Inaction Is In Reality An Action Of Neglect

Last week I had the opportunity of phoning some dental offices.

I decided to phone these practices in a time period between 9:00am and 10:15am on a weekday.

During this time I phoned twenty-three practices.

Of those twenty-three practices, six of the practices failed to answer their phone, and my call went through to an answering service, that asked me to leave a message.

I decided not to leave a message.

I wanted to see whether someone from these dental practices would call me back. All good businesses should be able to know or find out the phone number of everyone who has phoned to their office…

That’s a whopping 26% of calls to dental practices that were not answered.

Of those 6 calls that went unanswered, only two of those dental practices decided to ring me back to see why I rang.

Which means that for 67% of those missed calls where I did not leave a return message, those practices had no actionable plan in place to follow up the missed call.

I could have been a new patient enquiry… the practice decided not to bother to phone me back to see why I called.

That’s an opportunity lost right there… a BIG OPPORTUNITY lost.

Should those practices have looked up their missed call register and rung me back to see why I called their office?

Or should those practices just simply have left my missed call as being just that, and that the caller would phone back when they’re ready to?

What does this mean?

Nobody EVER calls a dental office for the fun of it.

Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks:

“I’ve got a couple of hours to kill this morning… I think I’ll go to the dentist and see what I can get done?

And similarly, nobody ever wakes up in the morning and says:

“I’ve got a few hundred dollars just sitting there burning a hole in my wallet… I think I’ll phone the dentist and see what I can buy with it.”

Do they?

Of course they don’t ever…

You see, one thing is for sure and certain:

There is only one reason why people phone a dental office…

People phone a dental office because they have a dental problem, and they want the dentist to fix their problem.

And people who don’t have a dental problem will never spend their valuable time phoning dental practices just for the fun of it.

Nobody phones a dental practice because they have a spare thirty minutes to kill….

Everybody who phones a dental practice has a problem, that they want fixed….

And if they didn’t have a problem, they’d definitely be finding something else to do…. [for sure and certain].

The trouble is…

The trouble is that sometimes the people put in charge of answering our dental office phones fail to remember that they are in the PROBLEM SOLVING BUSINESS.

Instead, these employees think that their role is to assist patients to make appointments when those patients FEEL LIKE IT.

These employees also feel it is OK to allow patients to choose inactivity when these patients need to be making appointments for actual treatment.

And some of these employees even believe that it is OK to allow the caller to believe that avoiding treatment is totally acceptable…

We know that displaying acceptance to these patients for their random acts of inactivity is really and truly UNACCEPTABLE.

Dental treatment is important

Dental treatment is important and it is inappropriate for patients to “leave it” and do it later.

The mouth is a hostile environment.

Yet patients often believe that dentistry inside the mouth is not changing or deteriorating.

These patients believe that delaying dental treatment is like putting back the act of cleaning up the garage. These patients believe that what happens inside the mouth is static and will not worsen, when in actual fact the mouth is an active and hostile environment where things that go untreated do tend to deteriorate quite quickly.

Inaction is in reality an action of neglect.

Inaction is an unacceptable treatment plan, and allowing and accepting inaction is a definite failure to act in the best interests of the patient.

When our dental patient fails to schedule and complete any diagnosed treatment, we have let them down, because we have failed to create a compelling enough reason for them to return and complete their necessary treatment.

When we truly understand that dental pathology does not auto-correct and fix itself, and that as physicians we need to be guiding our patients into complete total care, then and only then can we truly say that we are doing the job we are meant to be doing.

Allowing patients to delay treatment is really overseeing a process of supervised neglect.


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