Price vs. Value: What Do Patients Really Want?

Every time we sit eye to eye with a patient and discuss the care they need, we initiate a battle. As conscientious healthcare providers, we’re not trying to spark conflict. It just happens. But don’t take it personally:  This internal struggle occurs whenever people choose how to spend their money.  The tug-o-war for a limited number of dollars involves complex influences, and you’re just one of them.

In the bluntest terms, every marketing campaign tries to separate consumers from their money.  We’re all bombarded with advertising that asks us to trade dollars for a product or service. When a patient sits in our chair, we’re asking them to choose dental care over a thousand other options.  A weekend escape, a new smartphone, or new tires for the car could be on a patient’s mind as they consider fixing a cavity they can’t feel. But you have something most marketers crave: Their attention.

There are entire courses on helping patients say “Yes” to treatment, overcoming objections, and selling dentistry. We may develop skills by investing in this type of training, but simply keeping a patient-centered focus may prove just as valuable.  In your mind, switch chairs with the person sitting across from you.  If every effort your practice makes delivers an exceptional experience that values the individual, patients make decisions under the influence of trust. And no training or script can equal that.

Assuming you’ve built a high-trust environment, keep these three fundamental truths in mind as you discuss treatment and costs with your patients.  Ultimately, this 3-legged stool will form the foundation that most of their buying decisions will rest on.

  •  Consumers Buy What They Value

Don’t forget this essential truth:  Price and value aren’t the same things. If you discuss price before establishing value, you start behind the eight ball.  Build value by focusing on benefits from the patient’s perspective. Does a patient want a root canal, or do they want to eliminate infection from the body and keep their natural tooth right where it sits?  Has the patient considered the 24/7 benefit of a molar they use several times a day to enjoy their favorite food?

  •  Consumers Buy To Meet A Perceived Need

Pain motivates.  If a tooth hurts, everything else takes a back burner until the pain disappears. In this situation, the patient is fully aware of their need and often places a high value on a solution.  A lot of the dentistry we provide doesn’t involve eliminating physical pain. But consider the mental or emotional “pain”  that you can help soothe with quality dentistry. For example, research shows a strong link between an attractive smile and self-esteem, sex appeal, and even career success.  Help your patients connect with the need within.

  1. Consumers Buy To Create A Preferred Future

Most people want to be pain-free and confident of their appearance.  But you can help your patients look further and consider the various benefits of a healthy mouth.  Mentioning the link between oral health and heart disease is one way of moving a patient’s mindset to a higher plane.  Or nudging a patient to draw on memories of their favorite meal will link their current need to similar experiences in the future.

Putting It Together

Intra-oral cameras and other forms of dental photography play a decisive role in pulling these psychological factors together. For example, consider a patient sitting in our chair with a broken molar that doesn’t hurt.  We’ll make our efforts come to life if we take a close-up photo of it, sit the patient up, and paint a picture instead of describing a technical treatment.  If you can’t use photography, grab a model, a print photo, or a computer graphic that aids your dialogue.

“John, your lower right molar has an old metal filling that’s left a few cracks, and that’s why that large piece broke away.  Fortunately, you’re not having any pain at this point, but the broken area has opened the inside of the tooth to possible decay and infection. A toothache on vacation isn’t what you need, right? That tooth sits right in the middle of your chewing, so when you’re enjoying a nice piece of steak at your favorite restaurant, it’s a big part of making that happen.  Despite the way it looks, the tooth has a solid foundation and can still allow you to enjoy thousands of meals in the future.  The best way to make sure that happens and help you stay out of trouble is to rebuild the top of it with natural smooth porcelain similar to the original enamel.”

As dentists, our focus should be on presenting the best options to patients for their wellness.  If we find ways to build value, the price will be less of an obstacle than telling someone they need a crown.  Make sure staff is trained to reinforce the value while shifting to a discussion on cost and that your practice has a series of options for patients to work through. A strategy for this critical step covers another topic for another day, but your team can help patients discover wellness through optimal dentistry.

Remember, patients don’t want treatment: They want to smile, chew, and feel confident and healthy.  Help patients see that goal, and your case acceptance will leap ahead!