convenience and efficiency of your services. This can be done with thorough communication with the general dentists in your community about what you do. Take time to complete detailed reports with photos and labels, which will be the first indicator about the quality of your care. Reinforce that message with testimonials from your patients that are either written or produced on video. If your patients leave comments on your Facebook page or on review sites, be sure to direct the attention of your general dentists to what their patients are saying. It won’t be long before the patients’ words become the doctors’ message to convince the patient to see you over any other endodontist in the area. Engage Dental produces visually appealing electronic newsletters with powerful email campaigns that use content from your site to show your doctors that you care and that you are competent.

One of my favorite doctors sends his patients from a great distance, past three other endodontic offices and out of network from their insurance to seek care in my office. Before his patients even arrive at my office, they are convinced that I am the best and that their treatment will not hurt. They are willing to accept the inconvenience because their dentist has sold them on specialty endodontic care in our office. We cannot sit back and hope this message gets across to the referring dentist. The documentation power of our office software combined with the use of email, our website, social media and service review sites all make it simple to send the message of your choice to your referring doctors.

In addition, if patients clue in to your website and your social media presence, they will be further convinced that the effort to go to a specialist is worth it. This is especially true if they have heard it from friends on social media such as Facebook. When they see a post from their co-worker that says, “I had a root canal at Elm Endodontics, and it was great… and it didn’t hurt.” They will remember that message even months down the road when it’s time for their root canal. This becomes even more powerful if their post generates a discussion.

4. My dentist can do root canals.

The fourth factor that may prevent a patient from seeking care in your office is the idea that their general dentist can do it. To break this guessing machine you will need to contrast what makes you different than their dentist. Is it your skill? Your equipment? Your patience? Your gentle touch? The patient needs to know they should seek specialty instead of general care.

We have attempted to send this message by discussing root canal re-treatment on our website. There are several case reports of why root canals fail, and how specialty care fixed the problem. The underlying message however is, “This mis-treatment never should have happened in the first place if the patient had sought treatment from the right endodontist.”

In addition, their general dentist with the proper education will learn that they shouldn’t be doing many of the treatments that they are doing. The more you engage these dentists and expose them to the level of care that a microscope and CBCT equipped endodontist can offer, the honest dentists will quickly come to the understanding that they cannot perform at that level and will begin referring patients.

The old way to accomplish this was to print some newsletters and mail or personally deliver them to targeted general dentists. The new and better way is to allow Engage Dental to generate digital newsletters that bring the dentists to your website where they can view specific cases, and where they can find interest in many other complex cases as well. This task becomes easier the more you engage them on forums such as Facebook, Twitter, and email.

5. All endodontists are the same.

I believe the final obstacle to trust that may keep a patient from seeking care in your office is that you are no different than any other endodontist. If their dentist hasn’t told them otherwise, then they are left to their own resources to discover who to go to. In my area there are several dentists that hand the patient a list of multiple endodontists and let the patient choose. If that patient decides to do a little research and look you up online, they will choose the one with the most attractive message. The better your website and your on-line social presence, the more likely you are to attract that patient.

The better your website and online social presence, the more likely you are to attract that patient.

I have had several friends get referred by their dentist to a different endodontist, and yet they have ended up in my chair. Why is that? It is because they know me and trust me. If patients can get to know you before they meet you, then they will trust you more than a faceless specialist. They can do this by looking over your Facebook page, reviewing your Twitter posts, or by watching a video of you if you have taken the time to make one. All of these efforts build an online presence that helps you establish a relationship of trust before you even meet the patient.

One of my first goals with my website was to create a video so that patients can meet me before they ever come to the office. I was banking on the assumption that if they met me online they would like me and arrive at the office more at ease. I no longer get the statement, “Wow! You look like you’re twelve years old.” They’ve already had a chance to think it, accept it, and move on. It’s one less obstacle of trust that I need to overcome. Even better than a video about myself would be a video from patients about their experience – that is coming next!

Engage Dental provides multiple tools and visually powerful options to display video on your site. Assuming you come across well on camera, taking the time to produce a video will work wonders for your relationships with your patients and doctors.

If you have taken some of the recommended efforts to reach out to dentists in your area and engage them personally or online, then they are more likely to encourage the patient to seek care in your office rather than a different endodontist. In other words, convince the dentist and you’ve convinced the patient. If the patient isn’t yet convinced, then your website should seal the deal. We would all love to be able to build these relationships in a personal face-to-face manner, but the reality is that we do not have the time to do so. Social networking and social media have made it possible to build these relationships in less time and with potentially less effort than we could in the past. Social media is not a matter of gimmicks, but simply a tool to enhance your referral relationships. Embrace these tools, and your dentists will embrace your message that their patients are better off in your office. Let the staff at Engage Dental help you build these relationships.