I love working with specialists. I support the team approach to complex care, which is part of the mission statement of The Surgical-Restorative Resource.
Some general dentists will say that I’m losing revenue when I refer out a procedure. I couldn’t disagree more. I cultivate unique relationships with the specialists with whom I work. They refer me cases just as I refer to them. A patient referred by a specialist not only stays for the initial procedure, but they also stay for their hygiene and recall exams. Then they bring their family and friends. This has been the cornerstone of my growth strategy for years.
However I do occasionally find patients who are reluctant to see a specialist when referred. Their main concerns are:
(1) having to travel to another location,
(2) anxiety about meeting a new health care provider, and
(3) the perception that the procedure in question will be more expensive than if I had performed it.
If I hear one of these concerns expressed by a patient, I’ve entered into a critical moment in our relationship. The patient will lose confidence in their dentistry, the specialist, and me if I fumble with an unsatisfactory response. I’ve learned to look them in the eye and proudly reinforce my referral. Here’s an example of what I might say:
“I want the best care for you. I believe that everyone should know their limitations. My areas of expertise are cosmetic dentistry, replacing missing teeth, and treating TMJ disorders. Although I do (procedure in question), I know that you’re going to get the best care with Dr. X.”
I hit a few important notes there. I reminded the patient that I care about them and want what’s best for them. I also reinforced three areas of my expertise that will hopefully stick with the patient. Although the patient may not have TMJ issues, my response may remind them of a friend who can use my services.
Remember to always address the specific concerns raised by the patient. For example, if the patient is concerned about the time it takes to go to another office, we can joke, “It’ll take me two hours to take out that tooth! Dr. X will do it in a fraction of the time.”
Knowing your limitations as a dentist and building a team of specialists will help your patients get the best care possible. And if you build your team correctly, it doesn’t have to be a drain on your revenue. Quite the opposite, actually. When patients express concerns about having to see an additional dentist, it’s an opportunity to reinforce your individual skill set and show them you care.