Help Your Patients Say “No”
Motivated by their concerns and the potential for a solution, new patients calling a doctor’s office to make an appointment for consultation have their eyes firmly transfixed on the prize, solely focused on the desired outcome. Whether they are interested in a slimmer figure, the more youthful appearance of an aging face, better vision, clearer skin, or any of the myriad solutions our clients provide, patients simply want to be the subject of your very best “after photo” or the author of your latest five-star Google review, often without much thought on how to achieve their desired result. No matter their mindset or attitude, or whether they can admit it to themselves (we all love the know-it-all who “just needs to come in to interview the doctor”), patients requesting a consultation are making a dire plea for help in making two decisions: “should I have a procedure” and “by whom should I have it performed?”
YellowTelescope-trained patient care coordinators (PCCs) are well known for their industry-leading in-office booking ratios (every long-term YT client schedules an average of 60-85% of their patients for a procedure on their first visit to the office, without exception). The truly elite among them, however, do not simply help most of their patients get to a “yes” and help them move forward, but they help ALL their patients get to a decision, a conclusive verdict to move forward with a treatment or not, with their provider or another.
Truly talented tacticians have the tools, and the confidence, to help a patient say “no”, either to a procedure, or to selecting their provider. Since 2008, we have developed, and continue to tweak and test, methods to help PCCs help patients make decisions. Some are simple word tracks (i.e. if a patient cites a lower priced quote from a competitor, remove price from the decision and redirect the focus to the providers by asking “if both doctors were free, who would you pick?”), while others are detailed, nuanced processes requiring scores to hundreds of consultations to master (like our famous Gather, Give, Get Phone Call). In this newsletter, we highlight how to make patients’ decisions easier from the first conversation and provide some actionable techniques to save patients from floating out of your office into the ether, the vast, directionless void that is letting them “think about it.”
If, then who
Almost by definition, the decision to undergo an elective medical procedure is emotional – patients hope to alleviate their deepest physical insecurities via relatively drastic measures, voluntarily allowing someone to augment their body. It is our job to use logic to overcome emotion and distill the decision down to one, simple question: does the chance of a successful outcome outweigh the risk of complication? The patient must first decide if they are comfortable undergoing a procedure before they can decide which provider ultimately offers the best chance of success with the lowest risk.
From the first interaction with a patient over the phone, prior to a live consultation, a concerted effort must be made to determine the patient’s potential candidacy for a procedure by asking the right questions. Beyond the basic inquiry into the treatment of interest, a discussion about medical history, physical description, vital signs, measurements, specific symptoms, prior treatments, and level of due diligence already completed by patients will not only illuminate their potential candidacy for a solution (pending a doctor’s examination and recommendations), but it will force them to think critically, often for the first time, about their own physical and mental fitness to undergo a procedure, increasing their confidence to move forward.
Once a potential solution has been identified, patients need a succinct, chronological explanation of what to expect when undergoing the procedure. From basic preparation, time of arrival to the facility, who they will see first, the type of anesthesia, length of time to complete and specific steps taken by the provider during the procedure, level of comfort immediately after and in the coming days, steps taken to alleviate discomfort, timeframe for follow up appointments, to long term indications of final results and additional treatment, a picture needs to be painted for patients to envision themselves moving forward, helping them decide if it would be comfortable to do so, while soliciting any concerns.
This alone can be enough to help a patient decide whether to undergo a procedure, but once a decision to move forward has been made, or at least interest remains once realistic expectations about the procedure have been established, a contingency persists: “as long as I am comfortable with the doctor.”
Much like the didactic inquiry into patients’ candidacy and the chronological description of the procedure and recovery, patients need facts about the doctor and practice to get the “warm-and-fuzzies.” We need to cater to the emotion involved in selecting a doctor by listing their impressive “trust signals.” Let the patient know:
– Where the doctor went to school
– How long they have been in practice
– Their level of training and board certification
– Number of procedures performed
– Anything that might serve as a character reference, like reference to testimonials or community service
Regardless of tenure, any doctor sounds impressive:
“After graduating Wyoming State University, Dr. Smith was admitted to Wyoming State Medical School, the premier institution in the state for medical education, where he was a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society. He performed his residency right here at Campbell County Regional before joining our practice specializing in reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. He has performed hundreds of procedures and takes the utmost care in helping his patients achieve their goals safely. When not practicing here in Wyoming, he travels overseas to perform procedures on medical missions for those less fortunate. He’s a really nice guy and I think you’re really going to like him.”
First, doctors, be directive in your recommendations. A confused mind says “no.” Only give the patient multiple recommendations if you are hoping they won’t select you. Giving the patient their options is good medicine, but narrowing it down to a specific plan in the terms of “if you were my sister/brother, I would recommend _____” will allow the patient to decide on a single plan, not between a choice of multiple plans. They have access to plenty of options for treatment prior to coming into the office; but they come to a doctor to tell them which one is going to provide the best result.
Once a singular recommendation has been made, it’s up to the PCC to help the patient decide. In our clients’ offices, the PCC has already thoroughly educated the patient about the procedure, recovery, and cost, then gained at least a minimal level of commitment from the patient to move forward pending a successful consultation – first on the phone when setting up their consultation, then again in the office prior to meeting the doctor. At the end of the consultation with the doctor, the majority of patients simply reserve a date for their procedure.
It’s not always that easy, however. Patients sometimes have objections to moving forward, and we’ve heard them all: I need to speak with my spouse first; I have to check my work schedule; I have another consultation; I have to check my finances; and so many more. These typically aren’t even the real objection, but the first thing that comes to mind when the anxiety of actually scheduling the procedure spikes.
Too often, PCCs and their providers allow patients to exit their appointment in limbo, to “think about it”, in the hopes that patients might magically come around to a “yes” upon their own volition and call back to schedule a treatment. Held back by a fear of being pushy, PCCs without the right training, tactics, or tenure commit a great disservice to their patients by letting them walk out without having decided on whether to proceed. Where is the patient best equipped to make that decision – alone with their thoughts, or right there in a world-class facility surrounded by clinical experts specializing in just the procedure they are considering?
Here are some tips to help the patient find the true reason behind their hesitation before they leave the office:
– SLOW DOWN – Most of us work in busy medical offices with jammed schedules, and taking the extra few minutes needed to sit with a patient who is deciding can feel painful when you have another few patients waiting to be seen. Whatever patients say their objection is, smile and let them know you understand exactly where they are coming from. Relate the objection to yourself. Then transition into the solution, which will be much more acceptable once the patient’s anxiety has been lowered by feeling heard and understood.
– Ask patients for permission to be candid, and they will always oblige. This allows the PCC to summarize the sequence of events, the information covered, the positive consultation, availability for procedure, the patient’s ability to reserve a date, then ask what the true concern is holding them back:
- “Barbara, do you mind if I’m candid? Thanks, I appreciate it. We’ve spoken a few times now and we seem to get along really well so I feel comfortable being candid with you. When we first spoke on the phone, we talked about your goals, the doctor, the procedures, the recovery, the cost, and the perfect date that works for you to have it done. Before we even met the doctor today, we confirmed everything again and you mentioned as long as the consultation went well you were pretty ready to at least reserve a date. The consultation with the doctor went really well, he feels you’re a great candidate, and you mentioned you didn’t even have any other questions for him. Now it’s time to reserve the date, but you’re still hesitant about moving forward, which we only want you to do if you’re comfortable. So, what’s bugging ya? What is in the back of your mind that won’t let you move forward with the procedure and get the results you’re hoping for?”
– Offer the patient an out, and mean it. As our VP Ed Syring has said for many years, “I love a ‘no’!” Helping the patient get to a decision, even if it is not to move forward, is the goal of the consultation. As a PCC, this allows you to move on to patients who might be more interested, and you can feel good knowing you helped a patient move on from considering the procedure if it isn’t right for them.
- “Barbara, we’re in no rush for you to have your procedure. We do have the date available next month that you mentioned would work perfectly for you, but we can also decide to move things back, or even decide to not move forward at all. Would you feel more comfortable deciding to hold off on the procedure and the results all together for now?”
- As anyone with a toddler can tell you, this can also serve as “reverse psychology.” Once the pressure of booking is completely removed, either the true objection becomes clear to the patient, or the prospect of the results of the procedure outweigh the anxiety of reserving a date.
As soon as you are just as comfortable helping a patient decide against a procedure as you are with them moving forward, you will be more confident in helping them decide. That confidence is infectious, and will be felt by the patient, making them more likely to move forward. Patients are asking for help with a decision, don’t let them walk out without one.
To learn more about how you and your team can be more effective with your patients, contact us at email@example.com.
Quick News and Notes
- Just Announced– The 7th Annual YellowTelescope Training Seminar will be held October 20-21, 2017 at The Mandarin Oriental Miami, the only triple 5-Star property in South Florida, located in the heart of downtown Miami on a private island oasis.
- Sign up now for our deepest remaining discounts by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s no risk in signing up now — you can make 8 monthly payments interest-free, and you can cancel anytime for a 100% refund until 45 days prior to the event. Find out why over 97% of attendees would recommend our event to others by reading hundreds of testimonials by clicking here.
- The Aesthetic Meeting – ASAPS – San Diego, CA – April 27-May 1 – Jon and Ed take the stage yet again, and members of the YellowTelescope and SEOversite executive team will also be available in the exhibit hall. Come by and say hi!
- ASCRS-ASOA – Los Angeles, CA – May 4-9 – for our friends in the field of Ophthalmology, our fastest growing specialty, we’ll be speaking for our third year on a variety of topics to one of the largest medical meetings in the country with attendance averaging well into the thousands. Stop by our booth for the final leg of our California tour
- Vegas Cosmetic Surgery– Las Vegas, NV- June 7-11– We are excited to be returning for our 7th year to VCS. Come see us speak on Branding, Leadership, and Management, plus stop by our booth in the exhibit hall to visit the team and say hi!
- We are excited that our President, Jon Hoffenberg, was published in the February 2017 issue of AE Magazine discussing the best way to hire and retain employees. Click here to read the article.
- Our VP, Ed Syring III, recently published his article “Ethical Upselling: An Actionable Approach to Premium Lens and Laser Upgrades” in Millennial Eye. Click here to read the article.
- Episode #17 of the YellowTelescope YellowTelecast “Best Practices for the Best Practices” Podcast is finally here. To listen to Jon and Ed wax poetic about “The Cost of Conversion”, download the podcast in the iTunes store by searching “YellowTelescope” (no spaces). You can also watch each episode by visiting yellowtelescope.com/podcast. Please subscribe and rate us highly.
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- It’s Official! The Sun Sentinel has awarded YellowTelescope & SEOversite the Top Workplace Professional Award for 2016. We are proud to be among the 22 deserving winners in all of South Florida. This marks the third major award for our great business since 2015, including the Miami Chamber of Commerce 2015 HYPE Entrepreneur of the Year award, and our President being named to the the South Florida Business Journal’s 2015 “40 Under 40” Business Leaders in South Florida. We’d love to have a conversation to learn how we can serve you in the coming year – email email@example.com.