From Emergency to Complete Care: A Three-Step Guide from igniteDDS

With dental emergencies – in particular cracked teeth – on the rise due to stress related to the coronavirus pandemic, we decided to ask David Rice, DDS, founder of igniteDDS to share his best approach for squeezing in dental emergencies during regular office hours and how to convert those emergencies into comprehensive care patients.

The theory

  • Emergencies in our practices are either a stressful distraction, or a massive opportunity to deliver tremendous care and production.
  • Understanding how to convert your emergencies into complete care patients is key.
  • Having a team-wide strategy to convert your emergencies into complete care patients in the same day is game-changing.

The keys

  • Scheduling time: Before knowing better, most practices squeeze emergencies in, whenever and wherever they can. Scheduling 30-45 minutes based on the number of team members and treatment rooms available will transform your ability to convert your emergencies to highly productive, same-day treatment.
  • Emotional connection: When patients present with an acute problem, they’re paying When patients are paying attention, we have a unique opportunity to reach them.
  • Creating urgency: When we squeeze patients in and manage their emergency, one of two results typically They’re disappointed, as they imagined treatment would be performed. They disappear for months to years until their next emergency. When we have the scheduled time, can emotionally connect, and create urgency, we’re highly productive day-of and highly productive in our follow-up.

The Steps

1. Scheduling time: Begin each day (at your huddle if you have one) by identifying all available emergency times. These can be on a doctor or hygiene schedule.

2. Making an emotional connection: When your emergency patient(s) present, ask great questions. You have two goals: Get an accurate history and emotionally connect them to their problem.

  • When did XYZ begin? Beyond the clinical, what you’re learning is this patient’s baseline for caring about his or her oral health. Two months ago is a very different patient than two hours ago.
  • What makes it better? Yes, we want to know what the nerve status may be. More importantly, what we’re really setting up is what may be coming their way if they don’t treat now.
  • What makes it worse? Per our last question, we’re often learning about plural status. We’re also getting our patient very involved in their problem that they contacted us for.
  • On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the worst, where are you? One of the best questions we can ask, and one that every patient perceives differently is pain. Knowing someone feels they are a seven on a 10-point scale is a powerful urgency They have told us how severe their pain is right now. On the flip side, when we here a patient is a two or three on a 10-point scale, we know the urgency lies in avoiding the 10/10 … or they would have waited longer.

3. Creating urgency: This is where we are often switching gears from what we’ve always done … emergency care only. Think about what you’ve successfully accomplished by having enough time and creating an emotional connection between the problem and the risk of what’s next. With that foundation, here’s an example of THE 3 STEPS to win:

  • Mr. or Mrs. Smith, I know you shared you’re at a 9/10 pain. I’m guessing if you’re anything like me, you’d like us to help you with that today. Pause and get your yes.
  • Mr. or Mrs. Smith, we’re happy to do that. Before we do, can I ask you one more question? Pause and get your second yes.
  • It probably wouldn’t surprise you as it’s been (XYZ months/years) since your last dental visit, that what’s happening to you today is very likely about to happen elsewhere. Does that make sense? Pause and get your third yes.
    • NOTE: There is tremendous psychological data to support the value in your patient saying yes to you three times. Once you gain those three, the fourth is virtually automatic. That is why we ask the three simple questions we already know the answer too.
  • Mr. or Mrs. Smith, I know you don’t want to leave in pain today. Since you and I both know you likely will have problems that will lead you to this same 10/10 pain in the near future, in addition to getting you out of pain, can we take a look around everywhere and get all the necessary x-rays we might need to make sure we keep you out of pain moving forward? Pause and you will get a fourth yes over 80% of the time.

As he does best, Dr. Rice also shared with us an analogy to illustrate these three steps, which you can watch in the video below:

Follow up

  • Team: Congratulations! You and your team have just learned the steps needed to transform the high-stress/low-production emergency patient into a low-stress/high-production win. Find two minutes to celebrate. Wins bring more wins.
  • Patient: Your patients need the same congratulations. They need to feel they made the right choice and also know they made the right choice. For optimum long-term results, a well-placed doctor follow-up call the evening of their appointment to check in is a home run. Yes, it’s work. Yes, it’s worth it.

While adding in emergency appointments can sometimes be stressful to office staff, they are not only an important community service, they can also prove to be a source for educating existing patients and converting emergency patients into complete-care patients. By incorporating the steps above into your practice, you’ll have a simple process in place to convert every emergency-only patient into a complete care patient the same day. This can lead to happy patients and may even boost your practice’s regular patient base while lifting team morale.

About the author

David R. Rice, DDS, is the founder of the nation’s largest student and new dentist community, igniteDDS. Dr. Rice travels the world speaking and connecting today’s top young dentists with tomorrow’s most successful dental practices. In addition to igniteDDS, Dr. Rice maintains a team-centered restorative and implant practice in East Amherst, N.Y.

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