In business, a traditional S-Curve focuses on business success based on growth and new inputs. It’s a relevant way to evaluate business, but in orthodontia, it can look a little different.
A patient’s value system will dictate where they land on the Curve,
which represents years of orthodontic innovation and treatment options that can help make it easier to move patients into the middle of the S-Curve — where they make a balanced decision on whether or not to accept treatment.
While the decision is ultimately up to the patient, as a clinician, you’re in the best position to help. Your knowledge and expertise can make the difference, and slide patients into that sweet spot.
Here’s what you can do to help.
The common challenges
to get on to the Curve
For many patients faced with needing a bite correction, the key criteria to agreeing to treatment is cost.
Why should they pay an orthodontist when they can get aligners shipped right to them? There’s also the question of insurance and coverage, which is confusing enough on its own for patients.
Quality and speed of treatment are also critical inputs for patients.
They want quality, but they don’t always want to pay for it, or may assume quality comes with any form of treatment available. They also want something that’s fast and effective (eg, it “straightens their teeth”). Finding the sweet spot that ticks all those boxes is near impossible, which may compel patients to seek a solution outside of your practice.
The final key decision point is efficiency.
How many times do they really need to make an office visit for treatment? How does that impact their own time? This depends on the individual treatment plan and the distance a patient must travel to get to the office. It’s different for everyone but the further they have to go, and the more times they come in, can create enough of an inconvenience for them to say ‘no’ to treatment.
Getting Patients Into The Sweet Spot The Sweet Spot The Sweet Spot
The first way to ease a patient into a commitment for care is with transparency.
Don’t feel like you need to hide anything from your patients, and don’t hesitate to defend the quality of your work against cheaper alternatives. Your patient may ultimately place cost above quality, but they’ll have to accept that they get what they pay for, otherwise they may not be compatible for treatment in your office.
Help your patients see both sides of their situation in this way, but remember to keep an even keel. You are the best source of information for your patients when it comes to these procedures, and you don’t want them to stop listening to you because you get defensive or too over-eager in your treatment recommendation. This isn’t a presentation, but rather a direct conversation about them receiving quality care.
Examples of previous success stories that relate directly to your patient’s malocclusion are always helpful in their decision making process. Images and physical examples always increase the understanding of someone without a clinical background, but how you approach your results matters. Patients need to understand that it’s the combination of the product and your treatment approach that made these results possible. Products alone won’t fix the issue.
Another common playbook move you may employ is to quote treatment price based on the length of time to complete the treatment. With many patients desiring a shorter treatment time, there is a quality trade-off decision for them that may require a visual depiction of how far their teeth can actually move in that longer period of time. Would a patient pay for a half baked cake? Depends on how hungry they are and how much money is in their pocket.
In the end, your patient shouldn’t fear going against your treatment guidance. Instead, they should feel like you’ve given them enough information to make an informed decision.
Understand Where They Are On The Curve
Once your patients have expressed interest, their desire for treatment may favor any section on the Curve. For example:
- In South America, many patients stay in braces for 3+ years because it is a status symbol.
- In the U.S., adults living in an urban area may prefer aligners based on their lifestyle.
- “Kids love colors” (colored O’s around the brackets) is a common orthodontic trope, but accurate in most geographic areas.
These are directional triggers, but with cost, quality, speed and efficiency, the “tells” may not be so obvious. To find out what those are, ask. You may have a treatment plan suggestion ready to go, but if it doesn’t address the needs of that patient, it’s a non-starter. Get to know what’s worrying each person and speak to those problems directly.
If money is the problem, ask them what they can afford. If they need financial help, does your practice offer a payment plan? If so, have them speak with someone on your staff who can help. If not, provide patients with a list of financial support services they can look into themselves.
If showing up for appointments is an issue, consider suggesting treatment options that don’t require frequent office visits. For example, ODO provides tools to offer treatment solutions that usually take place in four appointments or less. Through smart treatment planning and utilization of Dental Monitoring technology, two areas of the Curve are addressed.
Set the mood
All of these tips speak more directly to situations where you’ve already got an audience to have a conversation with, but it’s difficult to even get patients in the door. Since this is the only way to get them onto the S-Curve and say ‘yes’ to treatment, start well in advance.
- Develop advertising that focuses on results and quality.
- Give your office the right vibe by making it a warm and friendly place from the moment a patient walks in. Design the waiting room to feel more like a living room and work with the staff to make the environment friendly.
Patients want to feel comfortable from the first moment they engage with your brand, whether it’s in person or through your website so make sure to send a signal of approachability. They will have their own questions to ask, but if the foundation has been laid, they’ll also want to have a conversation and be ready to engage fully with you/your team. Orthodontic treatments can last anywhere from 6 months to 2+ years, so it’s important that the patient feels like they are part of your micro-community.
GETTING TO THE 'YES'
Listening to patients and paying close attention to their mannerisms when any of the S-Curve inputs come up will put you in a position to truly understand their motivations for treatment.
And, if you’ve had the right conversation with them, effectively promoted value and quality, and remained transparent about time and financial investments, patients will trust that you’ll do right by them. Their need-want assessment should put you into place to balance their scale of indecision.
To get more tips on how to engage patients and hear about what issues impact the dental-orthodontic community today, check out the Get it Straight Podcast. New episodes are coming soon.