How to Conduct an Effective Dental PATIENT Interview

June 19, 2023

How to Conduct an Effective PATIENT Interview

Build Trust

  1. Notice how patients package themselves.
  2. Feel the emotional level of each patient and adapt to that level.
  3. Be sensitive to invading their space.
  4. Carefully watch the patient’s body language.
  5. Watch what they do with their hands.
  6. Ask non-threatening questions.
  7. Listen to the pace, tone, voice, and response time, and then get in sync with them.
  8. Quickly set up a communication process in which they talk and you listen.
  9. Try to remove their fear of you approaching them.
  10. Bring their natural fear out into the open.

What is the objective of the interview? To discuss the patient’s needs.

Discovering Patient’s Needs

The interview is to put your patient at ease.  You want to get them to identify their own needs. Put them in a posture of selling themselves.  In this step, it’s important that you ask questions and listen.  You must give positive reinforcement to begin the bonding process with yourself psychologically to the patient.  Things that you can do that will help in this process include:

  1. Ask indirect questions that draw out wants or needs.
  2. Listen and paraphrase all points.
  3. Identify dominant wants or needs and get their agreement.
  4. Assure the patient that you want to help them select the proper dental care.

There are two principles that help explain this process:   

  1. Patients are more apt to accept treatment when it’s their idea than when it’s yours.
  2. Patients are more apt to believe what they tell you than what you tell them.

Things to Remember

  1. Open-ended questions always contain who, what, when, where, why, and how.
  2. Focus on your patient’s needs, not your own.
  3. As you listen, give your patients plenty of positive feedback.
  4. Nod your head, verbalize your agreement, and use positive gestures as you listen.
  5. Learn to connect emotionally with your patients.
  6. Assume the role of a counselor, not a salesperson.
  7. You don’t talk people into accepting your ideas, you listen to them into doing it.
  8. Don’t begin your case presentation until your patient has admitted their needs.
  9. Remember, people always act in ways that they visualize the most payoff.

In the interview step, you ask questions that get your patients to tell you how they want to end up feeling about themselves, looking to others, preventing future problems, or saving money in the long run.  When you ask questions and really listen, you will be amazed how you increase the acceptance rate of your treatment plans.

You can ask these questions regardless of your position in the office.  You can ask questions that get patients talking about the end benefits.

Creatively view each patient and see them as they can become, then ask a question that gets them telling you how they would like to look or feel.