Losing a Patient Over Oral Cancer Scare: Build Rapport with Follow-Up

Lose_Patient_Oral_Cancer_ScareKen went in for his check-up. His dentist noticed something at the back of his throat and urged him to see an ENT immediately. Ken was terrified especially since he knew my story. His ENT wasn’t concerned in the least. Ken made sure the report was forwarded to his dentist. After a couple of weeks, when he hadn’t heard from his dentist, he picked up the phone and asked whether they received the report. They said they did. Ken proceeded to explain why he would never return to the practice again.

Ken felt he deserved to know if the report was received, and how they intend to move forward with his dental care. Also, Ken questioned whether the dentist was knowledgable about oral cancer.

Yes, the dentist did her job by referring the patient. However, clearly it is not enough. When a patient is made to feel scared about a prognosis, a follow-up phone call is necessary to prevent losing a patient. The patient’s emotional well-being is almost as important as the procedure for recognizing a potential abnormality.

What could the dental practice have done differently? They should have followed up by saying, “We received the report and glad it was nothing. We want to be sure we keep an eye on the area for changes. Do you have any questions?”  Very simply, build rapport with a follow-up phone call.

I welcome your comments on this scenario. Would you handle this situation differently?


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Comments 3

  1. I spent 20 years as the managing partner in a commercial Real Estate firm. We represented Buyers and Sellers, as well as managing properties. We had one overriding policy regarding our relationships with our clients – each agent had to report to each of her/his clients what had transpired with their property, once a week. This meant that if there was nothing to report, that is what we would include in the weekly report. So it should have been with the Dentist.

  2. Communication. It is so easy to do. It is also the reason for success in the best of relationships. The lack of communication is the source of all big problems – from relationships to business problems to war. Just do it :0)

  3. I lost a patient who said I was not up to current standards (her words, not mine) because I didn’t have a Velscope to detect oral cancer. I did some research and found more articles questioning the efficacy of the Velscope then articles in favor of the device. Here is the link to one of them: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21029147
    I sent her the articles that I found and she came back to my practice. If you have the hammer, everything looks like a nail….Abraham Maslow 1966

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